THINGS WE’RE DYING TO KNOW…
Let’s start with the chapbook’s title and your cover image. How did you choose each? And, if I asked you to describe or sum up your chapbook, what three words immediately come to mind?
The title came to me from Paul Celan’s “Speak, You Also.” While you could read the title as a verb and a noun, you could read it as two verbs; I’d prefer the latter if it’s ever translated. The cover art took a few tries to solidify. I knew I wanted something like a shadow or outline, and I’m very grateful to Pd Lietz and Steve Asmussen for the art and cover design. Perhaps loss, perception and solitude.
What were you trying to achieve with your chapbook? Tell us about the world you were trying to create, and who lives in it.
Sometimes you don’t know the purpose of a creation till after its made. I was at a very low point in my life, but rejecting outright despair. Grief will swallow you whole if you let it. Perhaps I was taming mine. The world already has enough horror; I try to reflect that without knuckling under to it or aiding it.
Can you describe your writing practice or process for this collection? Do you have a favorite revision strategy?
Patience. That’s my muse. It took five years to write it and another five to shop it around. I tend to revise as I write, so I work slowly.
How did you order the poems in the collection? Do you have a specific method for arranging your poems or is it sort of haphazard, like you lay the pages out on the floor and see what order you pick them back up in?
I went by tone and mood. It took a while to put them in the order they are. If I weren’t careful, I could still be shuffling them around now. At a certain point you just have to let go.
What do you love to find in a poem you read, or love to craft into a poem you’re writing?
Strong imagery and resonance. I don’t have to get a poem, but I should feel it and feel a sense of purpose to it. True art insists on its necessity, and hints that it was always there to be found even before it came into being, like Michaelangelo freeing the statue from the rock.
Can you share an excerpt from your book? And tell us why you chose this poem for us to read--did it galvanize the writing of the rest of the collection? Is it your chapbook’s heart? Is it the first or last poem you wrote for the book?
One of the stronger poems in it, revised the most and written in the middle, is “The Night Shore.” It reused a fragment of an earlier discarded poem written before this cycle and covers some of the motifs recurring throughout the chapbook:
THE NIGHT SHORE
Somniloquies rise like the drowned their
lungfuls of air ripple as
a vision translucent as halite in opaque
huelessness the night of it
breath is the sea rote I float to the pupil
wade the green iris shut
in its eyelid
these thoughts dream me and not I them
how from out of silence
If you had to convince someone walking by you in the park to read your book right then and there, what would you say?
Ask them if they could hold onto it, and quietly sneak away.
For you, what is it to be a poet? What scares you most about being a writer? Gives you the most pleasure?
To be a poet you love language and attune yourself it. You make things with it (makar) and you seek wherever it goes (troubadour). That I can’t support myself doing what I love and am most capable of scares me, but it’s a rare pleasure to engage in dialogue through centuries of culture with the living and the dead. Everyone’s thoughts and deeds turn to words to beg a remembrance.
Are there other types of writing (dictionaries, romance novels, comics, science textbooks, etc.) that help you to write poetry?
A nice, thick college dictionary works for me, particularly one with etymologies. I used to browse through one on its own.
What are you working on now?
I have a 360-line poem that I finished in 2013 and a 17-poem sequence I finished this year. They seem very close thematically. So, I’m toying with either combining them or publishing them separately as chapbooks. This may take a while.
What book are you reading that we should also be reading?
Harm by Hillary Gravendyk. She’s dead now and she shouldn’t be forgotten.
Without stopping to think, write a list of five poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least write in permanent marker on your clothing, to take with you at all times.
Pablo Neruda, W.S. Merwin, Derek Walcott, Sylvia Plath and Charles Baudelaire.
Purchase Speak, Shade on Amazon.com.
Raymond Gibson (b. 1980) graduated from the creative writing MFA program at Florida Atlantic University. His work can be found in the "Tiny Truth"s section of Creative Nonfiction, Specs, White Stag, Gravel, Moss Trill, Hermeneutic Chaos and Rust+Moth. He currently lives in his hometown of Hollywood, FL.