The Next Big Thing

Remember those chain letters from the sixth grade? Where you risked death if you didn’t keep it going? Now we have The Next Big Thing, a chain of self-interviews by writers, and I have been tagged by poet Peter Shippy, whose interview was up on Facebook, but whose books you should check out. (Andrea Cohen  and Jason Gray also tried to tag me, so you might want to check out their interviews.) I’ve tagged poets Aaron Baker, Matthew Thorburn, Jessica Garratt, and Rachel Richardson, and they’ll be posting their interviews on Facebook or their websites next week. On March 3, 2013, I sat down with myself and had the following conversation:

What is your working title of your book?

 My first collection of poems came out this past year, and it is called Little Murders Everywhere.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The title poem’s conceit comes from my work with a red-tailed hawk when I was teaching environmental education in Sonora, CA, while its heart comes from the challenges of taking care of a terminally-ill partner. Other poem ideas come from such eclectic things as my neuroscientist roommate’s research, the Cincinnati Zoo’s loud monkeys, Shakespeare’s Sonnet # 62, an astronomer I went on one date with, an article about people getting collection/eviction notices for relatives’ graves, and this photograph I took on the roads near the New York State Writers’ Institute at Skidmore.


What genre does your book fall under?

The best one. (Except for the other best ones.)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Seriously? Who came up with these questions?

Although the material for my next book would actually make a great screenplay.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Love. Death. Dead Animals. I’m a poet, we don’t have to write in sentences.

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

My book was published by the wonderful press Salmon Poetry, which is based in Ireland, but which has a growing American list, including some poets who I really admire, such as Andrea Cohen and Allan Peterson.

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

Well, there is a poem in the book that went, in first draft form, to my first graduate workshop with Gail Mazur at Emerson College in 2001, and there’s a poem, “How to Skin a Swan,” that I wrote for The Guardian’s Poetry Workshop in 2011, after my book was accepted by Salmon in 2010. My editor let me slip that last one in. So I guess you could say this book was a decade in the making, though most of the poems were written between 2003 and 2008.

What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

I once did a reading at a school where the professor in charge told me I reminded her of Chaucer. But I probably should lump that comparison in with the one by the Cincinnati postal employee who said I looked like Bruce Willis.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well, this may seem like a cheap answer, but the inspiration comes from all the books I have read that I have fallen in love with. Or maybe I could give credit to the English teacher at the now-defunct Schenley High School in Pittsburgh. He took me and two other Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre students to a series of poetry readings at Carnegie Mellon. I quit ballet and followed books to college. Or to Akilah Oliver, who offered a free one-night workshop at a feminist bookstore in Boulder. I had just driven through Wyoming the night Matthew Shephard was killed, and I wrote a poem about it. That was the first time I ever shared a poem with anyone, and her encouragement changed my life.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s a series of loose sonnets on everyday sins such as gossip, lying, two-timing, and bossiness.  And a love story involving a dump truck.

But, more importantly, I love the cover art, which I was able to use thanks to the generosity of the brilliant artist Rosamond Purcell.