Doppelgänged (Blue Hour Press, 2012)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a chapbook of your own?
The first chapbook I truly fell in love with was Arielle Greenberg’s Fa(r)ther Down: Songs from the Allergy Trials from New Michigan Press. Other favorites include Lynn Emanuel’s Oblique Light (Slow Loris Press) and Adam Day’s Badger, Apocrypha (The Poetry Society of America). Each of these reminded me of how compelling, strange, and wonderful chapbooks can be.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
Possibly “Self-Portrait in Conway, Arkansas.” A few weeks earlier, I had written Lynn Emanuel a letter. I was ridiculously in love with her work, and I swooned like the smitten kitten I was. Eventually, that letter metamorphosized into a poem, which you can read here: “Letters to Lynn.” Inside “Letters to Lynn,” there’s a bar called the Blue Light, and inside the Blue Light there was another voice that kept trying to whisper a story to me. It didn’t fit inside “Letters to Lynn,” but that voice became “Self-Portrait in Conway, Arkansas.”
A question from Bianca Spriggs: Which poem is the “black sheep” in your collection and why?
“Doppelgänger at the Drive-In” is the uncensored in-law at the Thanksgiving table that makes the rest of the family uncomfortable. The language gets down and dirty—and more explicit—than anywhere else in the collection.
A question from Justin Hamm: What’s the most interesting concept or design you’ve seen for a chapbook?
I love chapbooks, but I certainly don’t feel well-versed enough to answer this question with any authority. From my small corner of the universe, I’d say that Justin Runge’s designs for Blue Hour Press’ chapbooks are among my favorites—which is one of the reasons I was thrilled he chose to publish Doppelgänged. In particular, I’m still in awe of the design for Emily Kendal Frey’s Airport and Alex Orgera’s Dear Friends, The Birds Were Wonderful!
A question from Kathleen Jesme: If you have a theme or a topic you are working on, in what ways do you approach it?
If I can, I like to bore a hole into it from the side, sleep with the seeds for a few months, and then start eating my way out, heart-first.
A question from Curtis L. Crisler: Did your chapbook start out as something larger whose parts you made into a chapbook? Or, if it started out as self-contained, is it something that can be changed into a full manuscript?
The Doppelgänger poems started off as a collaborative project with two close friends, Simeon Berry and Cecily Iddings—both incredible poets. We finished three or four poems (which are still sitting in a drawer somewhere) before life got the better of us and the collaboration took a permanent hiatus. I couldn’t bring myself to stop, though. The Doppelgänger poems came sporadically and unexpectedly, but they kept coming, month after month, sometimes screaming in epileptic ecstasy, other times gussied up and cross-dressing inside the skin of another poem. It took several years to have enough poems to justify a chapbook with a Doppelgänger heart. But even when I reached this critical mass, it didn’t occur to me until my full-length manuscript was a semi-finalist for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Prize. That manuscript, which contained many of the Doppelgänger poems, had been a finalist and semi-finalist several times. Thankful for the acknowledgment, but incredibly frustrated by yet another near-miss, I stared at the manuscript trying to figure out what small tweak I needed to make to break the bridesmaid’s curse. I didn’t solve that riddle, but after staring at the table of contents another hundred times, it finally dawned on me that I had enough doppelgängers to populate a chapbook.
Fritz Ward’s poems have appeared in more than seventy publications, including American Letters & Commentary, Another Chicago Magazine, Blackbird, and Hotel Amerika. He is a recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America. His chapbook, Doppelgänged, was published in 2011 by Blue Hour Press. His full-length manuscript has been a finalist and semi-finalist for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Prize, the National Poetry Series, the Washington Prize, The Brittingham Prize, Four Way Books Levis Prize, and several other contests. He currently lives just outside of Philadelphia and works at Swarthmore College.
Dear Cannibal Quivering with Lipstick and Moonlight
I was nominally yours. You were abnormally mine. We loved with our fangs
out, our truths in. I licked fifty-six square inches of your lavendered skin. I begged
for the first two psalms and received your twenty-four hour flood. You hand-washed
six figs, fed me one per night. I listened for your three deepest breaths,
but your mouth was a drain painted Harlot. Spring delivered the first four steps
of happiness and I tangoed in the mineshafts of your moonlight, unsutured.
Summer sent us your slow-clotting cuts, your sugar ants, your human dark
with honey. It was all a little too sweet to believe in. The truth is just another way
of saying I always hoped you’d stop loving me the next day. And that you never would.
And each of those meals in between, I longed for your ingredients: your sweet cream
and your curry and your over-ripe bed. I stayed. Not for the cancer
or for your skin beneath me, but to watch your soft hands flutter and flay the green skin
of the mango, its glistening flesh exposed, alone on the white cutting board.