This page features media kit resources. Below you’ll find:
- Author Photos
- Biographical Statements
- Book Cover Photos
- Book Descriptions
- Q & A
For more information or for interview requests, please contact me.
For all photos, please credit photographer Michael Sanders.
For all photos, please credit photographer Michael Sanders.
For podcast logo image, please credit photographer Michael Sanders and designer S.M. Beiko.
Jonathan Ball, PhD, writes “stranger fiction”—horror, science fiction, and fantasy influenced by experimental literature. He teaches creative writing and hosts the podcast Writing the Wrong Way, showing writers new ways to work and create innovative art that stands out. His book Ex Machina is available for free at www.JonathanBall.com/FreeBook.
Jonathan Ball, PhD, writes “stranger fiction”—horror, science fiction, and fantasy influenced by experimental literature. He teaches creative writing and hosts the podcast Writing the Wrong Way, showing writers new ways to work and create innovative art that stands out. He is the author of many books, including Clockfire, 77 plays that would be impossible to produce, The Politics of Knives, poems about violence, narrative, and spectatorship, and winner of a Manitoba Book Award, and The National Gallery. Jonathan also wrote John Paizs’s Crime Wave, an academic study of a neglected cult film classic, which won another Manitoba Book Award. Jonathan has directed short films, (including Spoony B, which sold to The Comedy Network), and won the 2014 John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. He is also president and publisher of Stranger Fiction Inc. His book Ex Machina is available for free at www.JonathanBall.com/FreeBook.
Book Cover Photos
The Eye Collector
Heavy Metal/Virus Comics, 2021
Created by Jonathan Ball & GMB Chomichuk
Written by Jonathan Ball
Art by GMB Chomichuk
Letters by Lyndon Radchenka
Inspired by “Der Sandmann” by ETA Hoffmann
A horror graphic novel centring on a young protagonist, Nathan, who struggles to shield those he loves from a mythic amalgam of the Sandman and Man in the Moon.
Equal parts god and parasite, the Eye Collector grants mortals what they most desire, in their secret hearts, in exchange for their eyes, which fuel his dark magic. The book’s artwork reflects this dark, chaotic, surreal war for control of perspectives on reality.
Nathan’s home is a claustrophobic world where the young child suffers and survives a traumatic childhood due to the controlling nature of his neglectful and emotionally abusive parents, whose souls have been sickened by the Eye Collector.
Nathan makes a schoolfriend, Clara, and outside of his darkened home the world is bright, filled with snow and open space, offering the possibility of freedom. But the Eye Collector comes.
The Lightning of Possible Storms
Book*hug Press, 2020
Aleya’s world starts to unravel after a café customer leaves behind a collection of short stories. Surprised and disturbed to discover that the book has been dedicated to her, Aleya delves into the strange book…
A mad scientist seeks to steal his son’s dreams. A struggling writer, skilled only at destruction, finds himself courted by Hollywood. A woman seeks to escape her body and live inside her dreams. Citizens panic when a new city block manifests out of nowhere. The personification of capitalism strives to impress his cutthroat boss.
The more Aleya reads, the deeper she sinks into the mysterious writer’s work, and the less real the world around her seems. Soon, she’s overwhelmed as a new, more terrifying existence takes hold.
Jonathan Ball’s first collection of short fiction blends humour and horror, doom and daylight, offering myriad possible storms.
The National Gallery
Coach House Books, 2019
Jonathan Ball’s fourth poetry book, the first in seven years, swirls chaos and confession together. At the book’s heart is a question: Why create art?
A series of poetic sequences torment themselves over this question, offering few answers and taking fewer prisoners.
A startling diversity of styles and subjects feed into the maelstrom of The National Gallery, and its dark currents will draw you in to drown.
The Politics of Knives
Coach House Books, 2012
If David Lynch crashed into Franz Kafka in a dark alley, the result might look like The Politics of Knives.
Moving from shattered surrealism to disembowelled films, these poems land us in a limbo between the intellectual and the visceral, between speaking and screaming — combining poetry, fiction, and essay, with topics ranging from Kafka and Hitchcock to Greek myth and political assassination.
Finding the language of violence and the violence in language, Jonathan Ball becomes the Stephen King of verse.
Coach House Books, 2010
Clockfire is a suite of poetic blueprints for imaginary plays that would be impossible to produce — plays in which, for example, the director burns out the sun, actors murder their audience or the laws of physics are deﬁled.
The poems in a sense replace the need for drama, and are predicated on the idea that modern theatre lacks both ‘clocks’ and ‘ﬁre’ and thus fails to offer its audiences immediate, violent engagement. They sometimes resemble the scores for Fluxus ‘happenings,’ but replace the casual aesthetic and DIY simplicity of Fluxus art with something more akin to the brutality of Artaud’s theatre of cruelty.
Italo Calvino as rewritten by H. P. Lovecraft, Ball’s ‘plays’ break free of the constraints of reality and artistic category to revel in their own dazzling, magniﬁcent horror.
Book*hug Press, 2009
A long poem at the fringes of the Canadian tradition, Ex Machina is a latticework of poetic and philosophical statements concerning the symbiosis of humans, books, and machines — entwined in a choose-your-own-adventure-style format.
A series of three intertwining sequences, the reader is encouraged to move back and forth from statement to statement. The reader thus becomes a larval sta1ge in the poem’s development, forging connections between its disparate parts during the course of this mental processing, as the text evolves over multiple readings.
“Ball’s phrases often fold in on themselves suddenly to produce startling mouthfuls of dream and delight … the reader doesn’t even notice the trapdoor that’s opened beneath their giddy feet.” — Guy Maddin
The limits of Ball’s imagination are unimaginable.” — St. John Telegraph-Journal
Jonathan Ball’s beautiful nightmares both disturb and entice.” — Thomas Wharton
“The twisted words of Jonathan Ball are going to give you nightmares, and you’re going to love it . . . intoxicating.” — The Uniter
“Ball is a poet that revels in odd humour and odd juxtapositions, striking out in unusual directions that keep going, further than you might have imagined.” – Rob McLennan
“Brilliant and smothering. [In The National Gallery,] Ball sculpts a heartbreaking figure of an artist like and unlike the author, living quotidian life, out of the shifting material of the unconsciousness.” — Natalee Caple
“[The National Gallery] is a brilliant and profound book, often hilarious and moving, alive and alert to our life, our language, our darkness, and our love” — Gary Barwin
“Jonathan Ball deploys [a] distinctive blend of sinister insight and munificent imagination, illuminating horror and dark humour, artful precision and formal play.” — Daniel Scott Tysdal
“The Politics of Knives marks Jonathan Ball as a talent already here in a big way. Read it.” — Douglas Barbour
“[Ball is] one of our most exciting young poets.” — Robert Kroetsch
“Ball … is one of our most talented younger poets” — Carmine Starnino
“[Clockfire contains] High-wire conceptual theatrics that inexplicably don’t get old after ten or twenty pages.” — Jacob McArthur Mooney
“While a fine example of contemporary poetic writing, Clockfire could also entertain a wider audience intrigued by fantasy that beaks out beyond genre borders.” — Douglas Barbour
“I consider Jonathan Ball’s Clockfire to be in the top handful of poetry titles last year in this country. No prize for him, alas, but lots of buzz and engagement and, for this reader in any case, the sense of a poet settling into the saddle for a while. Ball is a confident, smart poet. Very smart. His book is a compendium of un-performable plays, each more bizarre and surreal than the last, and each offering an intelligent and often chillingly precise investigation into the notion of theatre, of audience, expectation and participation.” — Sina Queyras
“Ex Machina is not only a celebration of broken hyperlinks and 404 error messages but also a fascinating exploration of the multisequential and nonlinear process of textual production. Ball demonstrates how intertwined textuality is with our lives even when it reads as nonsense or manifests as an asignifying rupture, a corruption of meaning … this is how poetry might look like if (or perhaps, when) written and read by a distributed subjectivity.” — Theodoros Chiotis
“With each page [of Ex Machina], the text becomes a labyrinth in which the reader’s breadcrumbs are devoured by mice as fast as they can be placed. Ex Machina is a predator … [it] articulates the nature of the parasitic relationship between book, text and reader. While Phyllis Webb famously stated ‘[t]he proper response to a poem is another poem,’ Ball makes the generative quality that Webb desired fraught with the sinister overtones of mutation” — Derek Beaulieu
Q & A (with Adam Petrash)
What can you tell our readers about yourself that they wouldn’t get from your author’s bio?
I used to sing in heavy rock bands and had my picture in Rolling Stone. Only one good recording of me singing survives though, by my last band, Prost. But it is under lock and key.
People always seem to ask who a person’s influences are, but they rarely ask why. That said, who are they and why?
My influences range and depend on the project. My two biggest influences, from youth, are probably Stephen King and Salman Rushdie. I’m interested in visceral, aggressive work that has an architectural structure.
More recently, Tony Burgess and H.P. Lovecraft. Burgess is, for my money, the best writer in Canada, or at least the most fascinating. If I had to summarize his style, I would say that he writes horror stories where the violence of the narrative begins to deform the narrative. That’s something that, I think, reaches back to Lovecraft and his clumsier attempts to describe indescribable things.
My biggest influence overall is Franz Kafka, because I think Kafka is still the most cutting-edge author around. He’s not constrained by his historical context, like other modernists — some of the stuff he’s doing in a book like The Castle is much more radical than later postmodern authors. (That’s why I wrote a poem inspired by his still-radical novel The Castle in The Politics of Knives.)
David Lynch, Guy Maddin, Solomon Nalger, and John Paizs (who I wrote a whole book about) are huge influences, because they know how to make experimental narratives work on a visceral level. Alfred Hitchcock, because of my interest in violence and how violence deforms how stories about violence are told — Hitchcock is like Burgess in that way, or vice versa I suppose (a long poem about Hitchcock’s film Psycho shows up in The Politics of Knives). My biggest influence as a poet is Lisa Robertson, because of her astounding facility with prose poetry and her classical touchstones.
Of course, there are all the people you meet that get thanked in books, who really have more of an influence. People like Suzette Mayr, Dennis Cooley, George Toles, Christian Bök, Natalee Caple, GMB Chomichuk, Michael Sanders, John Toone, Saleema Nawaz, Maurice Mierau, and so many others — but in terms of real concrete influences on the writing, things that are less emotional and more obvious outside of my head, this would be my shortlist.
What drove you to pursue writing as a career?
I always loved books and I always wanted to write books. My personality is such that I could never hobby-write. I believe in taking things seriously and being professional.
What do you feel is the purpose of poetry? What do you think poetry accomplishes that other writing mediums can’t?
Poetry makes language strange. At a base level, it defamiliarizes language, so it allows you to focus on language play and to think about (and through) language itself. The effects, materiality, uses, and politics of language. Poetry frees you from the burden of having to use language to communicate something. Bad poets don’t understand this, and focus all their efforts on trying to communicate through poetry, which seems paradoxical and senseless to me.
You’ve mentioned previously that when it comes to poems written about emotions and feelings that you could switch the poet’s names and none would be the wiser. Why do you feel this way?
I’ve taken a lot of heat for saying that, but all I meant is that most emotive poems are generic — both in what they express and how they express. There remains a real irony in that fact that poets who want to express their own unique, personal emotions will routinely select the same images and the same poetic form as every other poet that is trying to express that same emotion — but in what they feel is a unique, personal fashion.
Basically, almost every poem I see that has as its core purpose the expression of a unique emotion is a generic text with a generic, lyrical speaker that could have been, ironically, manufactured by any decent poet. Since I review poetry for the Winnipeg Free Press, I am sent hundreds of books. Most are barely distinguishable from one another. I could rip out random pages and assemble another poetry book with a fake name, and nobody would be able to tell that these poems were by multiple authors, not a single author. Which is fine, unless your point in writing a poem is to showcase how you are unique.
On that note, do you feel poets need to be continually innovative then? If so, does that make much of the poetry published in the past redundant?
It’s more that most poetry published in the present is redundant. I value innovation in art, but I don’t feel poets have a duty to be innovative. However, they do have a duty to be great, to grasp for greatness, if they aren’t trying to go places no one has gone.
What I’m sick of is mediocre, publishable poems. I would like to see both more stunning, “well-crafted” (but otherwise conventional) poems, and more risky, unpublishable poems.
My tastes range, but I do gravitate more to unconventional or “innovative” work. However, it’s a taste or preference for me, not a political choice.
What do you think makes a poetry collection successful? (Not in books sold but in the book’s substance)
Ambition. Writers, myself included, need to be more ambitious. That, and following an idea to its end. I feel like a lot of the books I read go halfway. The writers don’t commit fully to their ideas and they compromise their vision at some point — or, they have no discernible vision.
Let me give you a weird example: the much-maligned Transformers movie. Once you decide to make a live-action film, not a cartoon film, and you decide on updating the look of the robots so that they are not in line with the child-cartoon aesthetic, then you have made a basic choice to move ever-so-slightly into the direction of realism, or at least reality (the space of “what-if these things were real”). What is the end of that movement?
It’s to end up in a place where we have a movie where the transformers never interact with, or even notice, the humans. They wage their war the same way we wage a war and don’t notice the ants we are trampling or bombing in the process. But Bay either can’t or won’t acknowledge that this is the logical terminus of his artistic direction and vision.
So he pulls back. And you end up with a movie that is as stupid and absurd as making a World War I movie where people are continually talking to and looking after and even sacrificing their lives to save the ants in an anthill on Vimy Ridge.
To many you’re recognized as only a poet, but that’s not true because you write fiction as well. That said, do you consider yourself a poet more so than a novelist, too?
I don’t think the answer to this question matters, because thinking of yourself one way or the other is a trap. So usually I just say “writer.” In many ways, though, I consider myself a writer of experimental genre fiction — mostly horror. My joke is that I consider myself a horror writer but nobody agrees with me.
Ex Machina is a science fiction novel with no characters or plot, although it’s also a somewhat conceptual long poem. Clockfire is a horror novel in which the theatre is the monster, although it’s also prose poetry. The Politics of Knives is a collection of horror fiction, and an anti-novel, although it’s also poem sequences. That’s what I think, but I must be wrong because nobody agrees with me.
Ex Machina reads like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and reading it is a tactile experience. You don’t just read the book you become physically involved in it. Why did you choose to do this?
I want to make books people don’t just read. I want them to interact with the books in a functional and meaningful way — even if that frustrates them and they hate it. I would rather the books be hated than viewed with indifference.
The most sensible reaction to the upheavals of the book business in recent years is to take all that post-structuralism at its word, and try to actually create open texts, things that require reader interaction in real ways, not just theoretical ways.
Feeding off of that, in an age where ebooks have become the preferred medium do you think all avenues have been explored and exhausted in the printed format? Is there still hope for the printed book?
The book industry has, for a long time, focused its efforts on selling books to people who don’t read. They market to people who buy books for friends and families who read, or people that don’t keep a home library, or people who don’t care what they read, or people who only read a few books in their lifetimes. It’s a dumb model and it’s doomed to fail.
Ebooks as they stand are mostly meaningful as a paper-saving device. When they develop that will change, but at minimum they mean that all the idiotic garbage that doesn’t need to exist can exist in the digital world. So there is hope, finally, for a world where only the books that need to exist in print do. If there is nothing in the book that requires a physical interaction, then why should it exist in the physical world?
Books that need to exist physically will continue to exist physically, because they have no other choice. Probably there will be fewer of these and less people who care about them. If we’re lucky, that’s what will happen, while all the rest will fade into the digital world, where we will still have good books and bad books, but at least the garbage books won’t ugly up store shelves. Poetry is a such a niche market that it will probably remain print for the most part, which will continue to be sad and great at turns.
If you follow the structure in Ex Machina you’ll never reach the final pages of the book and will keep reading the book indefinitely. This is frustrating; much like humans get frustrated with materialistic machines. Was that one of your intentions?
Yes, and I even made the mistake of insisting that the publisher write on the back cover that it was a frustrating experience to read the book. I don’t know what I was thinking. People read that back cover and decide not to read the book. It’s my fault because I wrote it and insisted on writing it.
The frustration is intentional but it’s also designed to force you into a position where you refuse to play by the rules of the book, and start reading it “the wrong way.” So, in the end, the frustration becomes freeing and you are happy you were frustrated and took control.
Or, you passively accept the role and don’t get frustrated, and glide in loops through the book like a happy, well-oiled machine. The structure is designed to either turn you into a machine or an author.
The poems in Clockfire are meant to be plays that can never be performed. However, they’d make great film vignettes. Are you open to the idea of your work being made into a film or do you worry about the screen losing some of the book’s imagery?
I would love it, because I see a book like that as a blueprint for other things, as well as being a finished artwork. In some ways, though, it would be a violation of the concept. But the book is there to be violated — violation is a viable form of reading.
I am still disappointed that almost nobody has tried to stage the plays. There has been one attempt, that went well, I thought, by Swallow-a-Bicycle in Calgary. But nobody else. Even though there is now a Clockfire Theatre Company in, I think, France. Even they haven’t staged them, as far as I know. I’d love someone to develop a Fringe play.
If you’re open to the idea then who’d you want to direct it? Why?
It would make the most sense as an anthology film or a series of shorts by different directors. You could get up to 77 directors, I guess. The people I listed earlier would be the obvious starting points. Guy Maddin liked the book, but doesn’t seem interested in filming them. He would be my obvious top choice. Otherwise, probably people like Cronenberg and Jeffrey Erbach would make the most sense. And horror directors.
In The Politics of Knives you’ve layered the work with allusions. This makes for and encourages multiple readings. Do you think due to the length of most poetry collections that this is something most poets should be doing? Why or why not?
Poets tend to produce allusion-heavy work, I think. However, I know what you mean — I like to overload allusions, and layer in things that are coded enough that they amount to private jokes. I think of them like 2-percenters in comedy. A 2-percenter is an erudite joke that only 2% of the audience will get — but they will think it’s really funny. Since poetry readers are already quite erudite, in general, you have to work harder to produce a 2-percenter. And there is probably less obvious value in doing so.
I find, oddly, that it’s the references I think are obvious that are the ones people miss. Somebody reviewing The Politics of Knives thought, when I referred to Count Westwest in the poem about Kafka’s novel The Castle, that I was talking about some writer of Harry Potter fan fiction.
Well, Count Westwest is the actual name of the count in The Castle. And it’s not like this was some moron reviewer — it was a very smart, well-read poet. But if you google “Count Westwest” then you don’t see the name “Kafka” until the second page of results. I don’t think that going to the second page (or adding “Kafka” or “Castle” to your search string) is too much to ask in terms of research — and I don’t mean to knock this reviewer — but I do find it strange because I would see that as an obvious reference.
If I was the reviewer, I would assume, without googling, that Count Westwest was the actual name of the count in The Castle. On the other hand, we are used to thinking about Kafka as a humourless writer, due to the early Muir translations. So it seems too absurd and funny a name for a “serious” writer like Kafka, and I can understand taking the first page of Google for granted.
What I like most is lines that seem like allusions but operate in multiple ways, and could allude to various things. Like the line “Twelve awaited another.” Another reviewer (also somebody who is a smart, well-read poet, and should know better) thought I had miscounted the muses. Well, obviously I haven’t miscounted the muses. I’m not some jackass self-publishing nonsense. Like the review I refer to above, I actually liked this review overall, but it’s another example where the allusion seems obvious to me, or at least it should be obvious what it’s not.
Anyway, the line clearly seems to allude to something. But does it? It is structured like an allusion, but it isn’t clearly one. However, it can justifiably be interpreted as an allusion. For example, biblically, to allude to either Jesus or Judas. A huge difference between those two — but it can meaningfully allude to either. The apostles and Jesus wait for Judas to join them. Or we wait, ready disciples, for a non-arriving God (like waiting for Godot). And there are other ways to spin it out as well, or along those lines, and the context of the invocation of the muse complicates and develops the idea (there’s where it seems like it might be a mistaken allusion to the muses, if you weren’t assuming the writer knew anything). So how you understand the allusion, which is ambiguous, starts to turn the poem for you.
Even if you miss the possible allusion, then the line operates to build an atmosphere of anticipation, or dread (since even on the non-allusive reading, we’re awaiting the unlucky thirteenth). I want everything to be visceral and available on the surface, in terms of a mood or atmosphere, to a reader that doesn’t understand it in any depth. And then I want there to be enough going on underneath the surface for the reader to plumb the poems to various depths.
In an interview with Ariel Gordon for Prairie Books NOW you said that The Politics of Knives is “more of an amalgamation of poetry, prose, fiction, and essay.” That said, do you feel that this is where poetry is headed? Is there any room for the more ‘traditional’ forms of poetry?
I don’t see my work, or work like mine, as a barometer of where things are headed. I don’t really see myself as a poet primarily, for the simple reason that I think my worst work is in poetry, and my best work is in experimental prose that sometimes blurs into poetry — which is how I view these books.
What I do think is perhaps unique, or at least strange, and therefore valuable, is how my work draws on the influence of experimental practice in poems that are not experimental. So, I will produce poems that feel procedural, or that read like conceptual poems, or aleatory texts, but I am just writing them normally. Or, I’ll use a strict procedure, and hide it so that it seems like I didn’t, or at a certain stage in the editing process will just abandon it and free myself from the constraint.
People still seem afraid to do this, generally speaking. They want to subscribe to some practice that limits them, and they want to use these limitations to build a style. I am not interested in having a style or a voice. I just want to approach each project as its own project and do what the project demands.
People think Ex Machina was produced using experimental practices, but it wasn’t, other than a page here or there. Even my editor for The Politics of Knives assumed that the title poem, “The Politics of Knives,” had some sort of conceptual procedure. But it doesn’t. It’s just designed to read that way. People think I was covering up words in that poem. But I didn’t cover up any words. I manufactured gaps — I wrote the gaps the way I would write words. I just put the black bar into my vocabulary.
Then, at a certain point, I did start editing it by covering up words. But words I wrote in previous drafts — sometimes I’d cut words, sometimes I’d cover them, sometimes I’d just add more gaps in the form of black bars. I designed it the way I would design any poem, but so that it would read like a conceptual or procedural poem, with found text. Then I added found text in parts, and not in others. Or added found text and rewrote it, or whatever.
When Alana Wilcox was laying out the book, she wanted to know what the words under the bars were, so she could make sure they were spaced properly. I told her there weren’t necessarily words, or at least it didn’t matter, and she should shrink and expand the bars so they look good visually. It’s a design element, and compositionally it only matters where they appear in sequence, and their relative lengths, and the general ratio of bar-to-text.
For “That Most Terrible of Dogs,” I used found spam e-mail text as a base and revised it like I would revise a rough draft. A lot of poets will either not use the found spam, or will refuse to alter it, or will alter it so it still reads like found spam. I just treat it all like a draft.
I don’t see the difference between writing a first draft or using your poem as my first draft. That’s not revolutionary, but it’s oddly abnormal to just take experimental practices and conventional practices and put both in your toolbox, and move between them on the same poem. People tend not to do it. They tend to pick one path, or pick one per poem. I think that’s changing though.
You originally published WOLVES (lone.ly) as a chapbook through BookThug before you reworked it for The Politics of Knives. Unlike other art forms (i.e. painting/sculpture) you’re able to take your previous work and rework it. Does that mean that you feel anyone’s previously published work can and should be reworked? What do you think the pros and cons are to this?
Coming off the above answer — I don’t see the difference between using my first draft as a first draft, or using your first draft as my first draft, or using my finished, 20th draft, published poem as my first draft. I just decided to use the published chapbook as my found text for a new poem, the same way I might take some words from a billboard and use them to craft a sonnet.
I don’t see the version in The Politics of Knives as a final version or even a different version. It’s a new poem. That’s why I changed the title, to “Then Wolves.” That’s also why I released the book under a Creative Commons license. You can use “Then Wolves” as the first draft for your own poem if you want.
I don’t really think through the pros and cons when I write. I’m just working. I think about those things later on. That’s why I’ve written multiple books and thrown them in the trash. I just work on them and then think about them later, whether I should publish them or throw them away.
The work, the practice, the process of it all is more important than where you end up. You have to be willing to throw things away. But you also have to be willing to spend your time on something you will throw away. Publishing it is just another version of throwing it away. You throw your trash into the trashcan and your jewels into the world. Just get them out of your office!
Thematically, your previous three poetry books appear to be intentionally absent of all human emotion.
The National Gallery breaks away from your previous books, which seem almost intentionally absent of emotions, compared to the average poetry book that revels in the writer’s emotional life. What made you decide to create such a personal book?
My joke used to be, when people complained that my poetry seemed devoid of human emotion, that as a straight white male, aged 20-50, my emotions were already represented in the culture. If you want to know how I feel, go read someone else’s poetry book.
While that’s still how I feel overall, with The National Gallery I wanted to take more creative risks and I realized that would mean doing things that I had specifically avoided doing. Previously, my books all had an emotional core, or an emotional tone, but this was more of a mood that pervaded them than me dealing directly with my emotional life.
I wanted to prove that I could write traditional poems with rhyme schemes and metre and human emotion and so on, but I wanted to do it all my own way, by injecting a strangeness and a horrific tone or an absurdity or surrealism into things.
My vision for the book was to write a perfectly normal poetry book in the weirdest way possible. So instead of a poem about my feelings on fatherhood, you get a poem about a man trapping himself inside of a piece of paper that he then experiences as a snowfield and his struggle to escape from a snow maze and ice serpents in order to see his children again.
But there’s also a poem about how I should have bought stock in Starbucks. There’s a series of sonnets about Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and how we should view him as an artist. There are a series of elegies for my dead iPhone.
The Lightning of Possible Storms is your first short fiction collection, and has a framing narrative about a woman discovering a book of short fiction called The Lightning of Possible Storms. How did your work in poetry inform this project?
To be honest, I have never truly seen myself as a poet, and viewed my work in poetry as training to write fiction. In fact, most of what other people consider to be my poetry I consider to be experimental fiction. I wanted to finally write a book that was inarguably fiction, but I couldn’t help playing with the form.
The stories range widely in style and tone and I liked that, but as I was putting the book together I felt like I needed more to hang it all together. At first, the overarching storyline with Aleya finding the book was a simple thing and a lot of it was filler, but as the manuscript developed and after I got more feedback from my editor Stuart Ross, the idea fleshed out fully.
Now, the book reads front-to-back like a novel would, and has a novel’s rise and fall, even though it’s still in many ways a collection of short stories. To me, every book is its own little universe, and with The Lightning of Possible Storms I wanted to take that idea and develop it in some beautiful and terrifying ways.