The Next Big Thing: Self Interview

My friend Rachel Simon tagged me to participate in The Next Big Thing, a self-interview series for authors who recently had a book come out or have books forthcoming soon. Rachel's poetry collection Theory of Orange is out now through Pavement Saw Press, and her chapbook Marginal Road was published in the Hollyridge Press Chapbook series. Basically, what happens is one writer does the self-interview and then tags a few other writers who he/she thinks is “The Next Big Thing,” and the pattern continues. The questions are the same for everybody.

What is the working title of the book?

 The title of the book is The Real Cause For Your Absence. I had a few earlier titles--Becoming A Crow, Dispatches, Foreign Letters--but this title seems to fix on one of my major fixation.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wish I could say that the book is the result of one idea. My life would be so much easier if I could concentrate on one idea at a time. Instead, the book has a bunch of ideas suspended throughout, held up by the epigraphs at the beginning of each section.

--We keep coming back and coming back/ To the real: the the hotel instead of the hymns/ That fall upon it out of the wind. (Wallace Stevens)

I'll say the Wallace Stevens excerpt touches on the idea of returning to a source, to examine the event that generated the experience. Many of these poems aspire to that.

--If you don't want to stay and watch the storm/ I will watch it for you. (Juan Antonio González Iglesias)

I include the González Iglesias quote not only because I translate his poetry, but it is also one of those perfect sentiments I want my poems to achieve: the general you, the lover, dear friend, perhaps even the unknown reader is considered. A love poem for this other. I think there are a lot of love poems in this book; I fall in love with a lot of people, even strangers.

--As for those who face their death by wind/ and call it by the weird name of forgiveness/ they alone have the right to marry birds... (Gerald Stern)

The Stern poem gets at my fascination with birds. In a former life I may have been a bird, or maybe I'll become one in the next. I think birds are superior beings. Even the ugly ones no one wants to have around...I've learned a lot from crows and grackles.

--Wine tells the truth. Now I am wine./ Wine is the sun./ Wine, the sun and you, three things worth dying for. (Jorge Gimeno)

Finally there's the idea of truth, which Gimeno's poem (and I also translate his poetry) touches on. I have a hard time pinning down one truth. Or maybe it's an obvious truth. I try to arrive at truths in my poems, and many times that comes through fiction, or persona. Many of these poems are persona poems that allow me insight into the complexity of the world I inhabit. Sometimes it's important to be married to more than one person...or have different parents..or have some wine around to tell the truth.

What genre does your book fall under?

There are several, a few of which are poetry, fiction, non-fiction and translation. 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Such an odd coincidence. Scorsese, having just read an early release of the book, just sent me an email and asked the same thing. I told him Christopher Walken would be good for the crow, grackel and sparrow poems. Javier Bardem for the poems in Spain. Or Will Ferrell, because he also speaks Spanish. And women? Someone who is strong and beautiful, elegant, striking...Robin Wright would be perfect, but she'd have to have a slight accent, one of those that you can't quite place, but that makes you want to cancel all your appointments so you can keep listening to her.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Though you might not know it, though you might not want to admit it, this is the real cause for your absence.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

This book has been under construction for quite a while. I could say the first draft took about three years (completed in 2007, maybe), but there are poems here I've written in the last three years. I thought the book was done in 2008, but I have really good friends, my readers, who helped me see that wasn't the case. I'm glad I kept working on it.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I'll risk sounding cheesy and say the world inspired it. More specific, the worlds I inhabit, which include Euskadi, Spain, the East coast of the US, Texas, Iowa, but also those towns Richard Hugo encourages me to visit. Curiosity about those towns, the people who live there, who moved away or stopped for a night and never left. The newspaper. My neighbors' closed up house, the photograph a friend sent of a winter snow storm...I'll stop here. You get the point.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are stories here about friends and family but none of them are true. Wait. All of them are true. I also write about work. Here's a poem about one of my jobs: Stupid Job

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book is published by C&R Press

I’m tagging these fantastic writers:

Jennifer Acker
Fruela Fernandez 
Alexander Long
Rebecca Gayle Howell