Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dara Wier Talks to Ben Mirov

Dara Wier: Ben, are you still the recording angel Zachary Schomburg suggests you are?

Ben Mirov: I’m probably more of a recorder than an angel. My personality is kind of flat and suited for observation more than interaction. Sometimes, I feel like a huge eyeball.

I like the idea of being a recorder. I think I’m at my best, poetry-wise, when I’m acting like a recording machine that’s trying to articulate the unfolding of a poem in my brain. If I’m any kind of angel, it’s by accident. Or because I’m terrified of not being liked or breaking the rules or causing trouble.

I like being mentioned in the same sentence as Zachary. He is sincere and kind in a preternatural way. Although I may be a little biased towards Zach because Octopus Books, the press he runs with Mathias Svalina and Alisa Heinzman, is publishing my next book. Knowing he has anything to say about me or my writing feels rad.

DW: You do have that great longish poem “Eye, Ghost” in Ghost Machine, so I feel as if I know something about the kind of eyeball you might be.

Someone is going to let me look through her eyeball through its pupil to see inside her brain; she’s studying medicine. Your poems lots of times feel accurately and carefully enunciated, as if what’s in them has to be treated carefully, it’s that fragile out there, how do you do that?

BM: I think the enunciation of “fragility” comes about due to two aspects of the way I write. The first aspect is the content of the poems. I care to write about things that tend towards fragility, like emotions; memory; love; consciousness; relationships; etcetera (The content of my writing is unremarkable. I feel like I write about things people have written about since humans began to write).

The second aspect is the way I revise poems. I revise work over long periods of time. I write a lot, but only foster a small percentage of the poems I write into their mature forms. Once I finish the bulk of a poem, I dwell on it, or file it away and come back to it, sometimes over the period of years. Because I want to enhance the content of what I write, I try to help the form of each poem catalyze its content as I revise. I edit lines down for grammatical simplicity, so that they, hopefully, attain a structural integrity and or lyrical quality that bolsters their “fragile” content. I break lines and or tease out rhymes that enhance the poems object-like qualities. All this is in order to embody the ephemera of the content without undermining it. After a while, if a poem is successful, it takes an advantageous form, one that will hopefully enable it to deliver its messages and survive entropic dissipation.

DW: Wow, I just read your poems “#0.99999” and “#23.33” in the new notnostrums, with atoms and little dots and a very wonderful notice that goes along the lines of “…you only see once / and you don't get to share.” That directly speaks to surving entropic dissipation. Thanks for saying how your work develops, and finally, can you tell me something about the titles I mention. I love 9s for sure, so 3s are great too.

BM: I love nines and threes, too. Those poems in notnostrums are from a collection of poems called the Analects of Confusion, loosely based on the Analects of Confucius, of which I’ve only read a few pages. I thought it would be funny to write a bunch of poems that had a didactic tone, but sort of undermined there moral authority by spiraling into confusion and ambiguity. Using numbers as titles was my idea of cataloging the poems in a completely unorganized manner. Most of the time the number relates to the content of the poem. In the case of the ones in notnostrums, “#0.99999” was intended to have the little line over the last nine [#0.99999], which is a mathematical symbol denoting that the series of nines extends infinitely. Most of the moments in the poem are similar in that they meditate on mysteries that aren’t resolved. The poem moves from paradox to paradox without resolution sort of like the potentially endless string of 9s represented by the title. Also, “0.99999” is on the verge of being the number 1.0, much like the poem, which is on the verge of understanding without ever reaching it. I don’t remember why I went with the title “#23.33,” maybe I thought it was a funny number or it just appealed to me.

Ben Mirov reads this Friday at Studio One with Cassandra Smith, music by Peter Burghardt. Be there!

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