WindowBoxing: a dance with saints in three acts (Bloof Books, 2013)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks?
I submitted to Bloof because Shanna Compton chooses amazing work always. Natalie Eilbert, Pattie McCarthy, and Ben Fama have three of my current favorites. Bill Knott sent me some of his own before he died. Wondrous.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook?
What made these into a chapbook is that they came out at once… at the end of my dissertation in dance when I was spending too much time at a computer—both researching but also surfing horrific news stories on the web for no particular reason: torture and imprisonment as “take five.” The long line and the constant spiraling around the idea of domesticity and screens were overwhelmingly visceral experiences for me, even as I was neglecting my body practices (ballet and yoga).
What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?
It is about how the threads in direct and indirect experiences get intertwined. The superlong lines were new for me, but the concerns are everpresent: the inadequacy and ubiquity of gender as an influence and presence, the draw of the purely mental life (detached, adrift) and the resulting imbalances (both mild and catastrophic), the idea of art creation not simply as therapy but as life raft.
How did you decide on the length, arrangement, and title of your chapbook? What were some of its earlier titles?
I think the word (?) WindowBoxing came early on. Later I added the subtitle to acknowledge various threads within the work. One version might’ve been WindowBoxing 2.0—but that was just wrong. The length was not a choice. These linked pieces came pretty quickly and then stopped coming. For awhile, I wasn’t sure how the few that were overtly about dance would fit in, but once I printed them out and shuffled them around, they found their homes very easily.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Shanna is the designer and she is awesome, but she asks for tons of input. When I sent her pictures my son had made a few years ago, she was enthusiastic about including them, and now I can’t imagine the book without them.
What are you working on now?
My second novel—sci fi— and more poems. There are always more poems.
Do you have a favorite prompt or revision technique? What is it?
I’m an endless tweaker. I don’t recommend it—it just is.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
To me, the best chapbooks have reasons that they hang together—a trajectory, very nearly a plot—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are narrative. No, plot can be formal too… the bit of land we bury our poems in. They need to want to rest together.
What question would you like to ask the next chapbook author featured at Speaking of Marvels?
Why a chapbook?
True or False: The chapbook is to the full-length collection as the EP is to the LP. Discuss.
False. What’s an EP?
Have you ever written a fan letter to a writer?
Yes. I wish I had written more. Maybe now I will. Thank you, question-asker.
If your chapbook wasn’t a chapbook — if it was in some other form — what would it be?
An interpretive dance—a duet with a chair.
Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful backstory to you? What’s the backstory?
The poems have snatches of many people’s backstories… Jaycee Dugard’s imprisonment, an Amish family fire… my own children make an appearance. I can get sad. There is a scene in the chapbook where I walk with them to try to feel better and it works at the same time it doesn’t work. Capturing that moment was a big step for me.
Have you found in your writing of poems that they are separate from you—that they have their own lives and desires—or that they are extensions of you without “selves” apart from your own notion of “self” and your imagination?
Yes. Like children, once they are out—I only wish for them the best. I’m not very helicopter with either my boys or my words.
Does the chapbook form have an impact on the politics of the poems that appear inside it?
All poetry is gift culture. And nothing is outside commerce/ commodification/ capitalism/ fetish. The interactions between chapbook and world are different, but not so different as to change the perception of the content (I don’t think)…. Except maybe more ephemeral? And so for some—precious?
Where is the ideal place to read your chapbook? What type of place for reading might antagonize your chapbook?
Read it at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Because rectangular prismatic, because the world bearing down and fear and the danger of gravity. The bottom of a well would not work so well. Because cylindrical, because wet.
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?
I’ve published 3 full-length poetry books and one novel. The chapbook birthed itself as a chapbook. I had little say.
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?
I have a voice. I yell at it, try to plug it into other voices. That helps my voice find range, but if it is changing, I can’t see it/ hear it/ taste it.
How do you feel about long poems versus shorter poems? Could a chapbook be a good medium for a long poem?
I think—yes. Definitely yes.
What would you do differently next time in the writing, editing, publishing, or promotion process?
I would be more help.
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 love paper. But online writing is unquestionably more accessible. I am conflicted. Give me ten years, and perhaps the world will provide a better answer than my truly muddled perception of how I am affected by the various platforms. Ambivalence right now is ruling the day.