Samantha Giles with Jenn McCreary

PennSound podcast #61

Jenn McCreary (left) and Samantha Giles (right).


Samantha Giles visited the Kelly Writers House during her reading tour last December to talk with Jenn McCreary about her new collection, Total Recall, which was published by Krupskaya Press and which Daniel Borzutsky has described as a book that “powerfully and strangely melds autobiography, poetry, ethnography, philosophical inquiry, and testimony.” 

In this PennSound podcast, Giles talks about child-raising as “durational performance”; about studying with Juliana Spahr at Mills College; and about the role of research in the writing practice that produced Total Recall, which Giles tells us is “a book that centers itself around memory but when memory is impacted by trauma and the ways in which that trauma unwrites the memories in one’s own brain.” Giles and McCreary discuss textual erasure as it relates to “the kind of erasure that happens after sexual violence”: specifically, how the book’s engagement with the aftermath of that violence — traumatic memory — is the latest culmination of Giles’s longstanding practice of the poetics of difficulty, the extent to which “I very much am centered around a poetics that requires me to not look away and to only engage myself in questions that I can’t answer any other way.”

Samantha Giles grew up in an industrial section of Santa Monica, California, and currently lives in the flatlands of Oakland, California. She holds a BSW from San Francisco State University and an MFA from Mills College. In addition to Total Recall (Krupskaya, 2019), Giles is the author of hurdis addo (Displaced Press, 2011) and deadfalls and snares (Futurepoem, 2014), both of which won CAConrad’s Annual Sexiest Poetry Award in the years they were published. She was also a Headlands Center for the Arts resident in 2017. An arts administrator, editor, and curator, Giles was director of Small Press Traffic from 2009 to 2019. 

Jenn McCreary is the author of The Dark Mouth of Living (Horse Less Press), & now my feet are maps and ab ovo (Dusie Press), a doctrine of signatures (Singing Horse Press), and worrywort, a collaboration with poet Pattie McCarthy (LRL Textile Editions). The Skin of a Spell, adapted for Poets Theater with playwright Kathy Vindograff, has been performed in Oakland, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. McCreary currently serves as president of the board of directors for Small Press Traffic, a San Francisco–based nonprofit arts organization for experimental writing, and as minister of information for Tripwire: A Journal of Poetics. In 2013 she was named a Pew Fellow in the Arts for poetry. — Julia Bloch