Thanks to Christopher Kondrich for tagging me to be a part of The Next Big Thing-- a series of self-interviews that travels from poet to poet. You should read his interview here! For now, here are my thoughts about Slope Move!
What is the working title of the book?
The title of the book is Slope Move. People ask about it all the time. I was running one evening in Chicago (when I badly wanted to leave Chicago) and the phrase "rise over run" kept repeating itself over and over in my head. This happens often when I walk, ride the subway, etc.--some word or grouping of words makes its way in and soundtracks the passing time. I started thinking about the implications of that phrase and also the mathematical idea of the slope formula which defines the slope of a straight line (two points).
Parallel lines have equal slope. The thing about parallel lines, though, is that they exist on a plane, following the same path, but never intersect. This division is illustrated many times in the poems.
The phrase "slope move" just sort of stuck.
Slope Movement is also a process where gravity acts on a geologic material like soil or rock and moves it downslope--like a landslide. Slopes naturally have a resisting force depending upon 1) their cohesion and 2) the amount of internal friction between material.
It wasn't until later that I realized that Slope Move could also be an anagram for 'love poems'--which the book really is, in its entirety.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
All of the sections of the poem are derived from real-life events; they use autobiographical narratives as the basis for communicating what I hope to be more subtle shifts in the way language adds to or complicates loss. For instance, the first section of Slope Move describes what happens emotionally following a car accident/death which deeply impacts the two people who interact throughout the poem.
"The book" itself was never an idea-- what really happened is that I kept writing essentially the same poem over and over again, and eventually realized it was actually one long poem. I am fixated on separations, deviations. I feel like the conflict they contain or produce creates transformation, in that separations are movements that help us recognize real joy, help us understand and see the strength of connection. Juliana Spahr generously said--"It is through this motion that SLOPE MOVE is attentive to the quaking that makes everyone in relation to everyone else."
What genre does your book fall under?
poetry of departure / poetry of internal friction / poetry of the two-body problem / poetry of truth = perception / poetry of getting in the car & driving to the next destination
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It's hard to imagine the movie version of Slope Move because people are purposefully unnamed and formed only by the events they navigate.
Lake Michigan would play itself.
Someone understated yet powerful could play probably all of the females in the book. Like Sarah Polley.
And some characters would end up on the cutting room floor.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
There was no second draft, third draft, etc. per se. There are pieces of poems from 2007 that ended up in Slope Move. I'd say that the bulk of the book was written from 2008-2010, so I guess roughly two years.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Once, someone perplexed by the quiet of my poetry vs. the dynamism of my personality told me that I was too funny "in real life" to write "such serious" poems. That same person also told me that my work contained too many subtle shifts and asked too much of the reader. I was implored to write funnier, hipper, tougher poems, poems that looked "more like me."
For a year I tried to write those poems and they looked nothing "like me." I certainly couldn't find the seam that neatly delineated "real life" and "poetry." I kept finding myself indulging my fixations, like a rebellious act, and even began "translating"/re-telling poems that I had already written, hopeful that in the act of recalling, more possibility within the narrative would reveal itself, more splits would emerge. After all, isn't it the narrow miss or the just-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth that often ends up surprising us by showing us something completely different?
City landscapes and their capacity for movement, mass experience, and solitude inspired the book.
Dreams. Memory. Conversations that, over time when recalled, felt more and more surreal.
The obsessive lens of Yayoi Kusama. Thalia Field's Point and Line. Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. My friends. The apartments (6) I lived in while writing this book.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Not that it is necessarily overt or apparent, but half of this book takes place in Oakland, CA, and the other half in Chicago.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am lucky to be published by the fantastic Coconut Books. Slope Move was released in December and is available here!
Next up: Eleni Sikelianos, Richard Siken, Krystal Languell