On my beachshelf: Heredities (LSU Press), by J. Michael Martinez, winner of the 2009 Walt Whitman Award. I was so engaged by this book that I had to ask the author a few questions. I hope you enjoy his brilliant responses!
CSP: Heredities is a brilliant title for your collection as it points to both the importance of heredity in your own life, and in the life of many writers of color, but it also speaks to the multiple formations of your identities, languages, and poetics. I also think it's powerful how the title poem continues throughout the book, beginning each section and ending the book. How did you come to this title (or how did it find you)? What made you decide to serialize "Heredities" and use it in each section of the book?
JMM: Craig, first, thanks for taking the time to interview me and I’m looking forward to our dialogue. The collection was initially entitled “Copal” and I already knew that this didn’t represent the work of the manuscript.
Gabriela Jauregui was born and raised in Mexico City. Her creative and critical work has been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies in Mexico, the United States, and Europe. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside and holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of California, Irvine. She is a Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellow and a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.
Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009), by Linda Rodriguez, maps the various flights, destinations, arrivals, detours, and dangers of a woman’s life (as self, daughter, wife, lover, and mother). Rodriguez captures these migrations with a winged sense of narrative and a moth-light touch of confessionalism.
The first section of this book explores spirituality and writing through the figures of mythological women. Poems celebrate the fierce passion and power of Hecate, Persephone, Demeter, Arjuna, Eurydice, Eve, and Isis. Other poems speak to the influence of women’s writing, mentioning Emily Dickinson, Katherine Anne Porter, and Virginia Woolf. All these figures teach the author something about her spirituality, passion, and deep-rooted strength. These lessons are articulated in the poem “In the Dark of the Year”:
At the LA Times Book Festival, Gina Caciolo gifted me a copy of How To Ride A Bicycle in Pittsburgh, the first chapbook from Stamped Books. I was touched by her generosity and amazed by the craftsmanship of the chapbook. After returning home, I became curious about Stamped Books, so I checked out their website. What struck me: they document every step of how they made the chapbook! I really love this because it made me feel part of the entire process, from mock ups to final product. Usually my relationship to a press is simply through the product, or through the product and its editors (who I may happen to know). Never before had I felt this intimately involved in the process of actually making the book that I had just read.
I love interviewing brilliant poets. Thanks to Daniel Borzutzky for his generosity in answering my questions about his new THE BOOK OF INTERFERING BODIES, currently on my beachshelf. Re-reading this interview, I realize that one aspect of the work that isn't mentioned is its humor. Yes, amidst everything else, this book is quite hilarious. Please share with your friends.
CSP: Your new work, THE BOOK OF INTERFERING BODIES (Nightboat Books, 2011), begins with a haunting epigraph from the 9/11 Commission Report: "It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination." Can you tell us a little about how you came across this passage and why you chose to quote it? Does it speak to your own aesthetics, or do you see your work as countering this routinization?
DB: The passage from the 9/11 Commission Report refers to an idea that was stated a lot after 9/11: that the failure to prevent the attacks on 9/11 was a “failure of the imagination.”