Last week my friend Daniel Shapiro tagged me for the Next Big Thing self-interview series, in which writers answer the same nine questions about their forthcoming books or works-in-progress. In mine (see below), I talk about my forthcoming H_NGM_N Books book, DEBACLE DEBACLE, which you can be pre-order here.
NOTE: I am very much looking forward to reading the interviews of the friends--terrific writers all--who I've tagged at the bottom of this post. You should be too. I know they'll be terrific.
Thanks so much for reading!
1. What is the working title of the book?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wouldn’t say the book sprung from an idea at all. Rather poems accumulated and started to talk to one another. My books almost never come from an idea. They are the result of poems piling up (and being revised) over some longish period of time that I eventually assemble into a book (via various methods).
That said, somewhere in the midst of writing the poems in this book, I was reading Andre Breton and ran across his declaration (The Surrealists were so great at declarations, I declare it!) that “A poem must be a debacle of the intellect.” Obviously Breton’s talking here about a revolution of consciousness—about getting out from under the purely rational, analytical, decorous and socialized mind via brainstorm and accident and upheavel. But I just like that word “debacle”—I like that it kind of feels like an ice thaw breaking in your head when you say it. I like the hard consonants followed by the “l”. I like the “eh” and the “ah,” which seem sort of mushy in comparison to the concrete consonants. It’s a difficult word—a difficult beauty; a convulsive word—a convulsive beauty (“Beauty must be convulsive or not be at all”—also Breton). When I looked the word up, I realized that a debacle is either “a fuck-up” or “a flood.” I liked that too—the doubleness, the fracture vs. overwhelming rush. The idea, then, of writing poems that were somehow one or the other of those things—that evoked or addressed one or the other of those things (even only tangentially)—was instantly really interesting to me. So once I had the word (and I needed it twice—as a reminder of its doubleness), I had an atmosphere of associations and sounds to play with and against.
I was also at the time laid up with a broken foot—one of those poetry accidents that can’t be transformed into a moment of transcendence, but it had something to do with Dean Young’s bathtub… Anyway, I was sitting a lot (more than I usually do) on the couch, emailing back and forth with my brother, Nate Pritts, who was sending me tons of the poems that would wind in his new book RIGHT NOW MORE THAN EVER, and we were both reading a lot of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and also books about them—including The Friendship by Adam Sisman about the genesis and writing of the Lyrical Ballads and the falling out between Coleridge & Wordsworth after its publication. I was reading Jon Anderson then too. I was reading some Galaxy Book or other. My daughter Agnes was two. I was broken, but on the mend. I was loving life, and missing it entirely, thinking about what-ifs and phantoms. Just trying like everyone else to be normal. Making waffles and bacon for breakfast, on crutches. That was the fuck-up part.
Of course, that’s not the end. I healed up finally after surgery (metal rod in my foot)—four months on crutches, another in a boot. I started walking. I went to China. I started running again. We made more waffles and French toast, too. Agnes who was two and three became suddenly five. This is the flood part. A constant rush. DEBACLE DEBACLE. Life comes in waves.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I would get exactly the same cast that Julian Temple (who directed the Sex Pistols’ Great Rock-n-Roll Swindle and more recently The Filth and the Fury) got for his movie Pandaemonium, which is a (not historically accurate, but awesome nevertheless) movie about the writing of Coleridge and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads. Despite the film’s historical inaccuracies, Temple and his actors capture pretty brilliantly something of Coleridge and Wordsworth’s different aesthetics and temperaments. Actually, I’d really love to skip the actors altogether and get Coleridge to play Debacle and Wordsworth to play (the other) Debacle. Breton would play himself of course. Ronnie James Dio would do the soundtrack. The mighty Paul Violi would make a cameo as the guy who tells me not to screw it up.
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Life falls apart and then comes back together—with waffles, Sir Philip Sydney and the weirdest shit ever!
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started writing the poems in 2009 (except for one poem from 2007 that I added near the end of the process), and I finished writing them in early 2011… About two years.
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say flat out that my wife and daughter—my domestic situation—the “surrealism” (used loosely) of ordinary living—all play a huge part in this book. The sounds of a little girl playing, of dancing in the kitchen, bacon hissing, the music created intimately interactively with the people one loves, the worry that it all might go away—and the alchemy of all of it, the ridiculous magic, the awe inspiring sense of feeling like sort of a disaster, but knowing in the grand scheme of things that one is not and being grateful—and going on—that’s part of the foundation of the book. Everything is normal, and totally strange because of it.
I also can’t say enough how indispensible the friendship and correspondence with Nate was in all of this. Many of the poems in the book are direct responses to things he sent me. I’d get a poem from him, and immediately set about responding in kind. This immediate, and wholly charged, back-and-forth went on for months. I’ve rarely experienced that kind of sustained reactivity in writing, but it’s something I court as much as possible, both through collaboration and just staying in close touch with other human beings as hard as I can.
8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
108 two-line sonnets! (No, I’m not sure what a two-line sonnet is either, but there are 108 of them in this book.)
Also, and on a more serious note, Adam Fell, who is a brilliant poet, and, for the public record, a dear friend of mine, said this about the book in an email: “[Debacle Debacle] has a burning domesticity, an anxiousness. It is a dream of one's family in danger, and a waking from that dream to make waffles and bacon for them. It really really LOVES the world, and hates it too. It should. This is a book of quiet political and personal decision.” I hope he’s right about that.
9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book will be published by H_NGM_N Books in May of 2013.
My tagged writers for next week are: