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I’ve been collaborating and corresponding with the amazing French poet and performer Sandra Moussempes for almost 15 years, but in the time that I’ve been here, she’s hasn’t made it to New York. So, we decided to do a project where I wrote a poem for her and then “read” it to her through the frequency waves of the East River. Now it’s transmitted for everyone to hear:
J. Mae Barizo’s Fields Press just published my little chapbook based on William James’ experiments with The Black Dot — the piece was inspired as a response to Mark Sutherland for Volta’s “Vispo” issue edited by Nico Vassilakis. And it was reviewed in Coldfront by Timothy Liu. Thanks to all!
Delightfully, Rachel Levitsky and Carol Mirakove invited me to participate in a game of book review tag. It’s called The Next Big Thing, a series of self-interviews where writers interview themselves and then tag other writers who interview themselves, and so on.
My interview with myself concerns my chapbook, Alter§Body which just this week has been released by Karen Randall’s Least Weasel.
What is the title of the book? Alter§Body
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
This is a book about the unconscious mind. Therefore, the form it takes is strange.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve been reading the case studies of the hypnotist Milton Erikson and started paying attention to certain phrases that he was repeating. I realized that these phrases, even extracted and presented out of context, tell the larger story of the patients’ inner struggles as well as of their healing process, which begins as an altered way of thinking. This led me to think about the healing power of language and its effects on the unconscious mind which surfaces in the space between the symptom and the words that are spoken.
What genre does your book fall under? Poetry, psychology.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m reading Nick Flynn’s memoir The Reenactments about the bizarre experience of having his core life traumas reenacted as a film, with Robert De Niro playing his father and Julianne Moore playing his mother. In one chapter, Nick recounts a hypnosis session I did with him the day after he and his real-life father watched the film. Hypnosis is one way to “see” how the movies that are playing in our minds trigger emotional reactions in our bodies, and visa versa.
During our hypnosis session Nick was able to reenact a movie in his mind which reflected his core traumas and his healing process, which reflected a scene in the movie in which Robert De Niro played his father, which reflected all of the people involved in making the movie, and which reflected the movies they were making based on their own core traumas and healing processes. And so on.
Without the eloquence of narrative, AlterBody is a reenactment of fragments from mind-movies. A movie version of this book would have four actresses who reenact the fragments of movies as retold by Milton Erikson, but who also reenact the fragments of movies that are playing in their own minds. Milton Erikson is the only stable character, but even he is reenacting movies in his mind as he listens to the movies of his patients.
This would make for a very complicated film but Robert De Niro would do a good job playing Milton Erikson.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I don’t write first drafts – books happen for me because I gather together materials from disparate notebooks and sources that only come together because of some kind of catalyst – in this case, Karen Randall who asked me for a manuscript. After that happened, the energetic push into form took around 45 minutes.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Milton Erikson, Karen Randall, 30 years of thinking about the mysteries of the universe and 2 years being in practice as a clinical hypnotist.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Ahhh, what else indeed?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Karen Randall is one of finest, most elegant, most meticulously creative book designers of the century. I am extremely lucky to be represented by her.
My tagged writers for The Next Big Thing are:
May Joseph, Lee Ann Brown, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Kim Rosenfield, José Antonio Mazzotti. (Tags forthcoming!)
Ok wow. I never dreamed I’d be a part of a horror anthology but bruhaaaaa I am.
I had the honor of editing a folio for the international journal of culture and arts, DrunkenBoat.com — and assembled what I think is a dazzling array of multi-genre artists and writers all mapping in their own way the throughways, seams, and gaps in their habitual patterns of awareness. Check it out!
I think it was Gerrit Lansing (amazing poet living in Olson’s town Gloucester) who coined the concept of the ACADEMY OF TREES. If you’re a poet one of the few places you can sustain your lifestyle is in academia. Talking with Gerrit one evening I recall he said something like – poets don’t belong in the academy, unless it’s the academy of trees.
That’s a language game that only a poet could pull off so casually:
Academy comes from the Greek word “Akademeia” which referred to the “grove of Akademos.” Akademos was the legendary Athenian whose estate was where Plato taught his school.
So the Academy of Trees — Akademos’ grove — is a much better place for poets than academia because in the grove we can sit around in the shade, talking philosophy, eating figs, listening, falling asleep, etc. Those were the days…