Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pretending to be Morpheus: An Short Interview with Dave Awl

I've known writer/performer Dave Awl since the late 1990s, when I used to see him as part of the famed Neo-Futurist ensemble and their long-running Two Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind evening of 30 plays in 60 minutes. I have always appreciated his work, both the plays, monologues, songs, and skits from TMLMTBGB, and printed work from journals and his collection of poetry and prose, What the Sea Means, and was reminded of that fact when I saw he'd been featured recently in the on-line journal Escape Into Life. Dave was kind enough to respond to some questions that occurred to me after reading this lovely batch of work.  (I originally typed "lovely bath" of work, which also seems apt--one bathes in his work and emerges warm, refreshed, and clean, ready for the day or the night to startle and begin.)

Lives of the Spiders: Can you talk a bit about your process with the Night Diary poems? Do you compose drafts late at night while you are already (still) up, or do these writings stem from those middle of the night "oh crap I woke up and can't get back to sleep" times?

Dave Awl:  I do often find myself writing poems at two or three a.m -- it's a natural writing time for me, when my inhibitions and my guard are down and things flow a little more freely. But it's not a requirement, and I write by day sometimes, too ... I'm pretty sure I scribbled some of my first Night Diaries poems down in my spiral notebook while riding the bus in broad daylight.

The main idea behind the Night Diaries poems was that I wanted to try writing poems that followed the strange logic and surreal thought processes of dreams -- kind of like dreaming out loud into my notebook or keyboard while fully awake. I had been studying Jung for years, taking classes at the Jung Institute in Evanston, and keeping a dream journal for a while before I wrote the first Night Diaries poems. But rather than turning my dreams themselves into poems, I wanted to try to consciously write like the part of my brain that makes up my dreams. Pretending to be Morpheus, for a few minutes at a time.

LOTS: Do you consider yourself to be a "night person?" What associations or tendencies do you have with writing at night that might not be true of writing in the brazen light of day?

DA: Yes, I'm very much a nocturnal person. I've always found nighttime peaceful and relaxing, and it's when a lot of the most fun things happen. Night is when all the fabulous monsters come out. I like that nighttime is less crowded ... my literary hero and eventual friend Russell Hoban used to say that as an artist you need empty spaces in which to create, and I think at night there are more empty spaces to write into. It's easier to be imaginative at night, too. To steal a line from a performance piece I once did on this subject, non sequiturs and useful twists of expression breed in the moonlight.

And I think of this lovely line from Russell Hoban's novel The Medusa Frequency: "At three o’clock in the morning the moments patter like rain on the roof of night; the silence is a road to anywhere."

LOTS:  The titles of these works in Escape Into Life indicate more material--of there's a "Night Diary 82" one would assume there's a "Night Diary 1" and a "Night Diary 81."  Other poems found on-line, such as "Film Loop #12" for example, would lead one to consider the existence of other Film Loop poems. Do you have an archive of Night Diary entries?  And if so, can you quote from another of those entries for the readers of Lives of the Spiders?  (Dave's answer, after the break.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Introduction to the Best Words from the Short Biographies of Poets in "The Best American Poetry 2013"

These best words, taken from the biographies of poets in this year's Best American Poetry volume, were selected by a panel of linguists and crossword puzzle dignitaries from across the nation, and in two cases, (Senegal and Norway) overseas. Meetings, taking place over a contentious three days in Iowa City, only nearly avoided violence--the verb advocates were adamant in their ongoing quest for better representation, while the noun contingent, as usual, argued for the primacy of persons, places, and things. Thankfully, the question of whether or not any one biographical note may contribute more than one word to our annual list seems to at last be laid to rest. A rare majority opinion of the delegates decided once and for all that one word and one word only may be selected from any contributor's biography, no matter how worthy and attention-getting accompanying words in the note might be.

Any such list, is, at its heart, a tad arbitrary. Nonetheless, the panelists feel we've been able to latch on to an acre of the  national poetic landscape, reflecting the varied and various responses of poets who have been asked to describe their own works. Interestingly enough, this is the first year that two words beginning with the prefix "un" have made the list, and they happen to appear side by side. This is also the fourth year in the past five that the word grandmother has been so honored.

The editors wish to thank the National Endowment for Noun Appreciation, the Smitherton and Aptly Adverb Coalition, and the Society of Thesauri Development for their on-going and much-needed support. Special thanks and recognition are due to Thaddeus (last name Jones?) the bartender at the Deadwood Tavern, for his fortitude and patience as we work out some form of payment plan that does not involve the authorities. The check is not yet in the mail, but we expect to hear back from the fine folks at the Guggenheim Foundation any day now, at which time a final settling of accounts can be made.

Without further ado, the list:

magpies.  soldier.  echo.  enlightenment.  collections.  nagging.  violence.  faceless.  risk.  

accumulation.  enemies.  leaven.  numbered.  grace.  compost.  confusion.  skipped.  prissy.  born.

loneliness.  dopplegangers.  tonic.  pagan.  numerous.  hiding.  residencies.  puberty.  dire.

flight.  laugh.  sisters.  elopement.  secret.  voyage.  bedrooms.  luck.  impossible.  glamour.

ladder.  hurt.  proximity.  horse.  code.  craving.  crime.  decipher.  birdbath.  baffles.  rapidly.

sheep.  doorframe.  sacrament.  speaker.  therefore.  absence.  suitor.  meander.  castaway.

taverns.  openness.  choose.  grandmother.  road.  everywhere.  seduction.  bedtime.  suffering.  

mortal.  concrete.  unfolding.  uncomfortable.  betrothal.   grateful.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The things one comes across in the dark wooded internet

Lynn Emmanuel's work, for example.  I have liked her prose poetry work, it has such an affinity and response to Gertrude Stein. Here she's in a more lyric mode, and she does it oh so well.

I also found our recently that my mentor and friend Diane Wakoski has a new book just out from Anhinga Press. I've ordered my copy, and hope it is en route.

Meanwhile, in Germany, poet Sarah Sloat discovers that she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. For the second poem, if you follow the link.

Contemporary surrealist Eric Baus has a new book coming soon.  I think these might be in it.

Dorothea Lasky curates a poetry reading series in Brooklyn.  I'm not excited enough by this news to simply take off to Brooklyn, but you'd better believe the next time that work or friendship brings me to NYC I'll be eager to see if the trip coincides with a night when this takes place.

In a final and mostly self-serving entry, I'll say that I have some prose poems in New World Writing.  Did I say that already here?  That's OK, repetition is a form of music.  And I just re-read these and I'm still fond of them.