After (Finishing Line Press, 2014)
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?
Two poems inspired the chapbook: “Chimney Swifts” and “Narrative Dysfunction.” They are both earlier works of mine. Narrative dysfunction refers to the difficulties individuals who have experienced trauma, as in childhood, encounter when trying to relate their personal history. The poem is very short but its form accentuates this dysfunction and illustrates the disconnect between “story” and “teller”. What I search for is sequence/order and the poem indicates that this will occur “after story and teller is one”. “Chimney Swifts” is a portrait of a childhood trauma that explores the roles mother and father play in the many matter-of-fact horrors such as the one that occurs in this poem.
What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?
My chapbook is really about an individual’s narrative especially as it is influenced by childhood. My belief about the impact of childhood is epitomized by the chapbook’s epigraph by Louise Gluck: We look at the world once, in childhood./The rest is memory (“Nostos”). It is also about the urge to create some kind of solid sense, self, or whole out of disparate events and influences. The ending of “After” puts it this way: “How a collage longs for the whole picture.”
How did you decide on the length, arrangement, and title of your chapbook? What were some of its earlier titles?
I knew that I wanted to start with the tableau presented in “Chimney Sparrows”. From there it was not that difficult to order. Another pillar poem was “After” which I decided to put last. I love the word “after” and how it connotes that one is always dealing with “after”: after childhood, after a love affair, after a death. I was hesitant to name it that because I know there is a book of poetry by that title but I felt it was the most fitting.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
I found the image on a website I use for photos. I wanted it immediately. Then the cover designer at the press and I worked on the design of the text, etc.
What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?
This is my second chapbook (with the same press) that has had a “pre-order” sales period. I find this very challenging and don’t believe I will submit to such a press in the future. I guess this is a rather controversial topic. The press shares a great deal of material designed to help you promote your book including beautifully crafted post cards. Still and all, I have found it very difficult to sell pre-orders. I promote it on my own website, Facebook timeline, Home for Marc J. Frazier on Facebook, and have sent a mass e-mail with image of cover and information about how to pre-order it. The site Extract(s) is currently featuring three poems from it. I have also posted short excerpts from the blurbs that accompany my chapbook on my Facebook page and timeline. Poets & Writers has offered to include it in their “New Titles” section (for a fee).
What are you working on now?
I am working on another chapbook. Overall, it is quite different from After in terms of style, form, and content. It is edgier and less focused on the self that permeates After. I recently signed up for a chapbook consultation on this manuscript through a special promotion from Black Lawrence Press. I am looking forward to this poet’s feedback.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
The same advice I would give a writer of a full-length poetry book. You need A LOT of excellent material. A good editor can quite easily spot weak or even just “weaker” poems. They can sink a manuscript. I remember feeling shattered when I studied with a renowned poet in Nebraska one summer and she hacked my book down to nearly a chapbook. You have to be very brutal and honest about what earns a place in a longer manuscript. A book or a chapbook is not just a collection of your work to date. There needs to be a thread, not artfully contrived but largely organic, that sews the poems together. This is not necessarily just theme. One also needs to know what images, language, etc. appear consistently in your own individual poems. I wonder if the chapbook is designed more for younger poets who may not have a very large or comprehensive oeuvre. My books came out of decades of having poems published. Personally, I benefited greatly from attending one of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript conferences spearheaded by Joan Houlihan. Out of that conference came the very rough version of my first full-length book. Colrain Conferences are truly great opportunities, especially for those poets who are rather new to working in longer manuscript format. I would also recommend the aspiring author be open to having another poet or poets help with editing a manuscript. I hired a poet I respected to help edit my full-length book Each Thing Touches, which will be released in 2015.
Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful backstory to you? What’s the backstory?
“Undertow” evokes strong feelings for me even after all this time. It speaks to my journey in so many subtle ways: from danger to safety, from land to water, from my old self to my evolving self.
Where is the ideal place to read your chapbook? What type of place for reading might antagonize your chapbook?
I think a very quiet place where one can reflect. My chapbook will invoke comparisons to childhood in the reader. Buried memories may surface.
Do you think that in the course of your present and/or future career, having written and published a full-length book, you’ll come back to the chapbook, publishing them (or attempting to) as you see fit or as the work seems to elect, or do you see the chapbook as a breakthrough collection to longer works?
My first full-length book was The Way Here in 2012. My first chapbook was The Gods of the Grand Resort in 2013. I do not see the chapbook as a way to longer works although this may be the path for many younger poets. I think many poets who put out full-length books should be putting out chapbooks. I see it as a form in itself to be held in as high esteem as full-length works. I find they tend to hold together better than many full-length books. However, older, established poets concentrate on full-length books. I also like the fact that one can “experience” a chapbook in one sitting. There is something more intimate about this form to me.
Marc J. Frazier has been widely published in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, Permafrost, Plainsongs, Poet Lore, Rhino, The Broome Review, The G W Review, and New American Poetry from the Midwest (forthcoming). He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry. His first book, The Way Here, was published by Aldrich Press. His chapbook, The Gods of the Grand Resort by Finishing Line Press, was released in 2013. Both titles are available on Amazon. His chapbook After is available at http://www.finishinglinepress.com, and a full-length collection, Each Thing Touches, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press.
Eyeing the long stretch of horizon, I forget
its tempting pull.
Life takes hold
in all dominions.
Random. Promiscuous. Ardent.
I leave behind
the prairie’s dead weight.
The cloak of sea dims. From shore
I cannot tell dolphin from shark.
As blue pools deepen, I hold
my old self in my arms.
after the bonds of all our lives
fall away, so many frayed cuffs.
Tumbleweed longs for stillness.
Wells go dry.
Treasure slumbers beneath sea,
so loved it needs no one.