Mary Biddinger, author of Prairie Fever, St. Monica, and O Holy Insurgency, has started a self-interview series called The Next Big Thing. It’s a great way to learn more about the processes of other writers and to spread the good word about your own writing community. I was fortunate enough to be tagged by Daniel Nathan Terry. Below, I’ve answered some questions about my forthcoming collection.
What is the working title of the manuscript?
New River Breakdown
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’m not poet who can focus long enough to complete a book “project” and I’ve tried (I still want to write a series of poems from the perspective of Cary Grant). Like many collections of poetry, this book evolved one poem at a time under the influence of the the music I was listening to, the people I hung out with, the books I read—life here in Greensboro, NC.
What genre does your manuscript fall under?
It's a collection of poetry—or more specifically, a sequence of inter-related prose poems. You might also classify the book as a novella but, thanks to suggestions from my wonderful editor, Andrew Saulters, it no longer follows a standard narrative trajectory.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I teach “Howl” in my Intro to Poetry Course and have come love the James Franco’s reading of the Ginsberg classic. Plus he’s also a poet so, James Franco. And maybe Franka Potente as the female lead. I can especially imagine her in the poem "Pursuit of a Wound." And there’s a dog that makes an appearance in the title poem. She could be played by 'Yellow Dog' from the Chevy Chase film Funny Farm.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your manuscript?
At one point, this manuscript was called What it Costs Travelers. I still feel that’s a fairly good description if you think about travel in both a physical and metaphorical sense.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started the poems in this collection about eight years ago.
What has been the hardest poem to write?
That’s both the hardest and easiest question on this list. Whatever poem I’m currently working on is the hardest one I’ve ever written.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
That would be a long list: my father’s job a a traveling salesman, the years I spent traveling with a band based out of Athens, GA, conversations with the poets Linda Gregg and Jack Gilbert about a life lived seeing the world vs life lived in a place you can call your own . . . I’m sure there’s more.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is going to have five different covers designed by five different Greensboro artists—but I might be the only that finds that exciting.
How about a few poems? Most new poets I discover, I find by reading their work in litmags first. You can read “The Common Man,” “How Long,” and “The Surrendered” in 'Hoppenthaler’s Congeries' at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact and “Man on the Moon” at Prime Number Magazine.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
New River Breakdown will published by Unicorn Press—a wonderful independent, fine press based here in Greensboro, NC. They fly under the radar because they’re much more interested in the art of making books, than publicity (my opinion) but people really should check them out. Their backlist includes collections by Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, James Tate, Philip Levine, Thich Nhat Hanh, Kenneth Rexroth, Muriel Rukeyser, and Gary Snyder. This spring they’re publishing collections by A. Van Jordan and Dan Albergotti.