The fabulous and brilliant Carrie Etter, author of Divining for Starters and The Tethers, tagged me as part of The Next Big Thing, a series of self-interviews. For lack of a blog, the completed interview has been posted here.
What is the working title of the book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for the book evolved from the poems I was writing once Flinch of Song was completed. I was working from a speaker very much in distress over the concept of identity and how identity must be linked to and limited by the physical manifestation of the body. I started writing the “Personality State” poems of the book first, stumbled across them while searching for what should happen next, and then the illness of the speaker, and this particular illness of humanity, came clear to me, and I had a little group of seven or so like-minded poems, and then the thing took off.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I suppose my only characters would be my speaker and those occasional other parts of the self with which she interacts. I’m not enough of a movie buff to be able to say offhand which actors I would choose (Who does mental illness/identity crises well? Does she need to be female?), and in addition, I don’t think speakers are theater. I think they are by their very nature quieter, more like the voice one hears when reading a book than the voice one hears when switching on a movie. So I would say the reader is my character. If I’ve done my job well, the reader will feel the speaker deeply, will be struck by the realities they are mutually plagued by, will already be living the book.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Here is a synopsis-ish sentence from the Tupelo Press catalog’s description of the book:
Body Thesaurus presents the human physique as a flawed conduit and, through poems highlighting symptoms, antidotes, and diagnostic tests, seeks alternate renderings for the complexities of self.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote the first poem of this book in the summer of 2005. The idea for the book was just a seed then, a tiny concept that had yet to crack its shell. But there was this one poem, here to stay, signaling a different direction, and that made the course toward this book steadier over the four or five years it took before the manuscript was complete.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The book started with a sculpture of Persephone’s face by an artist named Lauren Raine with whom I spent time while at a residency that first summer. I didn’t know what it would morph into at that point. Then, soon after that, I started reading Cate Marvin’s Fragment of the Head of a Queen and the voice of that book infected me as well. Mix those influences in with my increasing obsession with the body and its limited abilities and how they contrast our sense of a lasting self, and the book started to evolve. It slowly became a book based around the medical: I started to write poems that dealt with issues in the form of illnesses and procedures, and the book then found its shape. The frame was complete. It was all sheet rock and window trim from there.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is a book about our struggle to come to peace with a self inherently connected to a finite and functioning object. We are machines. We move. We break. We can sometimes be fixed. Eventually, we malfunction and fail. This is a reality that places incredible pressure on both our physical and mental states. We are shaped by the fact that “Man is matter,” as Snowden finds out in Catch 22. Anyone interested in this most basic and yet quite alarming aspect of the human reality might find themselves interested in this book.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Body Thesaurus will be released by Tupelo Press in May of 2013.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Danielle Pafunda (who has said she will post at Montevidayo)