The Riches of Erasure: An Interview with Jenni B. Baker

When David Foster Wallace died in the fall of 2008, I was halfway through Infinite Jest. It was the Monday after — I walked into a coffee shop in the Loop in Chicago, about 7 AM, and I set my copy of the book down on the counter. The barista grimaced and said, “It’s so sad.” I didn’t know. That’s how I found out.

And I remember finishing the novel then. I remember the sense of urgency, as though it were evaporating there in my very hands, this three pound trade paperback with two bookmarks in it–one for the footnotes.

So when I happened upon Jenni B. Baker’s extraordinary erasure project–Erasing Infinitememories of that extremely unique and acute reading experience came flooding back. Crafting poems from each page of Infinite Jest–one at a time–this monumental project captures this sense of evaporation with remarkable force, giving us a profoundly new way of approaching the beloved text and, of course, of remembering its author.

But Erasing Infinite is but one of Baker’s many projects, which range from erasures of the Boy Scout Handbook to her OuLiPo chapbook to the journal she runs, The Found Poetry Review, all of which have secured her at the center of one of the most thriving communities of experimental poets. Looking at her work–which so often exquisitely balances play with serious inquiry–we can see just what sorts of possibilities erasure and other found forms have opened up. I recently had the chance to talk with her about these possibilities, about her different projects and the range they have helped lay out, and about how erasure sits in contemporary poetics. . . .

Read the interview and see some of Baker’s pieces at Michigan Quarterly Review.

An interview about my book with Allison Peters

I was so thrilled to have this deep conversation with Allison Peters over at one my stomping grounds, Michigan Quarterly Review, about my book, The Refusal of Suitors. We talked about the book, the nature of the city, anxiety, lifecourse, and what it means to work and love. She chose wonderful lines and asked astonishing questions. Read the entire interview here. Here’s a quick clip of her introduction:

The lyric ruminations Ryo Yamaguchi offers in his debut book of poetry, The Refusal of Suitors (Noemi Press, 2015), sink deeper than the ink on the page—and they rise up higher than the oxygen masks in the overhead compartment of the plane I was on as I read this impressive first book for the first time.

The Refusal of Suitors is a collection of poems that speaks to the you who’s on a level you’re hardly aware of—to the you who’s under there, somewhere, wondering what it’s all for and how. Ryo’s words unfold like music, his language both sharp and soft, his poems altogether dreamy in their fleeting effervescence, like city lights blinking through city smoke. (“Ode #1” ends: “This is the boulevard smudged with vacancies.”)

Reading Ryo’s poetry, it’s as if trapdoors open to hidden heart-caves between the lines, each poem glowing like an intangible peach. The words summer, flowers,and memory echo throughout the collection, melodically painting “the anxiety of landscape” with a brush of precious promiselessness.

These poems take a chance at impermanent transcendence, and it’s worth it. “What we call the beginning,” Ryo writes in “Post,” “is really just / the first thing we have recorded.” The Refusal of Suitors exists now as its own kind of record, presenting an exciting debut for the poet.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ryo about his book. (Editor’s note: you may have already met Ryo via his essays for MQR.) We discussed poetry, philosophy, anxiety, cities, love, and dreams—and about his hopes for the future.

 

Affable Beasts: An Interview with Michael Thomas Taren on Tomaž Šalamun

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It is a thrilling thing, for many of us, to consider a new book by Tomaž Šalamun. Now, nearly an exact year after Šalamun’s death, we have Justice, the first posthumous work. It is Šalamun at his very best, full of energy, always after different approaches, exploding his vision into a celestial pantheon of different realities. A few months ago in these pages I shared some thoughts, and, especially, favorite lines of Šalamun’s past works. This month I had the pleasure of chatting with Šalamun’s translator and collaborator, poet Michael Thomas Taren, about this first posthumous collection, working with Šalamun, and the unique endeavor of translation as a creative enterprise. His effervescent illuminations offer the perfect precursor to the new poems, available soon from Black Ocean.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review

Bent Beneath the Low Heavens: An Interview with Dan Rosenberg

DanRosenbergDan Rosenberg is a deeply curious poet, experimental, playful, always pushing after new forms and approaches. It’s evident in the books he has published, each of which expresses new talents, from the image-and-voice-driven pieces of The Crushing Organto the tight and angular poems of cadabra to the exuberant sublimity of his latest chapbook, Thigh’s Hollow, which has just come out from Omnidawn. His successes with reinvention give any poet exhausted with “finding one’s voice” a refreshing new outlook: the voice is always right in front of you, part of whatever project you are pursuing.

He is a generous poet and a great conversationalist, and we had a chance for a quick couple of exchanges that got right to it, ranging from Eliot to Wittgenstein, from Nintendo to the Song of Solomon.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.

What is Inside?: An Interview with Carrie Olivia Adams

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Carrie Olivia Adams is a poet as much of the line as what’s in-between them, and her newest book, Operating Theater, is no exception. A haunting drama of the liminality of the body, this dialogue-driven play-poem asks over and over one profound question:what is inside? Steeped in Victorian surgical manuals and medical X-rays, the voices here explore the tension between the mind and the body, between subject and other, asking how we can know, and from knowing, live together, in a house, or in a city.

I had a chance to ask Carrie a few questions about this book (and film her reading from a brief section). . .

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review

On Riding SideSaddle*: An Interview with Eric Suzanne

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Riding SideSaddle* is not like most things you’ve read. On the surface it startles with its three-dimensionality—it’s not a spinebound book but a deck of cards, and you shuffle it before each reading. It’s a new, and wonderful, adventure each time, a story of outcasts, their caretaker, and the friendship and love they find with each other. It’s a story about the body and hybridity—based on the myth of Hermaphroditus—and it’s a story about magic and the slipperiness of categories.

Available in physical format from Springgun Press, it’s also available for free online at OddBooks, a reading platform written specifically around the novel and its randomizability. It’s also open-source—free to use, adapt, remix, and incorporate into other pieces. I talked with Eric Suzanne, the polymath visionary behind this project, about innovations with literary form as well as some of the issues—body, gender, friendship, memory—at work in the novel.

Read the entire interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.