Monday, March 3, 2014

An interview with Kristy Bowen, #BLauthor1, by Stacia M. Fleegal

Got Bowen books?
Our spotlight is on poet and editor Kristy Bowen for another week, so I thought it would be nice to interview Kristy about her writing and publishing projects:

SMF: I saw a picture on your Facebook profile recently of a list of your books, to which you'd added your most recent publication. Can you share that picture with us, and also give us a list of your books and the presses that published them?

KB: Sure! I also have a number of limited edition chaps & book arts things, but these are the full-lengths in the picture. I usually try to corral smaller manuscripts into larger projects, so most of my work eventually winds up longer book form eventually.

girl show (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)

the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013)

in the bird museum ( Dusie Press, 2008)

the fever almanac (Ghost Road Press, 2006)

SMF: I remember getting the fever almanac years ago at an AWP conference and reading it on the plane on the way home. I love that book. Do you think your work has changed much since then, and if so, in what ways? Do you have a favorite child among your published work?

KB: I think the newest baby is always the most favored baby, so in many ways some of the things that I am working on now (like the radio ocularia pieces) are my most favorites, and eventually, they’ll be outshined by something else. I’ve fallen in and out of love with older books sometimes and for a long time, that has been happening with the fever almanac. It was my first book, and some of the poems are going on 15 or so years since I wrote them, but I think the primary difference may be in how I constructed a poem circa 2000 and how I construct poems now. When I was writing that book, I typically would sit down and just write from zero, maybe with a sort of vague idea of what I wanted to do in any given poem. Over the years, my approach has become more collage-like, looser, more about process and creating something from nothing rather than writing toward something. There’s less chance for frustration and failure sometimes that way…

SMF: What's your dream press/who is your dream editor to work with, if you haven't already?

KB: I have a book coming out next year, major characters in minor films, with Sundress Publications (who also published my little e-chap I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO a couple years back.) and I am very excited to work with Erin Elizabeth Smith, who I’ve know what seems like forever, beginning with the Sundress cornerstone journal, Stirring, being one of the first e-journals to accept poems from me way back in 2001. wicked alice also joined up with Sundress a few years later and dgp published Erin’s chap Chainsaw Bears in 2009. She is also one of the coolest poetry people I’ve met in person and just as crazy as me in terms of dreaming big, so I’m excited.

SMF: What do you think about friends publishing friends? Do you feel that, once you've been active in literary communities--online, as well as your regional scene—that it's actually becomes challenging to avoid sending your work to publications where you know or have blurbed/reviewed/published the editor? Is there a line somewhere that shouldn't be crossed, or is it silly to be caught up in thinking that way?

KB: I've always looked at my roll as an editor as wholly curatorial, an effort to bring attention to work that I find interesting, which may or may not come from poets I know (either as friends, fellow editors, etc) . After a while in the literary community (as both an editor and a writer) you sort of start to be at least familiar with most of your peers and come across the same people over and over again. I've always looked at the general community as more overlapping circles of small communities and we try to draw from as many of those communities as we can (also, I suppose there are more emerging writers who haven't yet become a part of any community, really and we like to pull some of theme in as well.). I think I'd be immediately turned off if I saw a journal or press only publishing the close personal friends of it's editors, just as I'd be a little suspect of a writer who was solely published by their friends. the dgp list is a mix of people I know (if only online) and people I've never met. I don't really worry about it.

SMF: You mentioned your literary journal, wicked alice, and you're also editor of dancing girl press. How long have these projects been running?

KB: I started wicked alice in 2001, which in hindsight is sort of the toddling years of online journals. dgp was sort of a print offshoot and we put out our first title in 2004. I still struggle with devoting enough time to the journal now that the press seems to have swallowed it whole, so it’s not as regular as it once was. In 2012, we switched from issues to regularly updated content (which is still less regular than I would like), but we’re still trucking along when I get the chance to update it.

SMF: I love the aesthetic of dgp. Can you speak a bit about your obvious reverence for books as crafted objects, especially as publishing shifts more toward the digital?

KB: Over the years, I’ve tried to re-imagine what was possible with the idea of chapbook and so far, we’ve released things that don’t always fit the mold. Rebecca Dunham’s Fascicle is a sheaf of pages and prints in a box. Michaela Gabriels The Secret History of Greek Letters (now out of print) was a deck of cards. An anthology project, billet-deux, was a box of love letters by various artists/authors. In 2007, my own project of Joseph Cornell inspired poems, at the hotel andromeda, was an envelope filled with postcards of artwork by my collaborator Lauren Levato and various ephemera. I’m currently working on another box project, unusual creatures, featuring both text and collage inspired by vintage cabinet card photos. I feel like all of these things can really only exist as physical objects.

SMF: Is there a title in the dgp catalog that you thought, when you published it, was a real evolution for the press, a kind of yes, this is it, this is what I want to be putting out into the world moment for you?

KB: In terms of design, at the hotel andromeda was definitely a turn toward re-imagining what we could do with the idea of the book. In terms of content, while all of the books we publish I feel are a re-iteration of our mission, I feel it’s especially true with those by emerging writers. Writers with very little publication at this point under their belt. The sort of books that just come out of nowhere and knock your socks off. Earlier today, I posted a snippet from Laura Mei Roghaar’s Sisterhouse from last year and this is definitely one of those books. Maybe it’s my own fascination with mermaidy/sea themed things in my own work, but it’s worth checking out.

SMF: If you weren't a poet, editor, book-maker and publisher, what would you be doing?

KB: My day job is in an academic library, so I would probably just be a librarian of some sort or an archivist. As a teenager, I waffled continually over a number of possible careers though, everything from interior designer to lawyer. I actually started my freshman year of college with plans to be a marine biologist but was horrible at math and ill-destined to be a scientist of any kind.

SMF: What are you reading right now? What's on your bedside table?

KB: I have been making my way through Gretchen Henderson’s Gallerie de Deformite. We published her chapbook, Wreckage, a couple of years back, and there are so many exciting things happening in the text. I also tend to read novels (sometimes terribly trashy) on my hour-long both ways commute, so I move through those pretty quickly, the most recent of which was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.


  1. It is great to see authors promoting other authors. I have friends who have shelves with books on their Facebook pages/websites. I check out which books are on their shelves. I love the idea of publishing stories/poems as a deck of cards, box of letters, etc. I like your answer to how your process has changed. An author can't really tell his/her characters how to be, and I think we have less control when it comes to poetry. A poem becomes what it wants to be, and we just write it down for others to enjoy.