Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Habitual Poet: Alex Grant

Installment #4

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The Habitual Poet is an ongoing series of contributor interviews. If you are a Poemeleon contributor and would like to participate copy & paste the Q's from below and e-mail your answers to:

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Q: Where do you prefer to get your books?

Order directly from the publisher if possible.

Q: How many poetry books do you think you own, and what percentage of these have you actually read?

300 or so - I've read at least part of all of them! As for entire books - maybe half.

Q: When, where and how do you usually read? (i.e. at bedtime under the covers, cover to cover, etc.)

In the garden, relaxing with an adult beverage or two.

Q: What books of poetry have you read this month?

Fortune - Joseph Millar -
This Nest, Swift Passerine - Dan Beachy Quick

Q: What other books/magazines/backs of cereal boxes have you read recently?

Poetry magazine, The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic

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Q: When, where, how do you write, and why?(i.e. at dusk on a dock, longhand in a notebook, because...)

Often on retreat in the mountains, sometimes at night at home

Q: How many first drafts do you think you complete in a week? A month?

Depends on my productivity at any given time - lately it's been a couple a week, but I've had dry spells lasting much longer than that

Q: How long do you wait before revising a poem?

I do it quickly - if it's going to work, it works quickly - otherwise, I discard it.

Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?

When I say "Yessss, (insert expletive here)!"

Q: Have you ever given up an invitation so you could stay home and write?

Yes - quite often.

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Q: What is your system for sending out work?

In batches, when the desire overcomes the torpor!

Q: What have you more recently received: a rejection notice or an acceptance? Was it what you expected?

An acceptance for two poems. No - I had entered my full-length ms. in a contest and the editor called my cell - I thought I'd won the book contest!

Q: Where do you generally publish: online, in print, or a mix, and do you have a preference?

Mostly print, occasionally online. I still prefer print as a medium (I love books as physical objects), though I realize that online often reaches a larger audience.

Q: What is the worst (or weirdest, or best) experience you’ve had with a journal/magazine/press & its editor(s)? (No names, please!)

Being called and told I had won a major national contest, then receiving an email a half-hour later telling me I was an alternate, not the winner.

Q: Have you ever received any fan (or hate) mail? If so, what was that like?

I've had a couple of fan mails - it's encouraging to know that someone actually reads the poems. No hate mail so far!l

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Practical considerations:

Q: What is your day job, and how does it affect your writing?

Systems Developer - I'd say it's entirely separate from my writing.

Q: How does your significant other’s occupation affect your writing life?

Not in any way that immediately comes to mind - her support is invaluable, though!

Q: Have there been periods in your life when you couldn't write?

Yes - two years once - I thought I was done and was reconciling myself to it - then I read a Robert Penn Warren poem which seemed to spell out what poetry should be, and I started to write again.

Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?

I spend quite a bit on buying books and entering contests. It's not fixed, but I figure it's earned after all the hard work!

Q: Have you ever suffered (or made someone else suffer) in the name of your art? (i.e. picked up your kids late from school

so you could finish a poem, forgone lunch to buy a book, left a relationship because the other person just didn't understand, etc.)

Only by constantly inflicting my fledgeling poems on my wife!

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Random nonsense:

Q: Do you have any superhuman abilities? (i.e. can you tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue, or write a double sestina with both hands tied behind your back?)

I'm pretty freakish(or used to be) with mental arithmetic.

Q: You write a scathing poem about your mother and she learns about it. You:

a.) Move to South America and leave no forwarding address
b.) Delete the poem and insist it never existed
c.) Show it to her (she’s already written you out of the will anyway)
d.) Do none of the above; instead you: Pretend it's about someone else

Q: If the best medical specialists in the world told you that if you didn’t give up your poetry habit today you would die in six months, would you get your affairs in order or would you leave that up to your family?

I'd leave it up to my family.

Q: If you could be a vowel, which one would you be and why?

A, I or U - you can still be a poet without them...

Q: Finally write a couplet for a collaborative ghazal using the following kaafiyaa and radif: “said the poet”.

That's gonna have to wait - I've already spent too long on this!


Alex Grant is the author of Fear of Moving Water (Forthcoming from Wind Publications), Chains & Mirrors(NCWN/Harperprints), which won the 2006 Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award (Best North Carolina poetry collection; click here to view a video of the awards ceremony reading), and The White Book, recently released by Main St. Rag Publishing. He received Kakalak’s 2006 Poetry Prize and WMSU’s 2004 Pavel Srut Poetry Fellowship, and has been a recent runner-up or finalist for Discovery/The Nation, The Pablo Neruda Prize, the Arts & Letters Poetry Prize, and The Dorset, Brittingham, Felix Pollak, Tupelo Open and Lena-Miles Wever Todd book Prizes, among others. His poems have appeared or are upcoming in numerous national journals and anthologies, including Meridian's Best New Poets 2007, the Missouri Review and Smartish Pace. Alex Grant was also recently interviewed by Frank Stasio for the program "The State of Things". (To listen to the podcast click here.) A native Scot, he lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with his wife Tristi, his dangling participles and his Celtic fondness for excess.

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