Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Emerging Poets Festival

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Along with unicorns, cephalopods, and whiskers on kittens, our list of favorite things includes promoting amazing new writers. Last week we hosted four such talents at our Emerging Poets Festival, where attendees gained insight on publishing a first book, and got a preview of some exciting projects on the horizon. Here is an excerpt from a roundtable discussion (moderated by Assistant Professor Danielle Deulen), in which you will learn why Collier Nogues is defacing military documents, what Nathaniel Perry finds bizarre, why feminism’s got a beef with Shara Lessley’s new book title, and which garden tools Marcus Wicker finds praise-worthy:

Daniel Deulen: Can you talk about what you’re working on now?

Marcus Wicker: I’m juggling two different manuscripts, spending more time on this thing I call Cul-de-sac Pastoral. Praise poems to midwestern suburbia, to and against, so like, praise poem to the hermetically sealed lawn and Uzi sprinkler head, praise poems to black squirrels. But then, the other half of the book is a dialogue with god or a higher power, something like that. And it’s good fun. It’s unholy. It’s not what you’re thinking.

Nathaniel Perry: I have a second manuscript that’s done which is called Bizarre, and it’s mostly about parenting, which IS bizarre. And it has three suites of poems—one for each of my children. One’s modeled on Geoffrey Hill’s amazing sequence “The Pentecost Castle,” from Tenebrae, in which he thinks about love in all of its forms, both religious love and sexual love and other kinds of love. There’s a series of poems about moons for my daughter, and then another sequence based on some poems by the Appalachian poet George Scarborough. And then a long poem about an infanticide scandal from the Eighteenth Century that occurred in my neck of the woods in Virginia. Which is a weird place to start thinking about parenting, but I promise I think it works.

Collier Nogues: At this point I have several different manuscripts that are outgrowths of different projects I’ve started, and the one that I’m focusing on most stems from the fact that I grew up on a military base overseas in Okinawa. For a long time I’ve been really interested in how the state of war or preparedness for war becomes naturalized, begins to seem like a really natural thing, which I think is certainly of the moment, now, in the United States. And so, as a way to be writing different kinds of poems than I had been, I stared doing erasures. Those have taken off, and I keep trying to get original poems in this manuscript, but they’re not as interesting; I have less to say, I guess, in my own voice than from picking from other texts, which all participated somehow in currents of imperialism or colonialism or militarism that precipitate war, and they’re focused around World War II in the pacific, Okinawa specifically.

Shara Lessley: Danielle mentioned [my next book] The Explosive Expert’s Wife, and I’m horrified because I’ve read things about how this construction of the title is now passé, and that if we have another book that says something about so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s daughter that it’s going to set feminism back. But I’m about two thirds of the way through the project. I just returned from living in the Middle East for three years, and so today actually I’ll be reading poems that are rooted firmly in Amman, Jordan. Half of the book is really situated in that location, and then the other half has to do with the history of domestic terrorism in the United States, so, fun little numbers on the Unabomber and Oklahoma City and some of the things that happened during the civil rights era in this country.

Emerging Writers: Writer as Reader

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This month, UC’s English Department hosted its Emerging Writers Festival, bringing to campus  four fiction writers who are emerging from their rough-spun cocoons into full-fledged writerly beings. (Okay, maybe all of them already have awards and critically acclaimed books.) During their time at UC, they took part in readings, discussions, and discussions about reading, and this week we’re delighted to bring you some excerpts from a panel discussion dubbed “The Writer as Reader,” moderated by Professor Jim Schiff. Read about how W. G. Sebald broke Ben Loory’s heart and how Ron Currie Jr. is actually not afraid of the internet. Stay tuned for Part II, coming later this week.

Jim Schiff: Name a book you love, and tell us why.


Ben Loory: Probably my favorite book is Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. He was this German writer, this super, hyperintelligent, overeducated guy. All of his books were just him going to some foreign country, stumbling around in some depressed fog, taking pictures of buildings and thinking about all the horrible things that have happened there. And also the good things and the literature and art that came out of it. I just loved it. When he was writing, it was this brand new thing I’d never seen before. And then he died in a car accident. And that was the last time I read contemporary literature. I just couldn’t handle that I had found this writer and then he died. I just completely checked out. Now I only read people who are already dead or who have written enough books for me. But there’s something in his writing in which the entire world is a haunted house. All the books are these ruins of what happened and a forerunner of what’s coming.

Caitlin Horrocks: For me, it’s Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I was able to read it as escapism and enjoy it as a reader. It’s a book that’s fearless about what a book can do and what he’s capable as an author of pulling off. It’s a magic trick. You think, “You can’t pull this off,” and you’re waiting for him to fall off, and I don’t think he does.

Ron Currie Jr.: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’m reluctant to say it’s my favorite book, but it’s certainly the heavy-weight champion in terms of scope and ambition. It appreciates the importance of and demonstrates the possibility of being bound by nothing in fiction. I don’t really see the point of writing fiction if you’re not willing to hang your ass out in the breeze and just get as crazy as you possibly can without going over the edge. A lot of people think Wallace went way over the edge with Infinite Jest, but for me, it’s an absolute master class in the possibilities of fiction. [. . .] That’s what I was after as a kid. How far can we go with this; how fantastical can it be?

Schiff: In your view, what’s the contemporary literary landscape? Are people doing different things than they were doing ten, twenty, fifty years ago?

Horrocks: A contemporary writer who is a sort of representation for things right now is Karen Russell. She does such a great job in picking zombies or picking vampires or taking these playful things and integrating them into such beautiful stories, doing something that is both realist in some ways and magical in others. You can see that in the aesthetic of places like One Story. There is this hunger for things that are not magical realism in a Marquez sense, but a contemporary formulation that is still evolving. Also, Roxane Gay for both fiction and nonfiction. She somehow writes and processes at internet speed, which I can’t. She does so much online writing with quick turn-around and responds to things happening right now, but there is that depth of thought and that humanity and a gracefulness that comes through in a lot of what she’s doing.

Audience Member: How does the business of life affect your fiction?

Currie: Everything I write, including the book coming out in February, is very episodic, even when it’s published under the guise of a novel. That may be the result of the din of modern life. Maybe I don’t have the attention span, or maybe I can’t write a coherent narrative. I have no doubt that the staccato pace of information intake is affecting how I write. I sort of hope that it’s because that’s the direction we’re heading. It’s only going to get more compact and shrunk. I think the kind of book Franzen writes is a dying breed. I’m fascinated by possibilities of technology. I’m fascinated by that New Yorker story that Jennifer Egan did on Twitter. She wrote the story for the medium. It worked really well. I tried to imagine it being a longer narrative in that form, and I couldn’t do it.

Lorry: You go to a bookstore, and lots of books are similar, and I think that’s a result of writers all talking to one another. No one is developing in isolation, on their own.

Horrocks: But I think there is still a hunger for big books from readers. People want to sit and be immersed in a world. With the internet, people are always like, “This will usher in a renaissance for flash fiction or the short form because people only have a little bits of time.” But that’s not true. Even short forms require really close attention. Short forms take a lot of work for the reader. This is a weird moment when writers can think of being driven to short pieces, but for readers, as pressed for time as they are, there is still a hunger for that unbroken dream.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ron Currie Jr. has had stories in Cincinnati Review issues 7.2 and 2.2—the latter story, “False Idols,” appeared in his collection God is Dead (Penguin, 2007). He is also the author of the novels Everything Matters (Viking, 2009) and the forthcoming Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles (Viking, 2013). Currie has also received the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Willard L. Metcalf Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Caitlin Horrocks’s story “Embodied” appeared in issue 3.1 of Cincinnati Review; it was her first published story and later appeared in her collection This Is Not Your City (Sarabande, 2011). Her stories have also appeared in the New Yorker, Best American Short Stories 2011, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009, Pushcart Prize XXXV, and elsewhere, and she’s won awards including the Plimpton Prize and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship.

Ben Loory’s fables and tales have appeared in the New Yorker, Gargoyle, and Antioch Review, as well as on NPR’s “This American Life,” and live at Selected Shorts. His book, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011), was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program and the Starbucks Coffee Bookish Reading Club.