Fountain and Furnace (Tupelo Press, 2015)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks?
Some recent chapbooks I have really enjoyed include The Garden Room by Joy Katz, Trace by Simone Muench, and Landscape Portrait Figure Form by Dean Rader.
What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?
They remind me to keep innovating and to keep challenging myself. I like to challenge myself with each book that I write, to try and do something new, even if I’m the only one who notices it. I already know how to write the poems that I write, so I need to ask myself, what’s next?A chapbook can be a productive place to experiment.
What’s your chapbook about?
Fountain and Furnace is a sensuous exploration of the inner lives of objects—a wineglass, a motel, or a thumb. We fill our days with such matter and clutter, which seem to disappear inside of their particular and often necessary functions. Do we ever really consider the bedroom door and what she has witnessed? Or the fountain with its sculpture of a naked boy standing in a city square? The whole world comes alive in the poems of Fountain and Furnace.
If you have written more than one chapbook, could you describe each of them in chronological order?
I have published one other chapbook, Show Me Yours, which is heavily influenced by architecture. Love and desire are explored through the metaphors of the body, buildings, and other physical structures. Sensual pleasures mingle with aesthetic pleasures in graphically-charged poems in which desire (creation) and violence (destruction) coexist.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem in Fountain and Furnace is “Hand.” I had seen a Salvador Dali exhibit and was riveted by his painting The Hand. While standing in front of the painting, the poem came out almost whole, which doesn’t happen very often in my work.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
Usually, reading is my writing prompt. I read until something catches, a word or a phrase takes shape, or an image blows up in my mind. As I was working on the poems that became Fountain and Furnace, I read and reread Ponge’s Mute Objects of Expression and Stein’s Tender Buttons. They are my writing prompt. Magritte’s paintings also inspired some of the poems.
How did you decide on the title of your chapbook?
“Fountain” is actually the title of one of the poems in the chapbook. And furnace is a word in the final poem “Heart” (“A furnace of tongues.”). I liked the cool and heat suggested by Fountain and Furnace, and the alliterative sound play of this pairing. Also, all of the objects in this collection have their own heat, their own impulses, so the idea of a furnace—a seething force—seemed the right gesture.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
I was thrilled to feature Janet Sternburg’s photograph “Phantom” on the front cover, which Tupelo Press supported. Janet had recently sent me a link to a museum that was showing a retrospective of her work. As I looked through her images, I was stunned by her treatment of objects and light, the way colors and forms drifted into each other without beginning or end. Somehow, the photographs seem holy, haunted, beatific, even transformed, but they are also simply objects, little assemblages of ordinary items seen through windows and her extraordinary vision.
What are you working on now?
I am currently worked on a full-length manuscript that features some of the poems from Fountain and Furnace. I am still excited by the project and am still learning from the study of objects. I have also enjoyed working in spare couplets again, carving down language, and isolating the images, which the couplet allows me to do.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
I might offer them a question to consider as they are putting together a manuscript: What poems are essential? This question should be asked for assembling books as well, but the chapbook’s shorter form demands a keen precision.
What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates?
Fountain and Furnace creates a world where everything is alive, sensual, fantastical, haunted.
Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook?
I did not set out with the intention of writing a chapbook. I wrote one poem, and then another, and then another. And then my son was born, and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t write another thing. But I found that I could revise my poems, and I could assemble them. While my son napped, I put together the chapbook, within the first two months or so of his life.
What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?
Keep writing. And then, keep writing. Trust not knowing where you are going.
What inspires you? What gets you to the page?
Dreams. Ghosts. Books of art and poetry.
Hadara Bar-Nadav is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin, Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight, awarded the Margie Book Prize. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Fountain and Furnace, awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and Show Me Yours, awarded the Midwest Poets Series Prize. In addition, she is co-author of the textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. Hadara is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
Who means what it is to be human
and is scarred by childhood.
Thick and neckless. Your head shaped
like a gravestone.
A smile opens across the knuckle and disappears
every time you lift a tumbler of scotch.
Who holds a pen and lies.
Who holds a chopstick
in the language of still-twitching fish.
When you think of the past you form a fist
until a heart beats.
Once removed by a chisel. Then reattached.
You stiffen in the rain and dream
of pudding—a smooth, boneless lake.
Who butters morning toast
while wearing a butter hat.
Who fingers the ad for beef, grows numb
while talking to a girl on the phone.
Useless while typing. Useless
tool who only worships space.
A stump. A blackened stamp.
Your own private map of loneliness.
Who always leans to one side. Detached.
Distant from all others.