Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Habitual Poet: Catherine Daly

Installment #3

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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?

I rephrase this, where do I actually get my books? At readings, mostly. AWP. Book swapping. Bargain bins anywhere. Online.

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

I don't know how many poetry books I own. A few thousand. A hundred chapbooks or so. Over the past few years, I have started shedding books I don't like. My longtime policy, since winning a book collecting award in college, was to buy any book of poetry so long as it was $1. I would say that I have dozens of books I haven't read at all, and hundreds I have only poked around in.

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

I read in bed sometimes, but I have a cult of the "falling asleep book" which is not poetry. I have made reading a book and writing about it a prerequisite for getting rid of it. I read more poets for research or review than I read for pleasure. So, I would say that in a certain way, I force myself to read poetry.

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

I'm reading "about" Pound's cantos. I dipped into The Holy Forest. I reread a lot of Lola Ridge for an article that will be in the November THE WOLF. I read T.A. Noonan's forthcoming book to write a blurb. I re-read two books of mine to revise/proof.

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

Falling asleep books include something on the opium wars that's really dull. It has lists of boats in Macau by season, lists of "hongs" in Hong Kong. I'm reading most of THE OTHER VOICE IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE series from University of Chicago Press. I'm starting research for the next trilogy, now that the second one is coming out.

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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...)

Whenever I can. Notes on reading. During the summer I try to do the dream thing and the postcard project. I try to do national poetry month. Otherwise, whenever I can. Since I have boxes and boxes of poems and notes, and some on dictaphone tape!, I really only write on scratch paper near the computer or directly on the computer. I've got several computer files of scraps and drafts that I comb through if I have time. And if I have a day, sometimes I pick up an old notebook and transcribe. Putting together one book recently, I realized that I have two book drafts on an old computer I rarely turn on anymore. I do this sometimes only because I would rather be a writer than an unlicensed, unpaid general contractor and landscape and interior designer.

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

I would say I probably squeege out a poem draft a month, but it usually goes either from itty bitty notes on one theme into a fairly long poem draft or notes for a series to a rough in of the series to a sort of finalized one poem at a time. Once I get the sort of "what it is" down, I sometimes flash out little poems at will, a couple at a time. I have so much work around, I didn't realize how slowly I actually work until doing some of the collectives: the Dusie chapbook collective, the dreams collective, the postcard project.

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

I work on it until it gets to a point when I think I can send it out, and then I pick on it mercilessly thereafter.

Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?

If they are laying around for a couple of years and I haven't thought of any changes, they are done.

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

At this point, I've pretty much given up everything so I can write just a little.

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Q: What is your system for sending out work?

I used to have a really nice double-entry system, a list by poem of where I had sent it and where it currently was and a list of every place and what I had sent them. Everything very orderly. Now, everything is so out of order, I hardly send anything out -- and I can't even send things out when editors ask, because I don't really know what is where.

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

I sort of ignore rejections, deliberately forget they happened, so I would say "acceptance."

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

I publish online and in print. I prefer to publish in print, except for things I've deliberately made for various online environments. However, that almost never happens; I mean, I publish far more online, and all sorts of stuff.

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

I can't think of anything right now.

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

I receive fan e-mails every once in a while, but less often than I did before everyone was online.

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Practical considerations

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

I work on our house. It is very tiring. Sometimes I get to teach.

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

My spouse is a writer. So, that really affects every aspect of my life and writing.

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

Well, there was a really long period of my life when I hadn't stared writing. I go through periods when I don’t write much, but this is never because I can't, but rather, don't for time reasons, mostly

Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?

No. I try to spend as little money on it as possible. I never attend a conference if I'm not reading or presenting something, and generally don't go to more than two conferences I can't attend "day tripping." That I probably should do a series of readings in support of books again, and that my husband doesn't want to combine a vacation with any sort of literary endeavor, has made it pretty impossible for me to tour, because it is super expensive, and for me, really the only fun vacation.

Q: Have you ever suffered (or made someone else suffer) in the name of your art? (i.e. picked up your kids late from schoolso you could finish a poem, forgone lunch to buy a book, left a relationship because the other person just didn't understand, etc.)

If I worked some miserable job like I used to, we would have a ton of money. But, because my husband is a writer who works at home, he just didn't understand that there was no way I could work a job and do all the errands. Like if dinner isn't on the table at 5 - 5:30, if we run out of bananas, things begin to melt down.

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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?)

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: _____

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 write that novel I've always wanted to write but never had time for. I'd paint those paintings I've always wanted to paint but never had time for. I guess it is a writing-art way of living and thinking. I think I would try really hard to become a lit agent or designer and see where that took me. I don't think I could get my literary affairs in order in six months, and in a way, that is sort of the temptation -- that you don't have to if you off yourself. I think family members make rotten literary executors.

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

I think I am an "a." I suppose I am content with that.

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

We are out of red wine, he said. All we've got is Moet.

Then we'll loaf around eating caviar, said the poet.


Catherine Daly is author, most recently, of Vauxhall (Shearsman, 2008), most recently reviewed, Chanteuse / Cantatrice (factory school, 2007), and forthcoming OOD: Object-Oriented Design (Cracked Slab, 2009) and Craft + Work (Moria, 2009). She lives in Los Angeles.

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