Monday, February 22, 2010


The series of poems you have in the current issue of Sir are amazing, incredibly succinct. You say, “Practice is a trope.” What a concept, especially in the context of the poem. Where did this idea come from and does it figure in this series of poems, “I Destroy Romantic Memories”?

I wrote this line a long time ago. This question is interesting because it makes me read the line in a separate context.

When I started writing this series of poems, I had ideas that were less interesting to me than what the poems started to become. I was learning how to write a series of poems, and learning how to get my ideas out of the way in order to figure out what the poems wanted to be (not say). I was learning to see things from the middle. I was at the cusp of beginning the program at Brown and hadn’t spent so much time alone with words in my life.

I don’t want to write a certain kind of poem. “Practice” with regard to poetry usually speaks to a conventional idea of mastery: that one can master technique and learn to write a more perfect poem. I don’t want to master poetry or ever feel like there’s any place to arrive. I don’t want to feel comfortable or complacent.

What's your daily life like? How much time do you devote to writing and thinking? (as opposed to all the other daily crap, including making money and also even writing-related stuff)?

I do my best thinking when I’m on the move or moving or in transit between physical and/or psychological spaces. I live in Brooklyn, NY and commute to Providence once a week to teach my Poetry I class and meet with advisers.

On the days I’m not traveling, my S.O. (Jeff) and I have a.m. kitchen table time—we drink coffee and read and/or talk and/or listen to music and/or talk about what we’re reading, hearing, speaking. Then we retreat into our writing room and write. (In a recent collaborative e-mail, we described the room as “intimate and autonomous,” a goofy but accurate description.) Some days I write for hours. These days, writing consists of a lot of revision and book making and slow-taking. At some point I take a break and go to the gym—I’m training to run a half-marathon in the spring—where I do my best thinking. The transition from 100% mind into mind-body works well for me. I’m still trying to figure out how to write down my thoughts when I exercise.

Can you talk about the Incuhabitations project at Brown?

Incuhabitations is a yearlong colloquium I curate with my friend and colleague, Adam Veal. The colloquium was sparked by our mutual interest in conceptual and performance writing. There’s been a lot of recent hype around American conceptual poetry, and Adam and I became interested in a broader, international approach to concepts and languages in poetic practice. Last spring, with the support of John Cayley and Thalia Field, we received a very generous Graduate International Colloquia Grant, which allowed us to bring Caroline Bergvall and Sandy Baldwin to Brown in September for Incuhabitations I: Performance Writing. On March 8th at 7:00pm, we’ll host Incuhabitations II: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry, featuring Rachel Zolf and Andrea Actis.

Here is a breakdown of the term Incuhabitations, which John, Adam, and I collectively coined last summer:

Incubate. Of a bird sitting on eggs in order to warm them, bring them to hatching. To have what is developing inside manifest outwardly.

Habit. A settled or regular tendency to practice. To dress, clothe. From the French: habiller. Déshabillé: undressed.

Habitat: the home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism. From the Latin: it dwells, it dwells.

-ation, denoting an action or instance of it, a result or product of an action, forming.
How has teaching impacted your writing? Do you want to be a tenured professor someday or do you have another plan?

My father says teaching is a social activity. I love meeting and getting to know people, and I love teaching. My current group of students is small, smart and cooperative; I know they’ll accomplish a lot.

I volunteered as a tutor at 826 Valencia in San Francisco, and I just taught a poetry workshop at 826 NYC. Teaching reading and writing to elementary and middle school aged students is eye opening! I taught the students at 826 NYC poems by C.D. Wright, Bernadette Mayer, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Ed Dorn, et al. They connected with the poems instantaneously. Are our intuitive means of reading and writing reversed as we move through systems?

In terms of my own writing, teaching has honed both my intuition and my editorial eye, which are most likely one and the same.

My parents are academics; the lifestyle affords time to travel, work, and think. (And, in most instances, to help others achieve slash ‘be their best.’) I’m not sure what my future holds. The academic job market is terrible; universities have turned into industries; I find the sometimes-ruthless dynamics of academia troubling. I’m currently trying to cast a wide net in terms of jobs. I’m applying for both academic and non-academic work.

You just launched Nasturtium Press with Cléa Liquard. Can you talk about the press and producing the first title, The Lack Of, by Joseph Massey? And what’s next for Nasturtium Press?

Cléa and I met as neighbors in the Providence Armory. When we discovered we were both interested in poetry and books-as-objects, we decided to start a press. In Fall 2008, we took a letterpress class at AS220; I also took silkscreening.

Joe and I exchange work frequently, and he sent me a draft of The Lack Of. Cléa and I gravitated toward the sparseness of the manuscript, and knew that we could come up with a spare design that would complement it.

Making hand-bound books is a slow process, and the production took several months. I’m still sewing books! I should make some this afternoon...

At the moment, future plans for Nasturtium include a new collective member and forthcoming chapbooks. I would love to print perfect bound books at some point down the line.

Can you name some of your literary cousins?

I develop relationships with everything I read, so it’s a big family! Currently, I’m reading Joan Didion’s We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Mina Loy’s poetry and biography, Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, Rachel Zolf’s Neighbour Procedure, Melville’s Moby Dick, and essays on new media poetics.