This post continues a project commenced by poet Ivy Alvarez, whereby writers are tagged to answer questions, as below, about their current or next writing project. I’ve been invited to participate by Queensland poet Vanessa Page, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival. I’ll contact five of my literary fellow travellers and ask them to continue the ‘dasiychain’.
What is the title of your book?
I was lucky to have two chapbooks published in 2012, although essentially they are volumes of the same book–Private Conversations. Volume 1 was published by Graham Nunn at Another Lost Shark Publications, and Volume 2 by Ralph Wessman at Walleah Press. I was grateful for the opportunity to publish both volumes, as many of the poems respond to each other in different ways, so that the two volumes represent two voices in a conversation.
What genre does your book full under?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Not sure I can do one sentence…I’ll try! I’ve looked back over my shoulder at seminal moments in my past and crafted poems around them, so that I converse with particular elements of those experiences. And as I said earlier, some of the poems connect with each other. So it’s about retracing my steps, in some ways, and marking the way with poems instead of breadcrumbs.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
For a long time, I had a bunch of poems in search of a connection. They were written over several years and finally during 2011 I started to see common threads emerging; aspects of experience, such as loss and fatherhood and finally abandoning what I’d always considered an artificial sense of faith. Once these ideas started to gel, I started to develop more poems that aligned neatly with these or similar concepts. Until right at the end, though, when I knew I had interest in publication, there wasn’t a lot of explicit thinking about this project. It simply grew.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
For reasons I just mentioned, this is difficult to answer; until I actually placed the poems together for publication, they hadn’t really existed as a manuscript. But, off and on, the poems were written over a period of 3-4 years, here and there, between working on a novel and other ideas, and other less essential obligations like work. I sent a clutch of them off to Chris Mansell, actually, at PressPress for assessment, and her feedback was excellent–her insight helped me hone my poetic senses, I think. I revised a lot of what I had written after that.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
There is no one specific person or event with which I can asnwer this question; I love the demand of poetry, I love the different framing of language it requires, but I still think I have a lot to learn about it. Prose is my first love (and indeed I am hard at work now on another long-form prose project, as part of a Masters in Creative Writing). So I guess I wanted to see what I could do with the wealth of forms available in poetry, and of course there are some things that happen to you that are difficult to express any other way. This isn’t a very good answer, sorry.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ve been fortunate to have the support of two perceptive, generous and inspiring men, in Graham Nunn and Ralph Wessman; I’ve very grateful for their support.
What other books would you compare this book to in your genre?
Again, difficult. Many of the poems explore my influences; so there’s a noticeable Philip Larkin bent to some of them, although I would never compare myself to him. (I’m generally pretty happy, for one thing.) I also read Alex Skovron’s Autographs towards the end of working on my collection and again I would never compare my work to his but the finesse and quiet strength of his work is something I aspire to.
What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?
What an odd question. I think, though, that I like the approach of the people who made I’m Not There, the movie about Bob Dylan in which he is played by a variety of different actors. Experience is reinvented in some ways in my book, and the saying goes that writers taste life twice, so I think I would draw on a very small troupe of actors and have them play all the roles. I don’t know who, though; other poets perhaps. I wonder if David Stavanger is busy…?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Many of the issues I write about are universal–being in love, losing someone very close before their time, regrets, parenthood, and so on. I would hope that people could find something in Private Conversations that they could relate to. I also like to think the title is a bit enticing…almost like encouraging readers to eavesdrop. I give my full permission.
[Volume One is available online via Another Lost Shark publications and at Fullers Bookshop, Tasmania. Volume Two is also available at Fullers and online via Walleah Press.]