Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Alli Warren talks with kathryn l. pringle

Alli Warren: fault tree seems concerned with relativity, and how relativity affects time & "event.” Can you speak some about malleable reality, or realities in the book? The book seems to represent a distrust of Time. Does it distrust Space equally? ["HERE depends"]. Do you? Would you prefer an objective world not determined by perspective, or do you find comfort in how we each create our own realities? ["if time bends / then bend back // if it suits you"]

kathryn l. pringle: The book's "I" does, very much so, distrust both Time and Space. But the two are so linked and that’s where I agree with the narrator.

I find time and space to be the primary makers of place - and place is fundamental to human actions (I considered saying "existence" there but then I realized that I don't believe that) as it provides a place for humans to act. In turn, the making of place is also the shaping of identity. This is where both the narrator’s (and at times my own) distrust and hope lie - in humans as makers of places. Reality is malleable in this way and I do take comfort in that because I have feelings about it.

Objective worlds/realities cannot exist. I can't even imagine it really - though I know people have tried to create them (in places and pages). If my grasp of certain ideals and ideas around objective worlds were even somewhat reflective of what you mean by the question --- I'd say I abhor the thought. I'd have to stop feeling in such a world and I rather enjoy having feelings. But, note - I'm speaking from this place and time (which is constantly being made and unmade) when answering the question.

AW: Can you say more about the place of your current situation? I imagine some of Oakland and the Bay Area seeps in? If so, how? How does geographic place affect your writing?

klp: Oakland is huge in my writing right now. I'm writing a novel now and the cities (there are only two so far) in the novel borrow a lot from Oakland's downtown/uptown --- and Adam's Point --- so I'd say that situates me pretty plainly. Oakland is in fault tree, too - "there's no me there." 

Place affects every aspect of my writing but I think mostly in that I live in the USA and I'm fascinated by how we made/make this country. I'd say everything I write - and most overtly the novel I'm writing now - is about the un/re/making of this country. I don't think I'll ever run out of things to say on this matter.

AW: I'm curious about the one "poem" in the book (which the perspective/narrator refers to as a poem because of its form (couplets)). Can you tell me about what it was like to write this poem? & How it may be different from other writing in the book?

klp: Yeah, that part is a good example of how architecture influences the book (and RNB too)...

I consider poems (words) environments. It is important to me that readers feel autonomous and feel compelled to enter the environment and move through it how they please. But it is also important to me that the book is its own environment and leads the reader through it, too. So I have markers (not titles) and imperfect page breaks, etc. I don't know where I got the idea that couplets = love (I want to give Gillian Conoley credit for this but I maybe just put it together that way in my head while studying with her as an undergrad) but for me... poems in couplets are love poems. 

There are various clues to "the monument" in the book (and snow) and that place in the book is a monument. It had to be built as such. It towers and has a distinct shape. If the book could be laid out as a city it would be the tallest building in the city. It is imposing. It casts.

So, in a way it is different - the writing - because it is what looms over the environment of the book. It is, perhaps, the origin of the narrator's emotional distress and humanness. It felt very heavy to write. It felt like the hinge of the book and was actually written quite early in the book's life so it makes sense that I consider it a place of origin. I think it was after I wrote that (we can get into whether or not I write anything if you want) that I got that - this-is-going-to-be-a-book feeling. 

AW: Let’s get into it. Do you write anything or not?

klp: O geez. Yes. I write. But I'm definitely not in charge. I feel more like the custodian of my work. The work does what it does... it comes through how it comes through... it is only my job to try and get it into the world and represent it (read it) as well as I can. I know I'm writing a book when I've disappeared from it. 

AW: You say, "It is important to me that the reader feels autonomous and feels compelled to enter the environment and move through it how they please." Do you feel that if you can create (thru the writing) an environment in which a reader feels autonomous, that that might somehow affect a reader in the reality outside the book? In the sense that they may begin to feel more autonomous in other areas of their lives, in “the real world”? Maybe this is a spooky question, or a question about your relationship to politics & poetry. I mean to ask if you have any big ideas about what you wish poetry could do, or bold (perhaps "irrational"?) claims about what poetry can do, versus, say, voting.

klp: My short answers: yes. yes. maybe.

See, the problem with wanting poetry to do something... something big and bold and political and world changing... is getting people to hear it. I think oftentimes poetry is preaching to the choir. And yes, it still does something in a real-world way. Someone can be affected by something read and that something read is processed and then comes through that someone and into someone else's world.

I want people to be autonomous. I want people to have agency. 

I don't have a political agenda - unless just wanting people to think for themselves can be construed as a political agenda.

I'm not saying that a book that comes through me is going to give anyone either of those things. I'm saying the making sense of the book requires a reader. And I don't mean it in the "a book can do nothing until it is opened" sort of way (tho that is true). I mean... if the writing in the book doesn't require anything of a reader but to turn the page... I don't know that I can say it is doing much. It is entertainment. And that's valuable. I get that. But it isn't what I want to write. And it isn't usually the poetry I want to read.

AW: What for you do poets do (if anything)? Or what can poets do? Or what do you want poetry to do? Create environments?

klp: The poetry I'm most interested in reading and hearing does something. Yes. Creates an environment. Builds meaning and place with the reader/audience. Comments on society. I have trouble stomaching pretty for pretty's sake in all things - or clever for clever's sake.

AW: You say, "I know I'm writing a book when I've disappeared from it," and you talk about being a custodian of the work. What is this thing that moves through you? Or what force makes the writing when you disappear? Is this "talent"? Or something psychic or spiritual or the thing that makes you a poet in the first place. Or is it just plain old Martians?

klp: Not Martians... though I wonder if this is what Spicer meant by Martians. 

I have the same experience when I'm running long distances. The part of myself that is usually forward and most present in my body recedes and energy fills the front and center of me. It isn't that I’m gone from myself completely... I'm just hanging out behind the energy - I’ve disappeared from the action. 

I think a lot of people experience this. I'm sure there's a name for it. 

I know runners and writers that don't disappear at all. They are present for every single mile or word. It sounds grueling to me. I’m a pretty resilient person but I don't like to suffer quite that much. 

I’ve tried to put together manuscripts without that experience and they aren't very compelling. I wouldn't be a good custodian for them. 

Whatever it really is... I'm grateful to it. It allows me to finish things. 

Alli Warren is the author of Grindin (Lew Gallery), Acting Out (Editions Louis Wain), Well-Meaning White Girl (Mitzvah Chaps), and Cousins (Lame House Press). With Michael Nicoloff, she wrote Eunoia (Abraham Lincoln) and Bruised Dick. In 2013, City Lights will publish her first book. Recent writing appears in Lana Turner Journal, Where Eagles Dare, and Saginaw. From 2008 through 2010, she co-curated The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand. Currently, she co-edits the Poetic Labor Project, and lives in Oakland.


kathryn l. pringle is an American poet living in Oakland, Ca. She is the author of fault tree (winner of Omindawn’s 1st/2nd book prize selected by C.D. Wright), RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Factory School 2009) and two chapbooks: The Stills (Duration Press) and Temper and Felicity are lovers.(TAXT). Her work can also be found in the anthologies Conversations at the Wartime Cafe: A Decade of War (Conversations at the Wartime Cafe Press/ WODV Press 2011) and I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues 2012).

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