The Next Big Thing Q&A

Lee Sharkey, esteemed poet and co-editor of Beloit Poetry Journal, tagged me for this interview. Her amazing book, Calendars of Fire, is now available from Tupelo Press. You can read her Next Big Thing Q&A here. My Q&A follows below.

What is the title of your book?

Curio.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Curio is an exploration of things we collect and hold close, from relationships to artifacts to folk tales.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I have always had a fascination with the way people define themselves. I often listen to people describe favorite knickknacks, tell folk tales, or share family stories. Sw. Anand Prahlad once said to me that the slim volume of contemporary American poetry is much like a fetish cabinet. From the marriage of my interests and this idea and my partner's love of antiques, the book was born.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?

Parts of this manuscript had been in progress for eight years. The organization and poems kept changing. The final version took a few months thanks to the incredible feedback and generosity of talented writers Christine Spillson and Claire McQuerry.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I found inspiration in volumes of lore and odd happenings, in late night diner conversations, in my past, in old maps, in roadside attractions, in antique shops and strange museums. I also found inspiration from fine writers such as, Nicholas Samaras, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Daniel Simko, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Alexandra Teague, Kimberly Johnson, Claire McQuerry and Karen Brown. Really, at the heart of it was the love of what people carry with them from day to day to remind them who they are. I think I get that fascination from my mother.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Elixir Press in 2014. It won their 13th Annual Poetry Award's Judge's Prize judged by Jane Satterfield.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

I don't think I would. I have a hard time with questions like that. I can say it shares spirit with books like Kathryn Neurnberger's Rag & Bone and Teague's Mortal Geography, but I would not necessarily compare my work to theirs.

What actors would you choose to play the characters in your book?

You, the reader & whoever the cast of characters are in your life.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

It is wide-ranging in its interests. It is in four sections, each named after something that could be found in a curio cabinet. The first section, Specimens, deals with the pieces of my own life and beliefs I have picked up along the way. The second, Talismans, is a collection of tales people tell from the Mad Gasser of Mattoon to the tale of a lake in northern India filled with human skeletons. The third section is Grave Goods. It consists of many different forms of elegy. The final section is Correspondences. This section chronicles the way people define themselves against others--mainly in very personal ways. I am also lucky to have an amazing painting by Madeline von Foerster for the cover.

I am tagging the shockingly talented novelist Joanna Luloff for her forthcoming book from Algonquin Books, tentatively titled, Remind Me Again What Happened. Here is Joanna's one sentence description: "Claire, her estranged husband Charlie, and their mutual friend Rachel take turns offering up their version of the past after Claire suffers memory loss from a pesky mosquito bite." Here is her awesome interview.

I am also tagging Nicholas Samaras, for his forthcoming book of poetry from Ashland Poetry Press, American Psalm, World Psalm. Nick describes the book as "a rendering of contemporary psalms formatted to evoke modern music:  American blues, jazz, folk, and world music, all mirrored after the 150 Biblical psalms." I will put up links to his interview as soon as they are available!