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the booklog

"What are you working on?"

The marvelous poet Min Kang wrote and asked if she could “tag” me as part of this "blog tour" project (she’d been tagged by the splendid Metta Sama) and I said yes—in part because I was interested in the relay aspect: I was interested in the chance to then tag two (extraordinary) poets in my turn. I like the sense of energy (attention) in motion…

1. What are you working on?

Edges. Attention to resistance in the transfer of information, the snag of expression on the medium or platform. Solid, liquid, gas (prose, hybrid genre, poetry) and the points of translation, the tendency toward the (re)turn, the experience of impossibility or failure. Contact between unlike substances, methods, or approaches. Repetition.

“I’m proofing the manuscript of the new book which will be published by…”
“I’m putting together a collection…”
“I have a couple of translation projects I really need to finish…”

The last time I saw X it was at a conference and he asked me this question (“What are you working on?”) and (I was exhausted, it was the end of the conference which had happened—despite catastrophe—in an area devastated by flood, I was on my way to get the biggest coldest strongest drink I could find) I think I said “Really?! Are we really gonna do this?!” We’d missed each others’ panels and we’d each just published new books neither one of us would bother reading.

And you, what are you working on?

Stock gestures, interrupted; elaborated handshakes involving the whole body (treated as one line in a shifting composition), greetings and farewells broken into shadows; rituals and masques as uneven organic filigree extended over spaces transformed by technology; sonic stickinesses and areas of silence: what it is we say to each other—what it is we don’t say. The way we greet each other at the start of the 21st century: eager to be understood as engaged, involved, busy working on something.
“A work for chorus—to be performed in San Diego this fall—in collaboration with the amazing composer Nathan Davis: an exploration of language’s possibilities and failures...”

2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

"You mean you are not willing to take responsibility for any expression?”

“What do you want, a declaration of love? I take responsibility for the competence of a score and hope to have made something hazardous with which we may try ourselves.” (Christian Wolff—from an interview)



3. Why do you write what you do?

I have admiration and respect for those who answered previously and will answer next. But this is a question you can ask—sounding (superficially) engaged—without ever reading anything.
I’m so glad you asked or Thank you for asking… Or I should’ve looked at the questions and said “no”?!
Let me refer you!
“What you do”? This question with its smooth blankness comes from somewhere (a structure, involving institutions) with a certain urgency and fatigue. I am interested in the social structuring of reality within which such a question appears to matter more (to deserve more attention) than your reaction to rain on a roof (for instance) or injustice.

4. How does your writing process work?

Lately, as elderly relatives approach the horizon beyond which they will be (“body without soul”) (“memories and objects”) (“impossible to contact”)…no longer in this world, I hear in our conversations (increasingly) more than the “substance” of the speech, which is not all or even the most important part of what we are saying to each other. It matters, but it’s only part of the interaction. Now I listen for the blur of sleepiness or medication, I hear the tension in the throat (a certain tightness) that means pain. I listen for repetition, for slippages in thought, for breathlessness, forgetfulness and what Gertrude Stein called “insistence.”

up next:

Alexandria Peary is the author of three books of poetry--Fall Foliage Called Bathers & Dancers, Lid to the Shadow, and Control Bird Alt Delete--as well as the forthcoming (with Tom C. Hunley) Creative Writing Pedagogies for the 21st Century. She keeps a mindful writing blog about process and block at alexandriapeary@blogspot.com.

Laura Theobald is a poetry MFA candidate at LSU in Baton Rouge and author of eraser poems forthcoming from H_NGM_N Press. Her blog theirreducible.blogspot.com deals with the study of poetry film. She is an editor for Coconut Books, New Delta Review, Spooky Girlfriend Press, and others, and the recipient of the 2010 Boldface Poetry Prize from the University of Houston. Her website with links to her published works is lauratheobald.net.