“The Next Big Thing” Self-Interview

[Jen Karmin tagged me for the viral, internet meme called “The Next Big Thing,” an online self-interview of predetermined questions regarding recent or current projects. Thanks to Jen for giving me this opportunity for self-reflection.]

>What is the working title of the book?

Cutting Time with a Knife.

>Where did the idea come from for the book?

CTWAK is an appropriation of three sources: the periodic table of elements, T.S. Eliot’s classic essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” and Wikipedia articles about the chemical elements.  In particular, I was thinking about Eliot’s statement, “The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum.”  He says this when trying to draw an analogy between what happens when “filiated platinum is introduced into a chamber containing oxygen and sulphur dioxide” and what he calls the poet’s “process of depersonalization.”

I asked myself, “Why just the poet’s mind?” and “Why just platinum?”


>What genre does your book fall under?

Long poem.  Serial poem.  Collage.  Poetics.  A fusing together of prose and concrete poetry.  Uncreative writing with a difference.

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

The actors would be animated collages by Lewis Klahr.  Or stop-motion objects made by Jan Švankmajer.

>What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Albert Mobilio sent me a great pithy description of the book:  “a kind of ars poetica particle collider.”  As did Will Alexander: “a periodic table of poetic koans rife with miraculous nutation.”

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

It took about six or seven months of writing six to seven hours per day.  It was an all-consuming and obsessive project; when it was done, it felt as if I had snapped out of a trance, and it was hard to believe that I had actually written the resulting product.  The work of collage was extremely painstaking and laborious, and I told myself–for the sake of mental sanity–I wouldn’t do another project like this again.  But I wound up doing a re-mix/appropriation of Gertrude Stein and E.A. Poe, a 40-page poem that Delete Press published not too long ago.

>Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Working on and doing research for my dissertation, “Extending the Document: The Twenty-First Century Long Poem and the Archive,” really helped to provide the impetus for this project.  At the time, I was reading a lot of contemporary long poems–particularly ones that draw on and appropriate source texts–and I wanted to try my own hand at an extended form.  I felt that if I wanted to write about long poems with any kind of authority I wanted to be able to know what it’s like to inhabit a long poem from a compositional perspective.

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

This is what I wrote for the book’s Preface:

Regarding the cutting up (and subsequent reconstitution) of texts, William S. Burroughs has said, “If you cut into the present, the future leaks out.”  This book, which is part long poem, part science-fiction manifesto, is, in the first place, an experiment designed to test this hypothesis by etherizing T.S. Eliot’s  classic essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919) like Prufrock’s patient and splaying it across the operating table.  Using the cursor of a word processor as my surgical scalpel and Wikipedia articles on the 118 chemical elements as my supply of replacement parts, I set out to merge Mendeleev’s periodic table with Lautréamont’s pre-surrealist dissecting table in order to create an unholy amalgam on which we might witness the chance meeting of a poet and a cryogenic tank.  And just as Mendeleev was able to predict in 1869 various elements before they were discovered by virtue of his table’s novel organization, I hope in the following pages to perhaps quixotically if not poetically anticipate the future contours of literary history.

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

CTWAK was published last October by Black Square Editions–I’m very happy to be part of that catalogue.

>My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:

~ by Michael Leong on February 27, 2013.

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