The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see--it is, rather, a light by which we may see--and what we see is life.

Robert Penn Warren

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Next Big Thing Interview

The fabulous Carol Guess has tagged me for the Next Big Thing Series, in which writers give brief interviews about their forthcoming books. (I'm looking forward to reading the interviews of the people I've tagged at the bottom of this post.) Here goes:

What is the working title of the book? 

How the Potato Chip Was Invented; there’s a poem in the book with that name. It was inspired by a visit to the Utz factory in Pennsylvania Dutch country. I remember watching a short video there about the history of the chip. Basically, I took the real story, forgot large sections of it, and replaced the forgotten sections with references to Lionel Richie. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I had been writing a bunch of mock-history prose poems. Some of these took historical figures and placed them in impossible contexts (e.g., Fred Astaire performing with the Black Eyed Peas), while other poems were aimed at righting wrongs; certain celebrities received long-overdue comeuppance. The idea to focus the book solely on these celebrity poems came from the editors, David McNamara and Brian Mihok.

What genre does your book fall under?

Prose poems, mini teleplay, standardized test portion, etc.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Some of the characters in the book are movie actors: Christopher Walken and Max von Sydow, for example. I would want them to play each other.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

These poems about celebrities are occasionally creepy and loosely research-based—Wikipedia, basically.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I sat in my basement a couple of Aprils ago and thought up dozens of “what if” scenarios involving famous people—Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon. Then I turned these into longish prose poems that had to be pared down. It took a couple of months to revise and turn the poems into a manuscript.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was a journalist and advertising copywriter before I became a poet. Some of the ideas in the book probably come from my brain’s inability to differentiate among these disparate media. I sometimes distort facts and serve up a poem as a tweaked biography. Anyhow, the writers who inspired me most were David Wojahn—who wrote several brilliant, celebrity-oriented poems in his book Mystery Train—and my heroes of prose poetry: Russell Edson and James Tate

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I blaspheme mainstream darlings such as Thomas Kinkade and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Somehow, even Julie Andrews winds up under the proverbial bus. I also profess my decades-long love for Rosanna Arquette.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published in summer 2013 by sunnyoutside press, which makes beautiful books. I am so fortunate to be able to work with David and Brian.


My tagged writers for next week are:

Mary Lou Buschi 
Sarah Carson
Matt Hart 
Shannon Hozinec 
Jessy Randall 
Daniel Romo