Many thanks to the editors of Jenny magazine, a fine journal out of Youngstown, Ohio, for this interview.
Here’s a sneak peek:
What is your personal creative process normally like? How do you move from an idea to a finished piece?
My process is always frantic, so it’s a good thing that I’m a poet and can work in a compressed form. I do best when I jot down my thoughts before writing, so when I actually get a spare moment I can jump right in with minimal fanfare. For me, the drafting process is relatively quick, and then I save the file and back away from the desk and let it rest for a while. I try to write without second guessing, and I like finishing a poem in one sitting.
Right now I am almost done with a new collection that is all prose poems, and with this book I have tried to write longer poems in multiple installments. The majority of the poems in this project are organized into five stanzagraphs, and having some distance from the poem’s initial stanzas can help me craft effective turns. Often I’ll over-write a poem, and then go back and trim excess before considering it finished. I do reach a point where I stop tinkering, however, rather than feeling like a poem is never done.
It’s CZARmania here in Akron, OH, and we couldn’t be more pleased. But how to get a copy of this book for yourself, when it hasn’t officially been released yet? Allow me to elaborate.
A limited number of advance copies of THE CZAR will be sold at EarthQuaker Day in downtown Akron, thanks to the awesome folks of the Big Big Mess Reading Series. Stop by their table at the event and they will hook you up with your czar (until they are sold out).
We’re also thrilled to share the news of our czar release party reading on Saturday, August 13th at Annabell’s in Akron, thanks (once again) to the Big Big Mess Reading Series. We’ll have copies of the book available for purchase, and you can have one, or both, of the authors autograph them, in addition to hearing us read live.
Finally, the lovely folks of Black Lawrence Press are still offering pre-orders of THE CZAR at a discount price. Hop on this deal before it’s over!
Unboxing The Czar was extra emotional because it’s Jay’s first book. It was also impossible to do just the perfunctory flip-through with this book, because it’s pretty funny, and I found myself reading it again (and again) at odd moments when I should have been doing something else. The Czar is about a lot of things: a hyperbolically ridiculous fictional figurehead, the white noise of our present day, sexy underpants and odd recipes, family histories we might be best to forget, pop culture and its trash.
I think this book shows that collaboration can create something entirely new, not just a fusion of narratives and styles. Maybe that’s why I am so damn proud of this one. We took some risks, and let the book lead the way. I hope readers enjoy The Czar!
On THE CZAR:
The poems of The Czar by Mary Biddinger and Jay Robinson stand at the intersection of ironic political commentary and hyperbolized body currency. In the world of this collection, the Czar is a figurehead replete with ceremony and artificial gestures. But is he provocative humor or allegorical heft? And what happens when power is passed to the powerless in a secret handshake that’s more tongue on tongue than tongue-in-cheek? This book-length collaboration pivots between comic interludes and satirical exposés, at its heart the rhythm of the present tense, history’s most unreliable narrator no matter the king or kingdom.
July already? Soon we’ll be proofing pages of The Czar, and I’ll be getting the Akron Poetry Prize finalists off to the judge, and then: czar watch. The birth of The Czar is especially exciting because it’s Jay‘s first book. The unboxing will be even more meaningful.
My summer World Lit class was a true delight (what a brilliant bunch of readers and thinkers). It seems like I enjoy teaching more and more with every class. As of this fall semester, it’ll be my 20th year of teaching college English. So happy that I am nowhere near disenchanted after all this time.
Goals: once I’ve read these manuscripts (468 total) I need to write some poems and send them out. I need to revise some poems I’ve already written, and to send them out. Here and there I have been making notes for poems, but soon I need to write those poems.
Over at Twitter I’ve been posting a poetry prompt every Wednesday. Friends and students and former students often ask me for prompts over the summer, so I decided to make it a #summerofprompts feature for everyone to check out. Here’s a sample.
Happy July to all! Maybe next week I’ll have a sneak peek at the first pages for The Czar. There’s nothing like the excitement of bringing a new book into the world.
This book is not a book, it’s treatise on empire, a manifest destiny, a pack of wild peasants outside the gate, a mesmerizing tour d’effluvia in its Czar not Czar, throne not throne, overthrown mistresses, Lady Czar is no Czarina, cappuccino foam isn’t foam, revolution was a hoax, naming and renaming, unlearned cursive, unheard flute solo, empire under construction, not New York, not Sacramento, non-tabloids, non-violent non-women. Biddinger and Robinson rebuild our world and take it away piece by piece to show the conviviality of our destruction.
–Elizabeth Colen, author of They Could No Longer Contain Themselves
We’ve packed up the boxes of books and buttons, and look forward to bringing a whole lot of Akron to AWP LA. California is my birth state, and I always find it both strange and welcoming. Below please find this year’s dance card.
I’ll be spending most of the days representing the University of Akron Press at table #313 in the bookfair. Stop on by to check out our beautiful new books. Also, I’ll be reading from Small Enterprise and signing copies, thanks to Black Lawrence Press. And finally, please consider checking out our awesome UA Press offsite event with Cleveland State University Poetry Center and Rescue Press.
I’ll be reading from Small Enterprise at the BLP offsite & party
Thursday, March 31st
7:00 pm, CB1 Gallery
Black Lawrence Press offsite reading
Please join us for a reading by authors from the University of Akron Press, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, and Rescue Press
Friday, April 1st
7:00 pm, Seahorse Sound Studios
The Midwest Goes West: A Mixtape for LA
I’ll be signing copies of Small Enterprise at the BLP booth (#1526) from 1:00-2:00 on Saturday, April 2nd
Safe travels to California, convention-goers! To the many folks who showed their support for the UA Press during our rather dramatic summer, please stop by table 313 to get your POETRY LIVES button, along with our sincere thanks.