Broken Tulips (Accents Publishing, 2013)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a chapbook of your own?
Bidart’s Music Like Dirt. Louise Glück’s October. E.C. Belli’s Plein Jue. Sarah Freligh’s Natural History of an American Girl. Just to name a few.
I’m rather naïve, I guess. I didn’t know what chapbooks were until about five years ago. Finding out about chapbooks and chapbook competitions was a revelation to me. Up until then I had only sent poems out to magazines, wondering when I might have enough published to try to assemble my own full-length manuscript. Then I learned about putting together smaller, tighter collections. This coming into knowledge about chapbooks has helped me think about how to put together longer manuscripts.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The title poem, “Broken Tulips” was first written around 2004. I came back to it in 2008, and played around with it some. Then, when I was arranging the chapbook in January of 2012, I reworked it again. And still again that fall while editing the chapbook after it had been selected for publication. Regarding this poem, I have the kindness of Cecilia Woloch, Martha Gehringer, and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer for their careful reading of it and gentle suggestions.
Despite occupying the place of privilege within the collection, I had not conceived of it as forming part of the book when I was writing the poems that are the backbone of the collection. Most of those were written over a month’s span.
What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?
I had just read the Letters of Abelard and Heloise and found myself deeply moved by their story, especially the way Heloise spoke of her love for Abelard, the way it seemed to be still so present, so much a part of her psychic and bodily being in the world. I was also intrigued by the way Abelard’s letters were rather quite deaf to the things Heloise was saying, the way he kept speaking past her. When I was originally writing these poems, they were simply called after the female addressee, which at the time was given the rather unimaginative name of Laura. (Laura because she’s Petrarch’s muse.) I thought it would be interesting to try to write a series of love poems in two voices between lovers speaking past each other as they witness the end of their affair. As the poems moved on, however, it became clear that it was not about the end of an affair but about weathering storms and staying together.
How did you decide on the length, arrangement, and title of your chapbook? What were some of its earlier titles?
When the Laura cycle was finished, I went back to rewrite and hone the poems. I took out most of the poems I thought weakest and looked about in my archives to find others that fit the theme. That’s when I came across “Broken Tulips,” and a handful of other poems…“The Psalms of Michal,” “Conversing with an Older Poet,” “Lagniappe,” for example, and realized that they could easily fit into the collection.
What I sent in to the contest was different than what got published. Originally, I had arranged the book into three sections. At that time the middle section held the remnants of the Laura poems. The opening section had some of the other love poems, poems not part of the original sequence, and the third had poems on language and poetry. The editor, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, quite rightly noticed what I had originally turned in was more structured like a full-length book and that the last section, especially, was extraneous. I reedited the collection, took out all the poems not about love specifically, and rearranged the remaining poems into one collection without breaks. So, in this case at least, the realization that it was one book that told one story, I owe to Katerina.
So, going back to the naiveté comment, the story of my putting together the collection was a learning process of what a collection of poems should be.
Did you submit your chapbook to contests, open reading periods, or both?
I only submitted this chapbook to this one competition. It didn’t win, but Accents Publishing makes a practice of publishing the top five finalists, or so. I have another chapbook, an older one, that from the very beginning was conceived as a unified chapbook that I’ve sent to a number of competitions but it hasn’t been picked up yet. I stubbornly still believe in it though and hope it will find a home.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
In truth, not much. The publisher has an art director that either draws or chooses the cover image after reading the poems. He’s very good. I was given three possible covers and I chose the one I best liked.
What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?
The usual: readings, emails to family and friends, a handful of signings, Facebook, Twitter. I even started a Tumblr site, though I haven’t used it well. Not realizing Tumblogging was more about memes and images, I got on and started happily writing away. It’s sort of languished since those first few months of promoting the chapbook.
I must also say my publisher’s been very kind and generous. To promote it, she had a number of the poems sent to an on-line multimedia art journal she collaborates with, www.public-republic.net. She also posted a few on the blog associated with her publishing house, www.accents-publishing.com/blog. Set up at least one reading, and asked one of her interns, Christopher McCurry, to interview me.
What are you working on now?
Well, I’ve got two more chapbooks finished and I’m looking for homes for these. I guess I like the chapbook format. The first is about the mining collapse in Chile in 2010, and it alternates between poems in the voice of individual miners, or at least that pay attention to the experience of the individual miners, and lyrical flights of fancy that retell the history of Chile and mining in Chile. The other is modern collection of angel poems. Also I’m flailing about trying to arrange a full-length manuscript.
What is your writing practice or process?
To write. To sit in a chair and write. And, to read and read and read. Also, I firmly believe that rewriting is also writing.
Do you have a favorite prompt or revision technique? What is it?
No. I’ve only read one book on the writing of poems, the book from the Creative Writing class I took in college years ago. And I’ve only been in two workshops, both informal gatherings led by poets in homes. Though both in college and in those workshops we were given prompts to help us write, I’ve never really made them part of my writing. The same goes with revision techniques. Every once in a while I’ll hear a poet speak about this or the other technique they like to use to gain a distance from the poem they are trying to rewrite and I’ll think, “Huh! That’s interesting. I should try that.” And then I never do. It’s not that I haven’t found prompts to be useful. It’s just not the way that I’ve developed my writing practice.
What question would you like to ask the next chapbook author featured at Speaking of Marvels?
Concerning voice and style: Do you find it something that you consciously think about or do you simply write? Do try to reinvent yourself every few years, go looking for a new way, or do you think that finding a certain language, a certain voice and pushing and honing it over a lifetime is your preferred mode?
How does the chapbook allow you to do things you wouldn’t normally do in a full-length collection? Why does it allow you to do it? Is it because the chapbook is more under the radar? Or is it because of its format? Its length?
I tend to write short lyrical poems. The chapbook´s reduced length of 30 pages, or so, lets me focus on specific themes, styles, etc. Given its shorter length, it discourages wandering, which is always a danger for me.
Chapbooks have historically been small, handmade paper productions, but, in our current time, chapbooks can be produced as digital files. How does the physical/digital reality of a chapbook affect your relationship to the text? As a reader? As a writer?
I´m afraid I´m a Luddite. Though I do read a lot in digital formats, even poems, I really, really don´t like digital books. I especially don’t like digital books of poetry. There are the physical pleasures of holding, turning, smelling the book, and the beauty of the poem laid out on the page that digital formats cannot reproduce. This doesn’t bother me as much when it comes to prose, but prose, even well-wrought prose, prose that pays close attention to language, is different than poetry. In poetry there is a materiality to the language on the page, a relationship between the words and the white space. That said, I do most of my writing on a computer.
Jeremy Dae Paden was born in Italy and raised in Central America and the Caribbean. He received his Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Emory. His poems have appeared in such places as the Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cortland Review, Louisville Review, Naugatuck River Review, pluck! and Rattle, among other journals and anthologies. He is an associate professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and a member of the Affrilachian Poets.
Conversing With an Older Poet
He asks me, Are you
finding time to write?
I smile, not because I’m not.
We both know time isn’t
something you find lying
about the house like spare
change, a lost toy, a postcard
from a lover long forgotten,
stuck in book not read in years.
Time must be hoarded.
Rationed like coffee, sugar,
smokes, bacon, butter, eggs.
I ask how he managed:
grading essays, faculty meetings,
little league, and dance recitals,
how he was able to save up
enough words, enough time
to speak with his wife
at the end of the day.
He smiles, and says,