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Why did you choose the title “Marys of the Sea?”

Well, I love the ocean. It is vast and dangerous and calming and tumultuous—it is both familiar yet mysterious. Since the book itself is a retelling of my own experiences as a sexual assault survivor, of someone who had an abortion (as a result of the assault), I used the ocean as a metaphorical, and sometimes, physical landscape to the book.

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Antelopes run toward in armored florescence
—their breath the shape of faces in windowglass.
You sit & watch starlings make nests.

At one time, humans crawled on hearts greased silver
—left a trail dazzling daughters unborn, surrendering
miles. Killing them with perennials in curried fire.

Wolves follow us through subway cars, their obsession
propels them past honey bones stretched to oblivion;
bunches of lines shaped in half-circles, reaching out for us.

Ten paces away, water dragons devour emeralds
from the hands of children. Their teeth gnash
skin—blood puddles stretch into slanted metal walls.

Above ground, a paper moon wanes west—
making my slender waist more slender: empty nest.

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Have you ever done a self-interview before?

Isn’t that what writing is?

 

Are you going to answer every question with another question?

Is that a problem?

 

Do you write every day?

I read more than I write.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m in the middle of Charles Martin’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and The Education of Henry Adams.

is not a man being swallowed by a fish
with eyes like eight point throwing stars
it’s a man being swallowed by a war
a man being taken into the mouth of a woman
or being swallowed by his work

it’s a man traveling far inside a book
a man being swallowed up in smoke
he swallows the smoke, that blends around him like a thought
it’s a man being swallowed by a sound
he shapes it so he lives inside a song

Hi, Karen. Thanks for taking time to talk to TNB today.

My Pleasure. This is way more fun than what I usually do while my kids are at school.

A grocery store is a good place to hide. Do not underestimate your own resourcefulness, your strength. Comfort one another trapped, away from loved ones, but do not fear your thirst. Work together to see babies again or to avenge their deaths. If the zombies find you, bash their slack-mouthed heads against linoleum tile with five-gallon bottles of Tide, gouge the brain with beer bottles and broom handles. Barricade! Barricade! Barricade! with fifty-pound bags of dog food. Do not use sides of beef obviously or shopping carts which roll. Unfurl and plaster aluminum foil over windows until it’s gone. In a pinch, find the picnic supplies and un-fold all the paper tablecloths. Hang them over the long windows in double layers with packing tape from the stationery aisle. If you make it through the night, avoid using the P.A. to rally those left among you, as zombies have keen hearing. Instead, a crude telephone, something like you and your cousin devised, when you were kids, decades ago and far away from the city, with empty soup cans and long, long string and bunkers of unfathomable time.

by-chelsea-bieker

Good Afternoon!

Good Afternoon! Writing to you from Miami—I’m in my hotel lobby. There is a beautiful strange wood ceiling, incense burning, and cacti. And everyone is walking through in bathing suits.

Some of the elements of life
will survive microbial disaster,
will refuse to recognize us,
will come up to the newspapers
and affect a response.

Descartes found himself in the bright blue
strong wind of the northern climate. There,
the erratic queen demanded he give her philosophy
at five in the morning and, calling in a cold,
he died.

 

All your books are unique in the sense that you wrote them in English and French. Can you tell us about your process?

French is my mother tongue but English became the dominant language when I moved to the United States. Actually it took over even before, when I wrote my thesis on Henry James for my Masters at the Sorbonne. I was already an anglophile, having lived and studied in England, and I loved writing in English. So I wrote my first book in English. It was my first publisher’s idea that I present it as a bilingual collection. This turned out to be a brilliant idea because the books become a dance between languages.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea 

                                                                   ―E.E. Cummings

The angel who smells of my childhood
My mother, piano and oboe
Whose face the icon reflects
Auburn hair like a Modigliani
Eyes the color of rain

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Where are you now?

In my apartment in New York City. Eating mac n’ cheese. I just got back from having a few beers with an old friend, TJ.

Nebraska

By Devin Kelly

Poem

If you know a quiet that sings
the song of footsteps, if you know
an open window is an invitation
to trespass on another home’s
scent, if you know the lesson
of the Bible that says the man
who holds the taste of blood
in his mouth is the one who holds
the truth, if you know tall grass

Whats the difference between poetry and other writing?

Poetry is writing minus the traffic lights, bridges, and boring parts.

Maxine doesn’t only love men’s bodies. She wants to grasp the logic
of their internal organs. She craves blueprints, circuit diagrams,

sewing patterns. First time she saw Frankenstein she wasn’t afraid.
She wanted to know how the mad doctor did it,

where to get dead people parts, which graves were best
for culling, whether a whole family of ladybugs

could live inside those zombie bellies.
When the high school guidance counselor

asked the inevitable career question, she told her
all she really cared about was weaving back and forth

between the inner and outer life of people, what you could see,
what you couldn’t, writing down what she found there,

taking ideas apart and putting them back together
to make them more ecstatic.

 

Terry Wolverton: Douglas, I first spoke with you about the dis•articulations project at the opening for “Oasis,” an art exhibition at Descanso Gardens in which poets and artists made work that responded to the landscape. I described to you how each month I was asking a different Los Angeles poet to collaborate with me on a series of exchanges that would result in new poems by both of us. The process was this: We would each find four poetry prompts in the media (print, broadcast or social), something we did not generate. We would exchange those prompts and use them to do four different segments of “fevered writing” (timed writing, without specific intention, a word spill for 3 minutes.) Then we would exchange the fevered writing, and write new poems using the words given to us by the other. So your poem would be comprised of words I had given you; my poem would be comprised of words you had given me. We didn’t have to use every word we were given, but we couldn’t add any words.

I remember feeling shy about asking whether you might consider participating, and was over-the-moon thrilled when you said you would. What made you decide to say yes?

 

Douglas Kearney: We’ve known each other for a minute, Terry, and I remember fondly our discussion about your adaptation of Embers for opera. I think it gave us an insight into each other’s ways of approaching language. At the time of your invitation, if I recall correctly, I had been kind of off-the-grid, locally. Holed up. It was a good way to get back out with someone I respect but hadn’t worked with in a creative capacity for some time.

I mentioned at a Dis•Articulations reading that I connected the approach to sample chopping—like say, Bob James’ “Nautilus” as sampled by 9th Wonder on “Murray’s Revenge.” Were you drawing the project frame from any particular aesthetic traditions?