Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Next Big Thing" Interview Project: Sara Burnett



“The Next Big Thing” book interview project asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week. Sara Burnett will be talking about her manuscript in progress.

 ***

What is the title of the book?
There’s no title yet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
There seems to be a couple of threads unraveling from my poems.  It’s not near being a book yet so I won’t flatter myself by calling it one just yet. One reoccurring theme is my personal family history of Cuban heritage set against the backdrop of a larger political history of US/Cuban relations.  Another is how inherited conceptions of race and class manifest themselves in our modern moment in the US and make questions of identity and identity-making for the individual and the group even more difficult to traverse.  More abstractly though, my poems deal with memory and loss, both material and emotional, and how language (both English and Spanish) at once recovers and distorts this loss by our human inclination to recount stories and generate new meanings.

What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm... I’m not really good with actor names.  I can say since a lot of my family members are featured, I would need very loud, emotive acting.  There are some cameos by Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo daVinci, and Castro at this point so there is a diverse range of characters.  (I looked this one up: Corey Stoll is the guy who played Hemingway in Midnight in Paris.  I thought he did great – exactly how I imagined Hemingway might be so I want him in it!)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Broadly, my poems explore perceptions of self and history, (but essentially if my poems ever make it to a book, aren’t most if not all first collections “the best of...?”).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This is an amusing question for me because I find that impossible to predict.  I am finishing my second year of my MFA program at the University of Maryland and plan to continue to working on my thesis for a third year.  The creative process just takes so much longer than I ever knew – far longer than it takes to write a MA thesis in literature (which I did once a while ago).  After my third year, I expect more revisions. Other writers have told me, the thesis is sometimes scraped to its bare bones for the book.  I also think I’ve had this theme of personal cultural identity and history on my mind, for better or worse, from the beginning of my time in the MFA program, (and really all my life).  It’s an obsession. Every poem written is for the next poem to increase my understanding of how we shape and are shaped by our identities.

In the meantime, some journals have picked up some of my poems, which is heartening for me.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Since it’s not a book yet, I’m hesitant to name names.  I’ll just say generally those people, poem by poem, who have pushed me to write the “hard stuff” about identity, race, language, and class – knowing that I could easily write something that is merely pretty to hear.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is an impossible question I hope to be able to answer someday. 

Tagged Writers: 
Kara Waite


Sara Burnett is a MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of Maryland where she works and teaches.  Her poems have appeared in PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art and Hinchas de Poesia and she has a forthcoming publication in Poet Lore.  She holds a MA in English from the University of Vermont and was a former public high school English teacher. 


For more "Next Big Thing Interviews," check out Gretchen PrimackRachel M. Simon and my recent post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The Next Big Thing" Interview Project: Gretchen Primack


“The Next Big Thing” book interview project asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week. 

Here is poet Gretchen Primack’s Next Big Thing interview about hew new poetry collection Kind. You might remember her recent post here about collaborating to write The Lucky Ones.

*** 

What is the working title of the book?

Kind

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’m interested in how humans think about and interact with (other) animals. Kind looks hard at that dynamic. It also considers what it feels like to be the kind of person who cares about how we treat other living beings. 

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.

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

Molly Shannon would play me, and my beloved would be played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He has very little in common with Gus, but I’d love to meet him—and he’s such a great actor he can pull it off. Most of the rest of the cast would be various mammals and birds and such. None would be harmed in the making of the film. If that happened, I would spontaneously combust from irony overload.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

I wonder why we can’t be kinder to each other (and I include other species in “each other”)? 

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

Oh, about three years or so.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A few years ago, I went to an artist colony in Vermont, ready to have joyous communion with others. I assumed a bunch of thoughtful, artsy folks who wanted to collect for a month in Vermont would have plenty of value-system overlap, but the way we approached sentient beings was radically different. I was moved to start writing poems about the subject for the first time. The poets I brought with me, Neruda and Millay and Whitman and Clifton and Kunitz, all had ideas to contribute and ended up in epigraphs; Lucille Clifton, in fact, starts the book off with two quotes.  

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

I’m lucky—well, for a lot of reasons—but in this case to know the brilliant, animal-loving visual artist Susan Siegel. I asked her if I could use one of her breathtaking paintings as cover art, and not only did she say yes, she also made original drawings for the inside of the book. What a dreamy collaboration. I think the poems and drawings enhance each other. To see the cover, and to be alerted about book parties in NYC, Woodstock, and DC, go here: www.gretchenprimack.com

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

It will be published by Post Traumatic Press in March 2013. PTP is run by the lovely human being Dayl Wise. He’s a Vietnam vet and very active in Veterans for Peace, and he and his wife, the beautiful Alison Koffler, are serious animal and poetry lovers. 

Tagged writers:

C.J. Sage



For more "Next Big Thing Interviews," check out Rachel M. Simon's post and my recent post.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Lori Desrosiers on her father and her new book, The Philosopher’s Daughter


Thank you to Lori Desrosiers for sharing her thoughts today about writing her new book, The Philosopher’s Daughter. For those of you interested in memoir, I think you’ll be particularly interested in how these poems emerged from her life.

Lori Desrosiers’ first full-length book of poems, The Philosopher's Daughter is from Salmon Poetry (2013). Her chapbook, Three Vanities, was published in 2009 by Pudding House. Her poems have appeared in New Millenium Review, Contemporary American Voices, BigCityLit, Concise Delights, Blue Fifth Review, Pirene's Fountain, The New Verse News, Common Ground Review, and many more, including a prompt in Wingbeats, a book of writing exercises from Dos Gatos Press. Her MFA in Poetry is from New England College. She is editor and publisher of Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry.

***



The Philosopher’s Daughter (Salmon Poetry 2013) came about partly because I had already written a chapbook of poems (Three Vanities, Pudding House 2009) about the women in my family, my grandmother, my mother and myself, and I felt like my father’s story was missing in the mix. My father was a real philosopher. He taught Philosophy at Fordham University for fifteen years before he died, and he wrote three heavy (in all the senses of the word) volumes of philosophy with Latin names (the first one was Homo Querens), which were published by Fordham Press. He called his theory the “philosophy of the person.” They are quite interesting, although since my specialty was literature and not philosophy, I found them a bit hard to understand. He was also a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, and had his practice in his home on the upper east side.

My father was not a typical dad, which plagued my little brother, who would have liked a “baseball dad” like his friends had. He asked us philosophical questions at a young age, such as “Is nothing something?” and “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” which at three or four, I took seriously enough to try to answer. My parents were divorced when I was eleven, so he lived in Manhattan. My brother and I would take the train to visit him from Hastings-on-Hudson, where we lived with our mother in an apartment overlooking the river.  About six years before he died, he married Becky and they moved to Redding, CT, where he died of brain cancer. I think it’s ironic that this brilliant man died of a brain tumor.

I am still writing poems about my father, some of which are in the book I’m working on, which is partially a response to some of the music he loved (the classics, Beethoven especially) and partly more philosophical musings on my part. I guess my dad, more than anything else, taught me how to think deeply, and to keep the sense of wonderment I had as a child. He told me once that children are closer to God. Perhaps they are.  Here’s the poem on this concept from The Philosopher’s Daughter:

Closer to God

My father used to say,
“Children are closer to God.”
When I was very small
before there were words
coursing through my mind,
there were sunbeams
filtering through my nursery window.
I recall the songs of sparrows,
the clang of milk delivery,
horses’ hooves on cobblestone,
the smell of burning chestnuts,
my mother humming lullabies,
my father’s exultant laugh.
He died at 63,
mute from brain cancer.
In his last moments
did he reclaim this wordless awe?




Thursday, February 21, 2013

“The Next Big Thing” Interview Project: Chloe Yelena Miller



“The Next Big Thing” book interview project asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week. I’ll be writing about my recent chapbook, Unrest. 

Thanks to Rachel M. Simon for tagging me for this project. Read her recent Next Big Thing interview here. Be sure to check out her poetry collection Theory of Orange (Pavement Saw Press 2006) and chapbook, Marginal Road (Hollyridge Press 2009). 

***
What is the title of the book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The literal feeling of unrest that comes with loss – the mourning, haunting, lack of sleep, incomprehension, momentary comprehension – is the unifying theme throughout the poems. Like many, I’ve lost loved ones. As a poet, this is a subject, or perhaps a series of questions, that I work to answer and sort out through writing.
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I find that idea pretty hilarious because there isn’t a unifying narrative, but rather a theme, throughout the book. I’m not sure what a movie would look like.
My great aunt appears in a number of poems. I remember watching the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond with her once when she was in the hospital. She said that the grandmother character, Marie Barone (played by Doris Roberts), would be “nice to have over for coffee and cigarettes.” Maybe that’s a clue.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Unrest illustrates the experience of loss through food, foreign language, travel and visual art.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This is a collection of poems that weren’t written in the same period. Some of the poems were written more recently (over the last few years) and some are from my time as a student in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College (2003 – 2005.)
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Many of us write about what we want to know or understand better. I’ve been working through understanding what happens when someone dies. There are a number of characters in the book, both real and fictional, who pass before the book’s timeline. In a number of cases, I use grammar (English, Italian and Esperanto) to sort through the changing sense of time after a death.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Unrest was published by Finishing Line Press (2013.)
My tagged writers for next week are:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Friday, March 1st , 7:30 PM: Unrest Reading @ Words Bookstore in Maplewood, N.J.


I’m looking forward to reading at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Friday, March 1st at 7:30 PM. I’ll be reading poems from Unrest and some newer poems, too. Unrest will be available for sale and there will be a book signing after the reading.

179 Maplewood Avenue
Maplewood, NJ 07040