Philip Brady and “The Next Big Thing”

Poet Philip Brady, author of Fathom and By Heart, invited me into the blog chain “The Next Big Thing.”  Clicking here takes you to Phil’s responses.

 

Here are my responses:

 

What is your working title of your book?

As Much As, If Not More Than

 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

At least three different sources contributed provocation:

• Ugly Duckling Presse will soon publish in e-book form a cross-genre critical work called Alter Nation, which attempts to survey the contemporary poetry landscape after acknowledging that any such survey must necessarily be incomplete.  Many of the responses occasioned by particular works surveyed there seemed also to invite further reflection.  Those reflections became the first part of As Much As, If Not More Than.

• The “Show and Tell” project on this blog creates dialogues between artists and writers, and I wanted to join in those dialogues: my attempts to do so created the second part of the book.

• A good friend introduced me to the book Hologram, by the Canadian poet P. K. Page.  In it, Page uses the “glosa” form, which I fell in love with, and adopted for the poems in the second half of this book.

 

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.

 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s not altogether clear who the characters in the book are, or that they’re the same throughout, but one of the essay-poems in the first section is a “dialogue” made of questions appropriated from other writers.  In it, one question answers another, through the whole piece, always with the “asking” question from a source written by a male and the “answering” question from a source written by a female.  So Anthony Hopkins in white pants and white t-shirt in an asylum cell reading the “male” questions and Jodie Foster outside the cell reading the “female” would be perfect.  Or John Travolta in a bolo tie and Uma Thurman in a white shirt, interrogating one another across burgers and a fie-dollar shake.  Or Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas staring hard at one another with a fire between them and the desert all around.

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Appropriating the ideal that Greek poets and dramatists embodied in a meter they called logaoedic (a term compounded of logos, meaning speech, and aoide, meaning song), As Much As, If Not More Than explores experience by haunting the territory between speaking and singing, elenchus and jive.

 

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

There’s an alternative universe out there, of independent non-profit publishers, in which books are not self-published but in which there’s no room for agents since there’s no money to be made by writer or by publisher, much less by someone in between.  In this world, everything is done for love of the art.  Long may it be the home of my work.

 

In my case, the press is Etruscan Press: http://www.etruscanpress.org/ They have a great list, and I’m thankful every day that they have given my work a place on it.

 

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

The smart-ass answer would be “my whole life,” but it’s a little more to the point and a lot less pretentious to say it depends on how you count:

• By sheer good fortune, I was hired at Kansas City Art Institute in 1987, fresh out of grad school, and this altogether unearned association with a vivifying community of visual artists introduced me to many of the artists who later participated in the Show and Tell project.

• It was probably ten years ago that Jan Zwicky introduced me to P. K. Page’s Hologram, mentioned above, the book that showed me the glosa form.

• I had a one-month residency in October 2011 at the Anderson Center in Minnesota, and it was during that residency that I got the scattered fragments of the book put together into a complete draft.

 

What other books would you compare yours to within your genre?

I can’t answer this except slant, since it’s one of my ambitions not to be in my genre, but somewhere at, or even outside, its margins.  So, among well-known, long-established figures, Anne Carson comes early to mind, because her books cross generic borders with such abandon.  Of newer up-and-comers, I would be thrilled to have my work thought of in juxtaposition with (just to name three exciting voices) Rita Wong, Bhanu Kapil, and Chelsey Minnis.

 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Many different things contributed to the inspiration for this book, but here’s one.  A few years ago, I visited the Ashmolean Museum (in England) with an old friend, the poet David Daniel.  One thing we saw there stuck with me: a limestone ostracon “inscribed,” as the accompanying placard explains, “in hieratic by the scribe Amennakht with two poems composed by him.”  The inscription features periodic red dots above the lines, which the accompanying description identifies as “verse points,” used, it says, “to indicate rhythmic units in literary texts,” by analogy with line breaks.  Those “verse points” floated in my head for a long time, and eventually came to be associated with the material that was gathering toward this book.

 

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

I hope that anyone would enjoy a visit to the “Show & Tell” site: just click on the “Show and Tell” button on the right-hand side of this page.  If you explore far enough, by the way, you’ll find (in very early entries) a couple of fabulous images by the artist Anne Devaney, one of which will be the cover image for the book.

 

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