Monday, April 28, 2014

Interview with Amy King, by Stacia M. Fleegal

#BLauthor5 is poet Amy King. If you haven't checked out her poems yet, do that here and let us know what you think in the comments.

The art slideshow for this post is by Joseph R. Trombatore.

For now, here's a conversation I had with Amy recently about activism, her poetic process, and some of her current favorite writers:

SMF: Will you provide a list of your published books and chapbooks so readers can become obsessed with you (in only non-skeevy, brain-awe ways)?



SMF:  I think of you as a very active, and activist, poet. Whether I'm reading a funny comment or an article you've linked up to on Facebook or a blog post you've written, I'm always impressed with how you temper passion with intellect to make valid point after valid point in critique of the establishment of poetry. When, in your evolution as a poet, did you start to really feel this fire? And do you feel your activism is integral to your poetry, or that your poetry is integral to your activism, or both, or neither?
AK: I've done overt activist work since I left home as a teen, into college, from clinic defense to counter marches in D.C. to doing a range of actions with groups akin to ACT UP, etc.  Some think I'm a busy body but I don't know how to be in this world without thinking about social justice and this extends into my poetics, I suppose.  My first acts as a poet were to get rid of God the Father when I started writing poetry after high school (those notebooks are hidden well now). 

SMF: This (effing brilliant) statement from your two-part guest post for the Rumpus last summer, on the detriment of groups/cliques in po biz: "What is at stake for me is the necessity of evolving a conversation that begins to examine our complicity in accepting, without critique, the establishment and perpetuation of closed groups as a base of social organization, including within the poetry world - where pluralities that might find ways of coexisting, cooperatively, are reduced to value markers and the capitalist order is reified." What are the bullet points to starting or developing that conversation? What is the most maddening thing you encounter on po biz, and that you would wave away in an instant if given a magic wand?

AK: These statements are ideals, while the realization of a world that serves one's self and others equally is obviously more difficult to envision and enact. Likewise, there are no easy solutions for the magic wand to target. In that Rumpus statement, I'm reductively referring to high school cliques while the groups I'm speaking about are grappling with more complexities than I can account for in my post. However, I'm getting at the fact that we all make choices, that groups don't simply happen to us, and in some cases, it's easier to be more obviously self-serving at a cost to others that one's privilege (& ambition) allows one to overlook. An initial surface read by demographics: do a quick survey of who has been invited into a group and notice who is left out, tokenized, etc. Of course, I'm not beyond groups, but evolving groups into communities requires concerted efforts that not everyone is willing to make or thinks will benefit them, one of the primary modus operandi going.  

SMF: Switching gears to your poetry: what's your creative process like? You aren't writing straightforward, highly accessible, narrative poems. Do you sit down and say, I'm going to write a poem about my deceased grandmother/ex-lover/dog/mail delivery person, or do snippets of lines or phrases, or a certain image, come to you first?

AK: I carry around a notebook and write things down that strike me oddly or that I mishear or that simply stand out when I read a book: the "poetic" as folks call those unusual life blips.  At some point, I make a poem out of those snippets. Or sometimes I sit down and write one directly from my head in one go. I edit a little later on. That's my process. Often, I repeat a noteworthy soundbite in several poems and try to link those echoing poems together in a book. I'm a poet, which affords me the luxury of not sitting at a computer composing everyday. I encourage my students to write while they do their days, rather than forcing themselves to sit at a desk like the proverbial desk jockey of writer biopics. I just have them try it on for size to create the habit, while some tell me they are best at their desks for hours at a time. On another note, I have some narrative poems that are accessible, though they are easily missed in the lovely cacophony.  

SMF: And how about revision? Scalpel or chainsaw?

AK: Scalpel and one eye. 

SMF: Can we talk about VIDA for a hot minute? In what capacity(ies) do you work with VIDA, and what would you like readers to know about the organization? What can the average reader or writer do to help ensure gender equality in publishing?

AK: That'll take more than a hot minute. In brief, please check out our website and stroll through the discussion forums for lots of discussions about syllabi and when women's novels dominated the literary world, etc. I plug the site because it is informative and my domain!  And you won't regret it, guaranteed. At minimum, check out the 2013 VIDA Count!

SMF:  In the last six months or so, who are some poets, or what are some books, that have blown your mind?

AK: Well, since Bill Knott died, I've been revisiting his first two books, which are just these incredibly delicate, bold things that twist the brain's pathways most pleasantly. I also recently received Action Book's awesome four book deal, including work by Lucas de Lima, Kim Hyesoon, Valerie Mejer and Abraham Smith (actually, I'm still waiting on the Smith book to arrive). I also just acquired Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s latest, Interstices, and am looking forward to diving into that!  Finally if you really want to get hot & bothered, check out R. Erica Doyle's proxy. I interviewed her for that gorgeousness at BOOG CITY.

Thanks, Amy!

About the artist: Joseph R. Trombatore is an artist and poet whose work has appeared in: Travois: An Anthology of Texas Poetry, Right Hand Pointing (online), Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas, and elsewhere. His poetry collection, Screaming at Adam, was awarded the Wings Press Chapbook Prize in 2007, and one of his poems received the 2011 Larry D. Thomas Poetry Prize (REAL, Regarding Arts & Letters). Other honors include two Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net Anthology nomination. Former Poetry Editor of: The Houston Literary Review (online) and Founder/Publisher of the defunct online journal, Radiant Turnstile, he now resides in San Antonio.