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Carrie Lorig is a total force; everything she writes sprouts the colors of poem. I saw her read on her tour for her chapbook, NODS. (which I reviewed here), when she stopped in Cincinnati. A force. Her first full-length collection, The Pulp vs. The Throne, comes out later this year. I was pumped as hell when she agreed to answer some questions and prompts I’ve had buried for a while. We exchanged edits on a Google Doc, back and forth for a few days, so what you’re seeing here is the ice sculpture of a living breathing interview organism. It became a poem. Go read her poems. If you haven’t read any of her reviews, find them. They blow apart the genre’s atmosphere.

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Mud Schematic: What I love most about your reviews is how surprising they are. Not only do they have the same energy as your poems, but their movement is incalculable (read: Michael Scott fumbling that word up). They reach into the pockets of everything and everywhere, pulling from lectures, songs, your afternoon, a friend’s afternoon, and of course the book at hand. What gravity do you possess that keeps these satellites functioning so well as a single moon? What is it in your goals as you set out to write about a book that keeps the review moving and lets you know you’ve finished?

Carrie Lorig: I possess the gravity that anyone who is engaged in the process of reading does. This is really what I set out to explore, capture, and think through. What it was like to read and to process and then to live after I have finished reading. It is almost impossible to replicate this in the same way that it is almost impossible for the poem to replicate a feeling and its consequences. It is almost impossible, but I can do it / I can try to incorporate the book into my life by speaking of it / of what it was like to read / as it unfolded / as it became intricate folds. As I read, my mind and assembles and it accumulates. It strays and it moves into exact places / exact spaces. That immediacy which is raw and intelligent is also very precious / powerful. Sometimes I feel like we forget that reading is A LIVING. It is an impossible entrance. A wild stillness. That idea is always what is in my tumblr_lx6rf4v0dH1r7p7p0o1_500mind as I begin to think of how I can write a review. What glimpse did I receive of that impossible entrance? What touch did I gather of it and how did it change me / move me / weep me / connect for me a constellation of texts continuing to embed themselves further and wider into my body? Does it make sense that this is the only gravity I feel I might need? That I have read this book and now I must speak to you about it in a way that preserves the energy I felt while I was there / as it continues to radiate. My goals depend on the book I am reading and thinking of writing about. Sometimes I know I am going to write about a book, sometimes I am asked by poets to write about their books. Sometimes I write a review of a book I feel unsure about so that I can learn more about it and how that book situates itself in poetry or language. Like a poem, the review reveals itself to me as I go. You are right that I am always incorporating what is around me and while I don’t plan for that, I always keep my feelers out. What is interrupting my concentration and how does it work itself in / settle in anyway? Also, something I feel I have learned as I’ve gotten older is how my reading has gotten hugely sensitive to association. I study and I study and I can SEE how all these books and words and lines and events in my day speak to each other. That has nothing to do with a religious idea of order, with God’s order. Or for me, it doesn’t. It has everything to do with the compelling nature of orchestration, of touch, of intertwining, of weaving, of lying down and focusing on what passes before you. I ramble too much, though. Or I am worrying about that right now, trying to talk about all this. I couldn’t stop my sentences from extending themselves if I wanted to. It makes the page feel inconsolable to me. It also makes the page feel like my continuous attempt at survival. And maybe that’s where the real gravity comes from? That tension. The truth that reading / language will always be too big for me. It is worth it, though, this tension / this difficulty, because writing reviews about poetry has taught me just as much about poetry / my life as writing poetry and going to school for poetry did. It also, very simply, replicates what most of us want, which is to have conversations about this art and this blood we believe in. I want to talk to you. I want the review to continue. What did Trisha Low just say? “I actually believe that critical writing, an unconscious appraisal of one’s own self and interest through placing oneself in someone else’s poetry, is probably the truest confessionalism there is.” I almost wept when I read that. THERE IS MAGIC HERE / AN UNIMAGINABLE BREED OF WITNESS / A GLOW OF HOUSING. I sympathize with those who dislike reviews, but I would also ask that we not discontinue reviews / that we not insist they are all boring or unnecessary or pandering to the point that we should not bother ourselves with publishing or reading reviews. That can’t be the answer. If it is / then I am not a poet.

MS: There is magic there. And it feels true that there’s a binary of language being too big while sentences, as a reaction, extend themselves, creating a storm with its own clashing energy. Does that even make sense? I’m not sure. But it all reminds me, oddly and maybe incorrectly, of an interview with Matt Hart, in which he says, “For me writing a poem is a process of reactivity—a way of interfacing with, and making sense of, myself, other people, and the world. It’s not the only way to make sense of these things, but it’s the best way that I have of confronting the joys and terrors and routine banalities of being alive.” In other words, some things are too big and amazing to swallow without writing back with an equal ferocity and explosion, just to create some kind of balance. So, is living (inside) language and breathing it in and out, maybe, and maybe like your review-writing, the main energy source for your poems? Does it kill writing’s magic to understand where its sunlight is coming from?

CL: The main energy source for my poems shifts. The main energy source for my poems might just be that I have always sort of processed the world the way that I do, except that now I have this potential to hone and explore that energy and peculiarity with which I look. However, there are also particular projects or interests that present themselves and those are often rooted in reactivity (I really love that Matt used this word instead of reaction!). Something I asked myself working on The Pulp vs. The Throne after writing NODS. (a very sound driven, body driven, emotionswamp driven chapbook) was could I write a statement? It’s such a simple question, but I became so worked up about it. I asked myself this question because when I went on tour with NODS. that was something I felt the audience was asking me / this woman that both scared and excited them with all her noise / cannonbleeding. She could make this clusterfucked darkness come from her blackthroat, yes, but could she S P E A K? It’s very possible I imagined that interaction between me and the crowds, but it became real for me, and I wanted to genuinely respond / to create a space that allowed me to answer the question. I wanted to explore these two sides of being / becoming on my own expansive / loving terms. 1) The soft, inexplicable oil bog (The Pulp) where magic and waves fuck / sing. The cracked open universe / crevasse where my feelings burn / celebrate. 2) A side of me that believes so much in critical articulation, in something slicing out of the water precisely (The Throne) and then echoing. A side of me that is, lol, an all too serious motherfucker interested in crystallizing some of what I see in front of me in a way that is coherent, yes, but also full of a PulpVsThronedemanding malleability / movement. I wanted to keep insisting that the difficult language I know (and a plethora of other emergent women / voices) I create can also have access points for people. I wanted to kill my murderers / the scoffing, white male professor while also insisting academia / intelligence is a cliff we can flood flowers on. There’s so much in and out in all that that I’m collapsing in my own fragrant hole, but I think this kind of in and out, which is also a giving in that refuses to give in, is why I’m currently so obsessed with the gesture of the / (BACKSLASH) in my poems, my thinking, my speaking. I build folds. I build folds and I lie down in them. Every sentence is the book. Every sentence can never be the book.

I don’t think these explorations which can bring me nearer to magic and its ever accumulating roots never makes me feel like the magic is killed or could be killed by us. I don’t think I can believe that magic is untouchable. Or at least not completely. Or magic isn’t eliminated when a shedding results in understanding. I don’t think logic and un-logic exclude each other. And maybe that’s also why I’m so interested in the VS. (THE VERSUS, THE VERSES) as collapsible. Magic is already dead / already alive. Language is already dead / already alive. I’m just here arranging it, like anyone, and this is where I really relate to Matt’s quote in that, I do it so I can circulate through the world with the world its people and flowers and dissolving horizons. I do it so I can see you despite all that seeks to keep us fucking apart. Where that magic is coming from is not as important as being present and attentive and continuous in the impossibility of joining despite / of empathy despite / of play despite / of creation despite (here is my garden of refusal / all wine stained and on fire). Couldn’t this be the thing that circumvents the idea that magic comes from anywhere specific? Maybe that’s how it will always avoid being killed? Or rather, that’s how it can be both alive / dead simultaneously / radically. This is where the word haunting was born.

MS: Having seen you read on your NODS. tour when you stopped in Cincinnati, it was very much an event molded around the body. I mean, it was a physical manifestation and solid exhaling of words rather than just transporting the two-dimensional into the vocal. It was like watching language dancing. And it feels like, reading through NODS. and reflecting back on my experience, the/your body isn’t just making and sounding the poems, but that it’s/you’re tangled up in some total cluster of being all at once: the maker and the subject and the object and the collector and part of the poembody soup. Is this new book a different approach to that cluster, or maybe a focusing in on one piece of the storm? Is the mind separate from the body or are they the same color? Also, “Every sentence is the book” is so totally Hejinian, and I so totally align with that principle. How much is each sentence its own body/its own limb, and how much does that distinction matter?

CL: Oh this is so interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it worded quite like that in front of me before. A total cluster of being all at once / a ribbon which equals maker, subject, object, sea, cliff, flower, grave, collector, part, smoke, dirt. It is twisted or is it a sword / a blade / a cut / a wound? Once I heard Zurita insist that it is not poets that make the poems, it’s the poems that make themselves via revelation (this term is not solely rooted in some kind of religious experience). The poem courses through the poet / surrounds the poet / infiltrates the poet. There’s some complexity in that Zurita quote that gets a little lost, but it also provides a necessary reminder, a la Jack Spicer and his martians / a la Cecilia Vicuna and her red strings, that poets aren’t superior / learned manipulators or removed / hyper controllers of the devotional area. They are a demonstrative material. Poets are inextricably involved, they arrange, they dream, they screamcolor, they error. Poetry is less of an act for me and more of a difficult, constantly changing process through which I gore / gorge (the french word for throat, our food’s word for raw desperation) myself / through which I love / through which I STUDY. I meant it when I said the page is inconsolable to me / its vastness. By vastness, I don’t think I mean largeness so much as I mean duration. And maybe that’s the real thing that The Pulp Vs. The Throne immersed me in, an examination of unfurling dimension. What it is to notice a difference in the way time and its relationship to language works on me. The first half of the book is one poem, “Much Affection from the Bold Part / of the River / Its a Crisis / of Movement,” that needed exactly that much space to suss out its individual parts and layers. The second half gathers out of the first / is made of these long, manifold poemessays that I collectively call Public Excess Channels. There was something freeing / fucked about understanding that the poems weren’t going to resolve themselves in one page or in one day or in one shape. I knew I had to just be there with the words. I knew I had to read and live and listen to Alice Notley weeping and listen to Bhanu Kapil lying down and listen to Edmond Jabes on fire. I had to keep returning. I had to be, as my friend Elisabeth Workman says, capacious in an unimaginable way. The poem functions and accumulates on a different plane, which really allows for the merging of mind and body you’re talking about. Women (and POC) are never allowed to be separate from their bodies. It’s supposed to make us smaller, right? That fact is supposedly our permission to live and also the reason we end up getting killed. But instead, it makes our poems too much for the workshop to deal with, it questions the poetry reading (What if I can’t perform any of my poems unless I get longer than 5 minutes?), it asks the reader to view the poem / the book as a force / an extreme snow, it asks the poem to have versions / variations and performances which create multiplicities, multiplicities which fray and deviate unexpectedly / importantly. There’s so much urgency here. I will not leave it. I think that variation that is repetition of the same thing but also a growth into something new reflects back towards your question about the sentence. This is where I look to Stein and also to Myung Mi Kim / Jabes. A sentence is its own magnolia tree. Its own delicate spring creating gallons. I love to watch them and work on them until they reveal what they are, until they walk / wander with me. (A song by King Krule just came on called, “Has This Hit?” That seems like exactly the question.) But the sentence can also be turned to face the rest, it can also be lost in the rest. The distinction matters, but it also matters that the volume of it can be an oscillation / a ventilation / an echosystem. The sentence is always a beginning / again.

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Find/follow Carrie Lorig at her blog.

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Mud Schematic: How do you find Chicago leaking into Ghost Ocean and Tree Light? How do your projects leak into the city?

Heather: I’m fascinated by how tethered to the urban landscape I feel (after living in Chicago for several years) but also to the rural, country landscape that I was surrounded by much of my life. I grew up in Arkansas and I’ve never lived more than maybe 30 miles from a body of water. Ever. That probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve never lived more than three blocks from Lake Michigan — which is the “Ghost Ocean” on our website — since I moved to Chicago, even though I’m in my third Chicago apartment.

We’ve published work that straddles these natural and man-made landscapes, such as Adam Morgan’s “In Our Dreams” in Ghost Ocean 6. Adam imagines Chicago as a city “hidden deep in a forest, covered in flowering vines and writhing trees.” I’m compelled by this vision—it would be my dream world were it not in such ruinous shape—as I am by similar settings, because they bridge these two worlds I love, which are often seen in opposition.

The majority of the time, we tend to select work that doesn’t operate in cityscapes. Maybe Chicago has a hand in this, because when I hop off the train, the last thing I want to read is a story about someone on the train. Then again, maybe that’s just me. If I were pressed to make another Chicago-connection, it would probably be to the urgency or energy in the work we publish. There’s an urgency here, in the city, that I would equate with the work of J.A. Tyler (not just his work in Ghost Ocean) and the work he publishes through Mud Luscious. But that work isn’t always set in urban areas. It’s the rhythm and the language — even the longer, more complex sentences — and, overall, the energy that feel uniquely urban to me.

I haven’t really answered your questions directly, though. Forgive me? (ed: forgiven!)

Mud Schematic: Has starting and running Tree Light Books changed the way you operate Ghost Ocean Magazine?

Heather: Absolutely. Something that’s challenging for me is delegating responsibilities—or rather, loosening my grip. When I started Ghost Ocean I had it in my head that I would read (at least twice!) every submission, regardless of genre or if everyone on staff had already said No way. That philosophy didn’t last long anyway, but since I’ve moved forward with the press I’ve realized I have to succumb to delegating certain things and not worry over it. I still read the majority of the submissions that come in, but I’m able to trust the instincts of the staff. They make my job easier, and if I didn’t have them to rely on, I’m not sure I could juggle both the press and the magazine on my own.

Mud Schematic: What would be your dream situation/growth for Tree Light?

Heather: Well, I think about selling digital copies of the chapbooks side-by-side with print, but I have this dedication/admiration/obsession with handmade chapbooks that is holding me back. We’re set to sell electronic versions once the originals sell out—we have less than half of the copies of our first chapbook left, so this may happen sooner than I anticipated—but maybe one day I’ll cave and sell them simultaneously. Not to mention, the more print copies we sell, the tidier my apartment is.

We have a handful of other projects in the queue, all manuscripts from our first chapbook contest, and they’re all projects I’m excited about publishing. Each chap has a central theme (or themes) that I haven’t encountered in chapbooks put out by other presses, so I hope Tree Light can add something interesting to the chapbook conversation. Susan’s chap, our debut, captures the essence of what we’d like to continue publishing, though I hope we can surprise and reinvent ourselves in the same way I feel that Ghost Ocean has started to cast a wider net in terms of what we’d like to publish, while continuing to put out things that are recognizably Ghost Ocean.

If we ever grew into a full-on publishing conglomerate, I don’t think I’d ever get a chance to sleep. So I’m fine with our smaller scope. I just want to focus on putting out good books, supporting our authors as best we can, and getting to know our readers somewhere along the way.

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Heather Cox is a poet who founded and continues to edit the online literary journal Ghost Ocean Magazine and its imprint press Tree Light Books. Heather loves books, biking, typewriters, vinyl records, sunlight, and puppies. Heather was born in Texas and raised in Arkansas, and now she lives on Chicago’s north side with her partner and their two dogs, Milo and Roscoe.

The fine gentleman running Midwestern Gothic took some time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions I had about their kickass magazine. I decided after some delibaration that their chunky (cost-effective/worth-the-money) issues are too much for a micro-review, so I’ll leave the reading and judging up to the readers. But I will say this: in my humble opinion, Midwestern Gothic is an important magazine for both its region and the American lit-mag scene. It’s got its own aesthetic — pronounced, gritty and enjoyable — and it demands to be read. Their Spring 2012 issue comes out soon.

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Mud Schematic: Do you find that, since starting a journal focused on one region, you’ve been more interested in the Midwest? Less? Maybe just the same?

Rob: I have found myself more interested, to be honest. I’ve always been a bit of a travel nut, and a great deal of my childhood/early adulthood was spent not only traveling, but dreaming of traveling, seeing far-off places and whatnot, and so I saw the Midwest during that time in my life—as many do, I think—as sluggish and boring.

That sort of thinking started to change for me during my Master’s work while studying regionalism and putting together the initial thoughts of what Midwestern Gothic would become. And having been lucky enough to travel and see the world, and now doing the journal, seeing all these amazing poets and writers and what the Midwest means to them, setting roots here myself, has made me appreciate it so, so much more than I ever have. It’s crazy… now when I go places, even places I’ve been a million times growing up, I just seem to have this entirely different mindset about everything surrounding that place. I am absurdly proud of being a Midwesterner and seeing all the unbelievably talented artists it produces and work it inspires to is just so invigorating.

Jeff: More, definitely. The thing that stands out to me most about the Midwest is how it’s somehow smaller than any other region. We don’t have mountains, ocean coastline or a glut of massive cities. Things are a lot more subtle here, and you have to pay attention to really appreciate the beauty. I think that’s likewise reflected in the people that inhabit this place.

I’d like to think the stories and fiction we publish reflect that sensibility. The tiny moments in the lives of people living in all sorts of settings: rural farmland, urban Chicago, barren North Dakota. These subtle shifts have compounding meaning in the makeup of the region. And to me, that’s an incredibly powerful way to think about a region — that the only way to understand it is to stare relentlessly until it finally reveals itself.

Mud Schematic: Have you stumbled upon, in your internet-wanderings, any other mags that do something similar to what you’re doing?

Rob: Well, we don’t want to take credit for being the first magazine/journal to feature Midwestern writers—there are plenty of them out there—but what I think what we’re doing is a bit different from the ones we’ve seen in that we are focused 100% on the Midwest and the writers/poets it produces or inspires. That is our primary focus, our niche: to be at the forefront of a Midwest regionalist push of good literature and poetry.

Jeff: New Stories of the Midwest is the first title that pops into mind. Like New Stories of the South, their book is intended to be a celebration of the region, and a showcase for authors that normally get passed over by coastal publishing houses. Where ours differs, I think, is that we’re trying to capture the DNA of the region. We want to showcase the best writing, just like them, but I think our focus is more on opening a window to give readers an honest look inside the heart of the Midwest.

Mud Schematic: What are the benefits/drawbacks of running a magazine around one specific region?

Rob: There was a niche in the market for journals being primarily about the Midwest, something we recognized and have been trying to fill since our inception—that’s a great benefit considering how many great artists the Midwest houses, or, alternatively, has inspired and who now live elsewhere. So when people see that, see what we’re about, they’re more apt to take us seriously and submit to us, knowing that we are 100% committed to shining a spotlight on the region first and foremost. I would say these same geographical limitations are, in theory, a drawback as well, since those who submit do have to have a connection to a very specific region, but honestly, so far, it hasn’t been a problem. The amount of talent that we’ve seen, just the sheer number of submissions we get for each issue, sure gives us hope we’ll have enough to keep us busy for a long while.

Jeff: People definitely have an affinity for the region. In fact, I think that’s one of the most redeeming qualities of Midwesterners. We might not have the prettiest, sexiest or most affluent region in the world. Sometimes, it’s downright ugly. But damn it, it’s ours. Focusing on a region also makes it easy for us to clearly communicate our identity, something that I feel most literary journals and magazines are lacking.

Mud Schematic: The photos and headers and all that visual stuff for MG is always really great. How does that all go down? What’s the process for choosing the images and things?

Rob: Jeff and I are very visual people and we take the aesthetic of Midwestern Gothic very seriously (both with the print issues and our website). I think it’s something that completely sets us apart from many other journals out there. I mean, we designed Midwestern Gothic to look good on your book shelf first and foremost. And when we were figuring out what MG would be, we agreed that showcasing photos of the Midwest—submitted by readers, fans—would be an amazing way to go, showcasing how not only we see the Midwest, but how others see it too.

When we select a photo for the cover, we don’t have an agenda in mind, and we don’t necessarily pick something that fits the season, but I guess we think about the contributors going into that specific issue, what, if any, the overall theme is, and select what jumps out at us. We’ve been very lucky in the number of quality photo submissions we’ve received—I think that’s part of the reason of ours success is that we have this absolutely gorgeous pool of photos to choose from. And I do want to call out Jeff for his absolutely wonderful work putting the website and books together—he does a tremendous job.

Jeff: To be selected for the site, the photo either has to display a small slice of beauty from the region, or a small slice of tragedy. This obviously comes in many forms, but what’s interesting to me is that we don’t get many photos of people submitted. Landscapes and objects make up the lion’s share of the submissions we get, and they are interesting in their own right, but I think images and vignettes of people are incredibly powerful as well. I wish we got more.

Mud Schematic: What’s next for Midwestern Gothic? Any big plans?

Rob: Some very big and very exciting plans, actually. Not sure how much we can discuss publically just yet, but here’s something: there may or may not be a theme issue of the journal coming out this year with an exceptionally talented artist doing the cover—different than what we usually do, but it should be something special.

Jeff: One curse Rob and I share is having too many irons in too many fires. We’re not quite ready to announce it yet, but there is an expansion coming for Midwestern Gothic, something very much in line with our mission of capturing the feel of the region. It seems like a cop out to not divulge more than that, but stay tuned for great news.

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Midwestern Gothic‘s website is located here, and their Spring 2012 issue comes out very soon.

I had the chance to send a few questions over to both Matt Bell and J.A. Tyler, and would like to extend my thanks to them now (again) for taking a few minutes to answer them. First up is Matt Bell, whose most recent book (still forthcoming), Cataclysm Baby, I reviewed right here. J.A. Tyler, who runs Mud Luscious Press (publisher of said book), bats second.

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Mud Schematic: Your fiction is always beautifully crafted, making it a pleasure to read aloud. So, two questions. One: if the fiction police instructed that you quit the club and choose some other genre to consider your work a part of, what would you land on? Two: sure, you’re a fiction writer (pre-police), but try crafting a top-three list of your favorite poets.

Matt Bell: If I still wrote at all, I’d probably end up writing either plays or essays—but those are both areas I’ve already dabbled in. If I had to do something else completely, maybe I’d give poetry another go: It feels like it might be rewarding to pick the form I’m the worst at and see what gains I could make.

Favorites are always a hard thing to nail down, but James Tate would be up there for sure, as his work was a huge influence on me, and is still a joy to read. Jack Gilbert would be another pick: His “Hunger” is one of my favorite poems, and feels like it contains most of what you need to know about the point of life and writing in one place. I’m so happy to finally have his Collected Poems out so that I can catch up on all the books of his I’ve missed. Final slots get tough because you don’t want to leave anyone out, but I think I’m going to give it to Hiromi Ito, whose book Killing Kanoko is probably the best book of poems I’ve read in the last few years, and one I’m constantly digging out and opening back up.

Mud Schematic: I’m always very interested in list-making or categorizing or cataloging in literature, including my own poems. You took part in that quite a bit with How They Were Found, and I see it again here. Can you speak to that a bit? What’s fun/beneficial about that style/structure, and where do you find yourself struggling with it (if anywhere)?

Matt Bell: I think that a lot of my characters are obsessives, and that the listing and cataloging comes out of that, or creates it. There’s also a bit of megalomania to it too, I think, at least as it sometimes manifests in my work: There’s something to trying to list everything that reminds me of Adam in the garden of Eden, trying to name all of the animals. It feels often like a searching for control or command, and I like the desperate hubris of that.

Of course, some of it is just the power of repetition as well, and also my use of the fragment, which is probably the dominant mode of my thinking and writing. The struggle is really trying to know when those fragments are strong enough to work on their own, and when they need to be sewn together into scene and more linear narrative. There’s a balance between the two that tends to work best, I think, and figuring that out is a decent-sized part of my rewriting process: Work tends to start out more fragmentary, more list- or catalogue-like, and then move toward something more traditionally narrative over time, even if it never quite gets to the kind of extended scenes you might see from other writers.

Mud Schematic: What’s the Ann Arbor fiction/poetry scene like?

Matt Bell: There are so many great people here in the Ann Arbor area, both at the university and unaffiliated with it. I’ve been helping sponsor a reading series in Farmington with a number of other publishers (it’s Dzanc and The Collagist, plus Absinthe: New European Writing and Midwestern Gothic), and we’ve just had a parade of great local writers through there. There’s also Hobart and Short Flight/Long Drive Books and Dogzplot in the area, plus everything coming out of Michigan. I think as a whole we’re doing a better and better job of bridging the independent community and the university community, which hopefully makes it a better place to be for everyone.

Mud Schematic: What’s next for you? Any big projects?

Matt Bell: I’ve been fairly exclusively novel-writing for the past three years or so, so that’ll be the next book. Beyond that, I’m most excited about the books I’ve had the pleasure of working on at Dzanc, as we’ve got an incredible 2012 list: Eugene Cross’s great debut collection Fires of Our Choosing is just out, and next up is Jac Jemc’s gorgeous debut novel My Only Wife, and beyond that we’ve got books coming from George Singleton, Luis Jaramillo, Matt Dojny, Josh Russell, and Jennifer Spiegel, among others. I can’t wait to get these books out to more readers, and to follow them with the rest of this year’s books. I’m excited to be on both sides of the editorial desk this year, with both a book of my own and with all these other books I’ve had the privilege to help publish at Dzanc: It’s a lucky life, and I’m very grateful for it.

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Matt Bell is the author of Cataclysm Baby, a novella, and How They Were Found, a collection of fiction, as well as three chapbooks, Wolf Parts, The Collectors, and How the Broken Lead the Blind. His fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gulf Coast, Willow Springs, Unsaid, and American Short Fiction, and has been selected for inclusion in anthologies such as Best American Mystery Stories 2010 and Best American Fantasy 2. His book reviews and critical essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, American Book Review, and The Quarterly Conversation. He works as an editor at Dzanc Books, where he also runs the literary magazine The Collagist. In Fall 2011, he began teaching writing at the University of Michigan.

He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife Jessica, and can be reached via e-mail.

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Mud Schematic: This book sort of straddles that line between novel(la) and short story collection. What persuaded you to categorize it as the former?

J.A. Tyler: The novel(la) series with Mud Luscious Press has always straddled the lines of length, genre, approach, and narrative – so a book like Cataclysm Baby is a perfect fit: it is prose yet poetic, dense in language but slim in size, and, as you point out, short stories that ride the narrative wave of apocalypse and parenthood, creating an overall narrative beneath a really beautiful vignette structure. In that way, it was always easy for us to call it a novel(la).

Mud Schematic: What benefits do you see in making books that are a little smaller or blockier in shape than perhaps most other books being published? I’m thinking also of smaller objects like Howl and such.

J.A. Tyler: In terms of physical / production aesthetics, I’m very particular. The way that a book feels in my hands – the size, the paper weight, the ink, etc. – means almost as much to me as the words, so Mud Luscious Press has been bent on ripe and slick production from the beginning. I’m not sure if there is any ‘real’ benefit to producing books in the shape, size, and style that we do, but there is certainly a benefit in terms of the ‘vibe’ it showcases, and the way in which Mud Luscious Press is defined by a reader’s hands.

Mud Schematic: Where do you hope to take this novel(la) series? Any aesthetic(s) or style(s) you’re leaning toward?

J.A. Tyler: With every new title we become more conscious of our style and what we want for the future, but we evolve too with every new book, finding new veins to mine. 2013 will give us a few books with a more ‘clever’ edge than previous titles, like Michael Kimball’s Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) and Gabe Durham’s Fun Camp, and Ryan Ridge’s American Homes will be our first title to include interior illustrations, a fun new hurdle that will give us an even brighter interior aesthetic. We don’t know what is beyond that, but we will find the words – and when we do, we will publish them.

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J.A. Tyler’s work has been featured in Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, StorySouth’s Million Writers Award, & Wigleaf’s Top 50 Short Fictions & has recently appeared with Black Warrior Review, Diagram, New York Tyrant, Redivider, & Cream City Review. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press, housed in northern Colorado.