8-Ball Interview with ryan fitzpatrick

ryan fitzpatrick lives in Vancouver and lived in Calgary. He wrote two books of poetry: Fortified Castles (Talonbooks 2014) and Fake Math (Snare, 2007). With Deanna Fong and Janey Dodd, he helped assemble the Fred Wah Digital Archive. He co-edited a questionably funny anthology called Why Poetry Sucks with the guy who runs this website.

I co-edited the anthology Why Poetry Sucks with ryan and also was the editor for his book Fortified Castles, and we co-created the #95books hashtag and reading challenge.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

I’d like there to be less of an imperative to talk.

2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take writing seriously?

The older I get the more I hate advice. Advice, especially when it’s unsolicited, is like a diagnosis and a prescription. I’ve certainly been guilty of doctoring other writers, but it’s something I’ve actively been trying to stop myself from doing (so if I do it to you please tell me to get lost). To be honest, as a young writer, I would’ve preferred less advice. Sometimes, it’s just enough to listen.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

My writing practice is increasingly wrapped up in other work, so regular habits don’t work for me. There is no getting up every morning to hit a word count (unless you’re talking about a word count for my dissertation and even then I don’t always hit that). For me, what has been important is the maintenance of a project/series, one that’s easy to slide in and out of, alongside an ongoing research practice that has a cross-disciplinary casualness and that doesn’t intersect with my academic research too much.

4. What is your editing process?

Rewriting through revised procedures that encourage increasingly layered complexity.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Time and money (natch), but also living in (and helping reproduce) coercive forms, structures, spaces, and relations.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

A combination of whatever’s on the top of the pile, whatever other folks I trust are talking about, and whatever I have to read for work.

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

Pass.

8. Why don’t you quit?

No, thanks.

8-Ball Interview with concetta principe

concetta principe writes prose poems and creative non-fiction, and writes academic articles exploring the bond between messianism and secularism. This Real is her fourth book of poetry, and, in being a project on love, is a sequel to Hiroshima: A Love War Story. She is Assistant Professor of English at Trent University.

I first came to concetta’s work when asked to write a blurb for This Real, which I read and loved—I felt there were a number of interesting parallels to my book The Politics of Knives, although it certainly stands alone as a much different book.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?
 
I want to be asked about the origins of my name and who my parents are because everyone makes massive assumptions about me based on my name, and so no one ever knows that half of me is New Brunswick Scottish, way back, with a distant uncle who married a Mi’kmaq woman and had children and that whole clan has disappeared from us … it never comes up because everyone assumes I’m Italian, a failed colonizer, and eat lots of pasta—not.
 
2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take writing seriously?

Never give up: never take a rejection personally because it rarely is and if it is personal, avoid or confront the source of that ‘personal’ attack; never believe that the so-called supposed-to-know knows better than you what you’re doing; never give up; take a break, take lots of breaks, but don’t give up; don’t do it for someone else; write it for the one you love; you are the only one who knows what you mean; trust yourself; give your work space to take shape; trust yourself.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

There are certain habits I should do regularly and don’t. I don’t regularly exercise. I don’t always trust myself. I don’t have perspective, not regularly enough, at least. There are certain habits I do, regularly: read and write. I read and write a lot of different things, so the writing and reading are activities that are ongoing. I am not always so disciplined in sticking to one thing, but I never give up, so I’ll come back, eventually to something I’ve started and failed at. One habit I have developed is to never throw anything out. A habit which may or may not be good (undecided on this one) is that I rarely give up.

4. What is your editing process?

My editing process is one I would say is gross and crazy and destructive and not at all pleasing to early readers of my work. It wasn’t until I saw a documentary of Picasso painting and his process, how he’d start with an image, such as a woman lying on a couch, outlined in broad strokes, paint around it and through it and then paint over it and bring back an element, a short curve, a twist of the neck, of that first image and then cut up that image, and then reshape that image, then bring back more of some of what he took away, and move some elements over, and recreate her across the page with every iteration, until he brings her back to that original position on the canvas, but with these other dynamic elements working through it… it wasn’t until then that I realized his process was my process.

Until that point, I thought I had no process. Until seeing Picasso’s working through, I thought I was a crazy loser who didn’t know which way was North. So when I saw what he was doing, and how fluid he was, and how much joy he expressed in recreating the page at least ten times over without worrying about harming the page or being redundant in the process, but giving in to testing the ‘edits’ and allowing for the palimpsest of method to be the creation, I realized I could relax with my crazy writing method.

So I do. I move things around, I push things here and there, and sometimes, I do come back to what I began with, but with these other delicious elements. Most of the time though, my end is barely every like my beginning. So, I am like Picasso in that I have a manic active process.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Publishing: selling: convincing people my work is worth reading. I’m an introvert. I don’t like stage situations—I’m a poet who loves music and the music of poetry, and would prefer someone else make my poetry heard. I write and I like my writing life, even if it can get lonely: the difficulty is being published and going out there and marketing myself. I don’t know how to convince myself that I’m the best writer there is so that I can convince people to buy my books.

I’m reminded of Russell Smith’s article in The Globe in which he talked about Proust who paid his publisher to publish Remembrance of Things Past, already rejected by the main publishing houses. He was convinced it was the most important work written and so he made sure to share it. He had the luxury of money to make his fame happen by buying its publication and then planting (writing/commissioning) good reviews in newspapers to draw attention to the book … So, while Smith does believe that Remembrance of Things Past is a masterpiece, it is hard for me not to wonder if it is really the masterpiece it is considered, since, if it hadn’t been published and hadn’t had those reviews that gave readers a reason to see its ‘virtues’, it might have disappeared into some historical slush pile with all the other unknown masterpieces written by nobody.  
 
6. How do you decide which book to read next?
 
I have several books on the go, partly because I need to keep up with the newest publications in my fields (creative and academic and teaching), partly because I have a secret passion for suspense, murder mysteries, and science fiction, and partly because I don’t have enough time to spend all my time reading. So, I read them all, and am moved by my mood and by deadlines. Low moods have me looking for comfort reads like suspense, and high moods get me reading theory, biblical studies or philosophy, and hungry moods, poetry and literary fiction, or anything new. If I have a course to prep for, or an article to finish, or a conference paper to write, then my reading is very focused, usually involving re-reading, and is determined by the deadline. Mostly, I’m toggling between serving my mood and meeting deadlines.  
 
7. What is your greatest single ambition?
 
Ah to rule the world—not. To save pedestrians by being a super-hero that can slash tires or kill engines with a flick of my wrist—big wish. To not feel anxious that people will hate me for what I write—big anxiety, obviously. To have a book of mine be reviewed. That’s not the greatest single ambition, but it’s a great ambition. To write the masterpiece, as per Gertrude Stein—sure. Or how about that luxury Anne Carson talks about—to write and not worry about conforming to an audience or a publishing mandate because it will be published because she wrote it. That would be a brilliant achievement. Or to live in a house in a small town and write and not worry about money, and follow in the footsteps of Gertrude Stein, chasing masterpieces.  
 
8. Why don’t you quit?
 
I don’t quit not because no one is asking me to write because no one is and right now, that’s a very comfortable position for writing.

There have been many critical events when it would have been alright to quit. For example, my grade 5 teacher showed me that my verb tenses were wrong, my subject/verb agreement was bad, my spelling was worse, and my plot was non-existent. I didn’t quit. In grade 12, a guy in class laughed at my awkward archaic language. Mortified, sure, but I didn’t quit. I could have quit when I was rejected by both Windsor and Concordia U creative writing programs—the first time round. I could have quit when my Master’s supervisor in Creative Writing wrote to break up our relationship blaming it on my ‘portentous’ writing. I could have quit in response to any of the thousand rejections—oh and every rejection burned like venom and I bristled and splattered bitter cursing tears and trashed my work for a few days or a week, but did not quit writing. I could have quit when my manuscripts were rejected, each response a long deep sinking into darkness. I could have quit when someone confided to me that my writing was no good, or when a publisher, a long time ago, in reaction to my trying to negotiate a clause in the publishing contract, told me my writing was bad and this negotiation was not worth the issue.

In all this, every one of these terrible things had a reason, but they were only the series of failures that I eventually accepted or healed over, like sword or shrapnel wounds, and through it all, even through the pain sometimes, I kept writing. After a while, those failures turned into other failures—successes are always qualified and I may never write a masterpiece—but I haven’t quit and it’s not because I might be an almost good writer now, but mostly because I am in the middle of things. It’s habit now.

That Most Terrible of Dogs

from THE POLITICS OF KNIVES

from The Politics of Knives — signed copies on sale for $10

Waiting. Waiting to catch the drift. Waiting for something empirical and wise. Waiting for the ration of rainwater to decrease and the run-off to increase, for the river’s end in silt and toil. Waiting to be impressed with all said. Waiting to know who is speaking at all times. Waiting while the pages turn. Waiting to find out it’s really great and since submitting my life has changed. Waiting in the material world. Waiting for all that exists in this cave of forms to be perfect. Waiting for the collision of two plates to produce deadly forces. Waiting for triggers and hairy delirium. Waiting for denial and magpies. Waiting to be conversant in veal. Waiting for acrimony used as a literary device. Waiting to stagger antagonistically toward an ejection. Waiting for my car to humanize and tap reserves. Waiting for less final solutions. Waiting for warlords to decide. Waiting for atrocity, the exhibition begun. Waiting to pole vault over bookmakers. Waiting for compensation. Waiting for the files. Waiting in the rain, lined pockets for waterproofing. Waiting for terroristic improvements. Waiting for a boost to become underrated. Waiting to adopt a panicky creed. Waiting for the theatre of the tabloid. Waiting for phrasing with nitrogen. Waiting to teem. Waiting to cleverly make contact with the myth. Waiting to thwart haste, to recur. Waiting to effectively use the existing infrastructure in the most efficient of possible manners. Waiting to see the real war while the public seethes national isms. Waiting to become more involved in these stories. Waiting to be whatever I want to be, but first I must be willing to work. Waiting for a skin unlike others. Waiting for the empire to mount its tenants, and soon after market my resilience. Waiting to thrive on the wiretaps. Waiting to glow and decay. Waiting for the violence of the megaton. Waiting for inspiration, surreal and corrosive. Waiting to be involved in a third-rate gallery love affair. Waiting for resistance, bleeding hunger strikes. Waiting for your sneaking blush to grey. Waiting for new moderns, in the voting booth dumb. Waiting for provisions to show me the way. Waiting until they can quantify the results. Waiting to love the aggravation and drudgery. Waiting to test my hypothesis, for the best man to become a heavenly windbreaker. Waiting to speak with the creator of society and grapefruit. Waiting for my soup, torrent pummelling the patio. Waiting to embarrass those bourbon federalists. Waiting for the adultery to haemorrhage. Waiting for the period that comes after the outboard motor. Waiting while, over yonder, a credit card gleams. Waiting with crossed thighs for a few posthumous guarantees. Waiting to fasten my principles to cynical schemes. Waiting with the impartiality of a counterfeiter. Waiting for my luck to bygone. Waiting, glorious in insomnia. Waiting for the anniversary of the fetus overcome. Waiting for a series of vicious courtships. Waiting, boastful and rectal, quoting panhandlers. Waiting for the affirmative, to tar the feathers, short circuits, deploy nausea. Waiting to resign over corruption charges, pending one emptied trust fund per day. Waiting for rheumatism, lumbago, and other slash somesuch complaints. Waiting, hands on my guns, for the plain fact that it was my heart. Waiting with my pennants for eternity. Waiting to discover the full potential of my lawn. Waiting for the delish delisting of all of these saccharin products. Waiting with the other parishioners for the generalized entity. Waiting to take the shortcut, the barrel. Waiting to pervert it all. Waiting for exoneration, alleviation, dislocation, to be rephrased. Waiting for my generation to generate. Waiting for nourishment, thus nonchalantly, as the king cheetah stripe. Waiting to increase my vocabulary with an adventure safari, in homeroom where twelve dead monkeys hang. Waiting to appeal to the working class literati. Waiting, succinct. Waiting to swelter and tire. Waiting to address the increasing gap between rich and poor, the huge international debt, and to redesign those now responsible. Waiting for actions and events happening around me to hurtle beyond my control. Waiting for what you want of this jade. Waiting in a non-violence quandary. Waiting to be misread. Waiting for the intense retail reality of the hornet shopkeeper buzzing around its pie charts. Waiting in studied irreverence. Waiting to deflect openness, deforest anarchy. Waiting to nurture the apolitical. Waiting for the athletes to seem tastier. Waiting as an enraged post-artisan. Waiting incongruous with the voyage. Waiting to steamroll over the palaeontology of ice. Waiting to condense after a series of trials. Waiting, confident in my ascetic. Waiting and indulging my inner sociopath. Waiting on the on-ramp to extinction. Waiting for the next step of this program, when the ratings push us through the screen. Waiting, shall we say, with your eyes. Waiting drunk and unsure of my spoon. Waiting in the jaws of Cerberus, that most terrible of dogs.

from The Politics of Knives — signed copies on sale for $10

It Is Easier

(a poem)

It is easier to recognize faces than recall names.
It is easier to smuggle ivory than drugs.
It is easier to pass through the eye of a needle,
for me to shoot up than to think.
It is easier to write when you are sad.

DOWNVERSE (Talonbooks, 2014) by Nikki Reimer

(a review)

The epigraph of Nikki Reimer’s sophomore collection reads as follows:

I hated your poem.

Your poem was so boring.

— inebriated audience member at a poetry reading

It’s easy to dismiss this quote as an ironic joke, in place of the usual weighty epigraph borrowing wisdom and glory from some other poet, in part because it is funny and it does function as a joke. However, since this is the epigraph for Downverse, it remains important to treat it as an epigraph, and take the sentiment seriously, in the way that the inebriated audience member seems to intend.

This is the brilliance of Downverse. Reimer’s poems, on one hand, seem to dismiss the criticism by presenting, variously, the unpoetic lexicon of insurance policies and monthly budgets, or uneducated Internet commentators, rather than conventional lyrical wordplay. In this way, Reimer’s Downverse responds to the inebriated audience’s desire for un-boring poetry by presenting, in a challenge to the challenge, the most boring language imaginable rather than felicitous, properly “poetic” turns of phrase.

On the other hand, Reimer’s Downverse responds to the challenge as if this expected lyricism is not what the audience wants, but what it has rejected as boring. Imagine, for a moment, that Reimer might, in this epigraph, be quoting herself. Imagine that she, or someone she identifies with, is the inebriated audience member ready to die from poetry boredom. Downverse then reads like a continuation of the epigraph, the audience’s ongoing response. The complaint of the epigraph then functions like the slogan of an Occupy Wall Street protestor: an aggressive, inarticulate articulation of frustration at how late-capitalist neo-liberalism has cornered even the bear market of poetry, emptying it of any Romantic, revolutionary potential.

In this way, Downverse reads as if Reimer has lost her faith in the power of poetry to express any emotion without commodifying it. (Isn’t poetry, after all, how we carve up and sell off our unique, snowflake selves? For the little they are worth.) Such anxiety haunts a poem like “materiality,” suggesting a strange affect in its affectlessness:

my monthly rent is 27%

of my monthly household income

my monthly phone bill is 5%

of my monthly household income

my monthly life insurance is 0.3%

of my monthly household income

The poem continues to list out expenditures (medical bills: 12%; books: 4% on average; debt repayment: 10%; etc.), and the first stanza ends with the grim news that “my total monthly household expenditures are 100.3% / of my monthly household income.” Later stanzas inform us of Vancouver’s rental affordability indicator (circa 2011) and other statistical, demographic, and economic information necessary to understanding just how “average” Reimer’s budgeting might be.

However cold such “expressions” feel, they are in fact as raw (in their way) as any properly “poetic” emotion, more indicative of the poet’s real concerns than any sentiment. A poem like this functions as counterpoint to a more “emotional” outpouring of what supposedly “matters” to the speaker, providing instead the bare economic reality of what the speaker actually does. The poem also expresses a frustration of sorts at both the raw data (however slightly, the poem’s speaker is losing ground) and the felt inability to meaningfully return to the kind of emotional lyricism that some readers might expect, now that every discourse, conscious or unconscious, has been overwritten by capitalist concerns.

Reimer’s basic technique in Downverse is to crash differing registers of discourse against one another to explore how they function as, on some level, the same register, a short-circuiting that often has comedic effects. A highlight of the book, “the big other,” reacts to the oft-rehearsed but banal complaint that so-called “experimental” writing flaunts its theoretical basis, by boldly titling itself after a concept from Lacanian theory, then humorously displaying how the related processes of self-construction and self-alienation play out in the social world.

Everyone you knew had houses and jobs

but it was okay, you still had your looks

you still got harassed

(“you’re shoo beeautiful”) at the bus stop.

That is the environment

that 95% of the OWS people live in.

Easy there, don’t force it.

You don’t want to overthink everything like last time.

That’s where the occupy wherever hippies will be

as soon as it gets cold.

Someone was supposed to talk to us about editing

and line breaks, but we missed the phone meeting —

Reimer crashes, here and throughout Downverse, the complaints of the Occupy Wall Street protesters against complaints about the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and the language of art, commerce, and frustration, to explore their interconnections and the way that they support one another even as they try to refuse, refute, or retreat from one another.

Reimer captures, collages, and excavates language with an ear for its sometimes hidden, sometimes painfully obvious, political dimensions. Downverse elegantly and often comically questions what poetry might have to do with the language that makes up our world — or might have to do now, since this language has sped past our poetry.

No results found for “I hate conceptual poetry.”

I won’t say these are the best written books out there. They aren’t suppose to be. I had so much fun reading them every day. I love books that go day by day. It makes it seem more real that way, like I know what they’re doing every day. A lack of insight won’t stop you from enjoying the sex, action, adventure, mystery, and yes, the sex. The writer has done a wonderful job of layering guaranteeing there is something for all in this series of books. This is not my normal genre when choosing to sit down & read. However, I whipped through all three books in less than a month. The alleged “deviant sex” in these books usually rates a vanilla plus rating. People in lust do it everywhere, and people who are familiar with each other and think sex is fun experiment. It was an interesting story, but I felt it was not very realistic (except the part about Leila being crazy), and therefore could be leading women on. The whole time I’m waiting for the plot line, for something other than BDSM sex. Some great detail of sexual exploits but I really needed more. In my opinion these books were OK as a story but I was pretty turned off by the rough stuff. The books would have been better with more of a story line and less sex, sex, sex. I haven’t bought an “erotic” book before so I guess that is why all the sex. For me, this book was about a relationship between two people with issues who worked them out together. The couple was able to grow together at their own pace without opinions from their friends or family. I also liked how they compromised with each other. If something didn’t work one way, they would try it the other person’s way to see if it would work. Christian is supposed to be a sexual deviant “Dom/Alpha” and Ana his young curious/virginal “SUB in-training.” Could have been great, sorry, but No! — didn’t turn out that way. These books were awful! I can’t believe I paid so much for such trash! Half of the book was me just flipping pages through the sex acts. This is an easy read. It is not for preteens or even teens. It is a fun mind candy read to take on vacation. I hope they make a movie. I thought it was a romance novel and it went a little bit more at some things I never thought of. I read up to chapter 5 and got to the 6th and I couldn’t read any more the language I never use so I just couldn’t read any more. I am no literary critic. In fact I consider myself a bit of a literary Philistine. But this has to be the worst written book I have ever read. I give it one star because it was such a trainwreck, I was compelled to read it to the very end just to see whether anything exciting ever happens — trust me, it doesn’t. I’m so sure a billionaire, gorgeous, accomplished CEO (who happens to only be 27) is going to be insanely in love with a mousy 22 year old who doesn’t have any real world experience and the emotional maturity of a teenager. It’s like it’s a desperate fantasy book for all those mediocre people living mediocre lives and fantasize that even though they are plain and boring, they too could have the most eligible bachelor on the planet be obsessively in love with them and devote all his waking thoughts and emotions to every little expression they make. This trilogy has got to be some kind of f-ed up conspiracy. I think EL James woke up one day and decided to try an experiment. Oddly enough I’m getting in to this whole conceptual poetry thing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like my professor, and most of the stuff we read is so lifeless and dull it makes me think that I hate everything to do with conceptual poetry. But then I’ll actually do an exercise and it’ll be kinda nice.