THE SWERVE CAME FIRST
The swerve came first with fur and blurry vision before 2/3rds had occcurred.
And then what, Señor? Lumps and toxins and blossoms, qualifiers, surrenders before
the surrenders, vapors, vectors, oncomings, furthers? What about peoples and their speech
predicaments? Swerve [smoke, my own dismounting, my own ringing and perfumes of
after and then what
could be what
and then huh
and then I will steadily forever err.
THE NOW BECAME SO DIFFICULT
The Now became so difficult. Shits in the house, wants out, wants in, eats
everything, eats nothing out of spite, claws the rug but we love it, one
of the few things left of our commonwealth. It was a furry, purring tool
we used to get another tool to first get food and then build a cathedral
then show our disappointment that our lives were short and spunoff.
REAL CITY UNDER A GROUND SMOG
Real city under a ground smog… CO2 of the human, hydrocarbons and glues, smoke
from the souks of North Africa, steam from the vindaloos. Eros bent from football
hooligans. Tacitus notes the nasty dust in 42. Glazed the dark economy, the plumbing
and the guts spilled out of banks. Lean over the rail of a bridge if you call yourself
a poet and say something about the light, the mist, Babel, Sodom, Paris, Rome.
HALFWAY BETWEEN THE TRAUMATIC AND THE UNCANNY
Half way between the traumatic and the uncanny like the unconscious somewhere
between the hunger and the gratified [noun and adjective, meatloaf and gravy], the ritual
slaying, was the kitchen table with its forked and knived fetishes, with its rhythms of push
and pull: sometimes the frequencies of rent, sometimes ruining paper with a pencil,
homework of tear, the game of battleship: missed, hit, sunk, the unaccountable sea.
THE DEMONIC STARTS AT HOME
The demonic starts at home in the sockets and in the junction boxes with conduit
knockouts, [coins for the ferryman], and in the creases of the sheets, the warp and woof
of pale face and red. The hot plate is a tantrum of heat, the mattress panicked, self-
conscious as an adolescent. Paranoia of dead bolt, phobia of glass, the deference of putty, the
resentments of the joists, and mites and motes and ghosts of eventless terror ready.
from ALT VICES
When we quit what we love, we do not immediately
love it any less. “Lasting love” sounds superfluous. Can
we quit ourselves and still champion others? The
more people we meet the more the conversation gets
out of hand. If we encounter thousands of people in
our lifetime, is it ever possible to isolate anyone’s lone
heartbeat? Love is one thing that’s continuous even
when it’s not. The sound of your voice is another.
Livelihoods are made calculating odds. Despite reason,
we cannot help banking on the next big thing. If
competition drives us, what’s driving the economy of
competition? If love for mankind inspires us, what’s
inspiring hope in mankind? Regardless of parallel
universes, it’s still plausible someone is elsewhere
writing these very words. Do I rush my art for fear of
? No one likes a copycat but hasn’t
someone said this already? The combination of words
is infinite, but like you I have only two eyes and one
engorged heart and the hours left in the day.
Careers in art morph the intent of the art. Are we
more ourselves when we are vocal or are we more
vocal when we are proud? The person who’s hardest
on us isn’t our best critic. Are our parents ever our
champions? My greatest flaw is that I’ve always
voided handholding. Touch is crippling when we
forget how to encounter what’s foreign. Sex pleasures
both who touches and who is touched. If we forget
what we’re after, will we eventually mistake what we
get? Stability in art cannot be egregious if happiness is
worth striving for.
F. Daniel Rzicznek
I have looked into their faces,
those who hope to find a cure in me,
and found forest, desert, bogland in the rain.
The classroom is a yellow glare, the desk
a deep oceanic brown.
Two step in close, wielding logic--
a voice in the hall pushes me.
I am sick; they see my uncleanliness.
Torches spill flame—they see
past the surface while I breathe
this tomb of dandruff and slack mouths.
I’m ensconced: arrowed and animalized.
Who is ready for buildings tumbling, skulls,
evidence of normalcy?
Who is ready for forever?
their worlds becoming so finally real.
for a birthday
Mind like a new, impossible pose,
branch to hold you up in the day.
This, the hook in the lip, the signature,
distortion under the water’s force,
sorrow, strength and a single mind
about feasting on hatchling crows.
Bass in the shallows know you better.
Years ago this rock was taller than you.
A few notes about the reddish dust:
rough-feathered through starry climes
you bring the word no
to. Who refuses?
A shadow-pike, tail-tip surfacing asks
what new can be said about you?
Centuries unravel in your eyes, bats
trembling in flight above fireflies
know to stay distant, to reside.
First frog bones, then evening pasture,
no one finds you outside of night.
An orphanage for cast iron, a refuge--
big oaks on a worn, sandy island
and you take the word lavender
Would it be taken as some sign?
A home for clean, well-used knives?
The stream, depending, in and out
clocks and dresses in your inner tree,
moss slaking the line’s trajectory.
Had I been a slim heron, lowering…
No one adores her prey quite like you.
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Quietly, education sits, rights balance on a pinprick of static noise.
Neighboring birds leave the tree in a plumage and analog commotion
to pen partisan wing-slap on peace paper sky.
Drums eulogize guns, a flutter-shot, a penny of the day scorched,
while in ripened estuary, islands fail, and yesterday’s breath finds home
in the concave bark of dying trees.
In ripened estuary, I fail, the product of watchful helicopters.
Now grown and with a sad excuse for wings,
I affix the tape to my own mouth, hearing the birdsong
of the reverberant teenage girl outside a school in Pakistan
all set to go viral, beating air for the flight of thought
with indispensable talons of worldliness and text.
Would that I were merely strong.
Would that I were a faucet of ideas
for the next shape into which bravery manifests itself,
but we don’t all skirt endangerment to board a bus.
This poem is hardly in routine flight from cold,
we said to the author.
Would that we were to cease editing with guns
and write instead before the hungry end of the barrel. Cold metal,
when heated, becomes motivational jump-start reply-all.
Then to sing into a milk puddle, wingless, wounds shuttled carefully
into the narrative’s secure, unused basement,
thin feet stronger than they look, no matter their given allowances.
Andrew Purcell & Michelle Dove
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE DOVE
Who is a contemporary poet you look to and say "that's what I want to be able to do"? Talk a bit about influence too -- historical or contemporary or both.
A number of writers are doing something with language/form/content right now that is very appealing to me. Elisa Gabbert is one poet that’s influenced my recently drafted manuscript, Alt Vices. There’s something in the way she builds the prose blocks in The Self Unstable that’s simultaneously comprehensible and challenging. The declarative statements she largely uses are meant to be both, I think, meaning affirmative in the way they are presented but also as foils for the reader to react against. A statement is also a question, a question is also a statement, an opinion is also a fact, and so on. And because I’ve come to poetry by way of fiction (I thought I would only ever write fiction for some time!), I am quite taken right now with the prose of poets, or poets who write prose poems, or poets who write prose-y kinds of things, or who like Elisa Gabbert write lyric essay or some other hybrid of prose/poetry.
Have you noticed any interesting trends in contemporary poetry? What's one that you enjoy? One that irks you or makes your skin crawl?
One thing that’s resonated for me lately is the relationship between the author/book/reading. And by reading here I mean two things—1) the reading of the book as a reader when you are actually sitting with the physical book in some quasi-comfortable space that at least sets up the potential to have an intimate experience with someone’s book, and 2) the author’s reading of the book in front of some-sized audience in which you are present. Clearly these are two very separate things, and my experience in the last few years has not only confirmed the difference between reading and a reading but has conflated how these two things operate for me. More often than not, I would say hearing someone read his/her work only strengthens and enlivens the book for me when I actually sit down with it. But there is a fear here that the opposite is also at play. That the performance of the work, as much as it may compliment it or bring it to life, also towers over the work, meaning that the work itself is deadpan without the IRL experience. And as someone who’s giving more readings and attending more, it’s something that I’m often thinking about in some way or another. The tendency here is for our brains to believe that the best readers are the best writers, or vice versa, which is not always the case. It’s like saying the best live band is one in the same as the best studio band when there are just too many factors that go into a live show and the making of a record. I think what I try to do now, however consciously I can, is trick my brain into not becoming overstimulated during a public reading. Yet still it does, I do. And that’s sometimes great too. It’s not untrue to say that the things I enjoy are often the same things that irk me along.
Poems may be personal, but the personal is political. Talk a bit about how your work is informed by socio-economic / class issues. Any anecdotes to share?
I think class—more than race, gender, culture, or anything really—is our primary common denominator or divider. My manuscript Alt Vices relies in large part on class issues to build a rhetoric speaking to much of what’s in between childhood/adulthood, crippled/talented, internal/external, and so on. The thought here is that if we can live between two polar opposites we are living in a balanced and thereby healthy way. But the truth is that many people don’t have the means to balance things when it comes to finances or cost of living. There are factors we can control as much as there are factors we can’t, a sentiment that perhaps falls into Alt Vices lines like “If we condition ourselves to live on less of less will we retire with more of less?” or “My greatest flaw is that whenever I save enough for a life emergency, a life emergency arises.” But the flip to what’s uncontrollable is maybe in other lines too—“High costs of living inspire healthier meals with elaborate spices”—where the speaker turns the financial burden into something enjoyable/evocative. In the end, class/socioeconomic status is present in my and everyone’s daily existence to such a degree that I can’t not write about it. It’s just too crucial to ignore. I couldn’t avoid it if I tried, I think.
One thing I really enjoy about your work is the clarity of voice and its sense of poise that manages to avoid affectation. You mention coming to poetry by way of fiction and I wonder what effect that has had on your sense of voice and so on. Could you go into that a little? Also, what or who brought you across into poetry?
It is without question that reading and writing mostly fiction for years on end has shaped my sense of voice and perspective and tonality in my writing overall. For one, I am aware of the sentence in its correct form and, in fiction, have always maintained that I must know the rules of writing/grammar/structure before I can break them. I don’t know the rules of poetry in the same way, therefore I don’t even know what entirely I’m evoking or reacting to when I write what resembles something more poetic. The sentence is very crucial for me in poetry right now, but I’m learning to think more in ways that are less narrative, linear and fictive overall. So in some sense what I’m likely doing is mashing the two forms together. The bleed between the genres is so lifelike to me right now—and feels even more like a creative nonfiction hybrid than anything I’ve written before. It’s possible that that’s what sent me into poetry in the first place, the tendency I have now to obscure or buffer reality less and less with fictive details and to get closer to the primal truths/thoughts in my head. The writing community certainty played a role in my poetic trespass as well. I’m regularly around more poets than fiction writers in the city and find myself listening much more intently now at poetry readings than ever before. It’s like I just suddenly hear this genre and group of people and type of thinking that was here all along. And now that some of it, however great/small, has manifested in my person and my writing I can’t un-hear it.
And finally, is writing, for you, a cathartic process, or something which generates a pressure that afterward needs release? And what do you do to "recharge the well" once you've written something you're satisfied with?
Hmm, cathartic, I don’t know. I suppose in some instances it certainly is that, even when it’s simultaneously other things—logical/illogical, challenging, problematic, necessary. There is certainly release sometimes, as you say, of what I’m thinking/how I’m feeling when I see my thoughts and/or emotions formed on the page. But sometimes what’s on the page only leads to more questions and more challenges and doesn’t feel like a release or end to anything at all. I guess I take comfort in the fact that the process is not static for me. Everyone’s process is different and, in some ways, is irrelevant from one person to the next. But we like to draw similarities/differences for a reason. We keep doing it, so it must help us as writers in some way. As for recharging, that’s not a static thing either. I guess mostly I breathe for weeks and weeks. Maybe I stain the bookshelf I’ve been meaning to stain since 2009. Maybe I learn how to make lentil pies. Certainly I read a lot. Watch the Louie episodes I've missed. And I go to readings. Find poets in bars. Find poets at BBQs. People have a lot to do with recharging, that’s for sure. People make me laugh and what recharge doesn’t involve some hearty IRL LOLs.
Thanks so much for giving us some of your time and insight and poetry. We really appreciate it and look forward to seeing more of your work out there.