I’ve been tagged by the great Terry L. Kennedy—poet, friend, best man in my nuptials, and fellow beer-and-barbecue-consumer—in the “Next Big Thing,” a project of self-interviews that is winding its way through the electronic ether. For the project, authors respond to the same set of questions about a work in progress or forthcoming book and then tag other authors to carry this next big thing forward. Below are my answers, and below those are my tags.
What is the working title of the manuscript?
It’s a chapbook titled The Use of the World, and it’s forthcoming from Unicorn Press in early June 2013.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The title is taken from John Keats’s “Vale of Soul-making” letter. The idea for the book came from the idea of the poems—trying and failing to make sense of the world. Trying and failing again. And again. Et cetera.
What genre does your manuscript fall under?
The simple answer is poetry. While I would never say that my poems fit into some poetic sub-genre, I find this question interesting and serendipitous because The Use of the World does contain a longer poem (“Days Spent in One of the Other Worlds”) that is very unusual for me in that it could be said to fall under the popular fiction genre of “fantasy.” Well, not deeply into that genre (there are no elves, orcs, or dragons), but it’s something much more fantastical than my work usually is. Maybe Peter Jackson will want to make a movie.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d cast John Cleese and Michael Palin as the Minister of Death and Punishment and the Minister of Death and Reward. I wonder if Dick Cheney has any acting chops—I could see him as the old, blind king. And for the king’s young, beautiful daughter, maybe Zooey Deschanel. But only if she could deliver the line “What does ‘azure’ mean?” in exactly the same way as she asked her iPhone “Is that rain?” in the commercial that had everyone clawing at their own faces in annoyance a couple of years ago.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your manuscript?
It’s not quite just one sentence, but it’s close: “The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is a ‘vale of tears’ from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary interposition of God and taken to Heaven—What a little circumscribed straightened notion! Call the world if you Please ‘The vale of Soul-making’ Then you will find out the use of the world . . .” [John Keats, from a letter, 1819]
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
What has been the hardest poem to write?
Every poem seems equally adept at kicking my ass.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
John Keats. Albert Camus. My family. The empty space between our world and the nearest star.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s got conjoined twins who are connected at the back of the skull. One poem features a couple of characters from Hamlet even more obscure than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. There are four ghazals, two sestinas, two Albergonnets, a pantoum, and a villanelle. At least one of the poems (maybe all of them) should be capable of sending a religious fundamentalist into a saliva-frothing, torch-and-pitchfork rage.