Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Habitual Poet: Diane Seuss

Installment #7

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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: editor@poemeleon.org.

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Q: Where do you prefer to get your books?

We have a nice used bookstore in Kalamazoo--Kazoo Books. If I can find what I want there, that's my preference. Otherwise, Amazon(ia).

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

I'm not a big owner of things. I like libraries. But I suppose I own...a hundred? And I've read em all. Really.

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

Couch, dog, tea. Or backyard, dog, coffee.

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

Blood Dazzler, Patricia Smith (again), Chronic, D.A. Powell, Bucolics, Maurice Manning, Legitimate Dangers: Poets of the New Century, Dumanis and Marvin, shattered sonnets love cards and other off and back handed importunities, Olena Kalytiak Davis.

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

I'm currently re-reading the novel Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner. I'm reading back issues of Poetry and The New Yorker now that I have a little respite from grading papers. And I'm reading all kinds of stuff in order to plan a new course I'm teaching this fall--Spread the Word: Poetry in Community.

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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...)

I always write at the computer, and before computers I wrote at a manual typewriter. I like type. I'm not someone who keeps to a schedule with writing poems, though I do tend to write at night. I don't feel more "inspired" by setting myself in a beautiful place to write. I guess I write in the landscape of the imagination, for want of a better phrase.

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

This really varies, depending on my other responsibilities. I've written 12 new poems since mid-June, but time passes during the school year when I write next to nothing.

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

I'm a Star Trek reviser--I must revise during a certain "window of opportunity." When it closes, I'm doomed.

Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?

Same way I know when a love affair is done. It makes either a bang or a whimper.

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

Hell yeah. I've given up an invitation so I could stay home and sulk!

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Q: What is your system for sending out work?

I tend to send a lot out in early fall and mid winter. I'll make a big push, then fade away for awhile. Though recently, I've sent out a few choice new poems to magazines I admire soon after I finish them.

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

I received an acceptance from a particularly lovely magazine. It's never what I expect.

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

A mix. I love publishing in Poemeleon and Blackbird, both online, and then I love publishing in print mags like The Georgia Review and The New Orleans Review so I can hold them in my hands. Online magazines make it so easy to send published work to friends and colleagues.

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

Weird: I was paid a dollar for a haiku. For a long time, I kept the dollar. Then I spent it--but on what? Worst: my name listed as "Duane" rather than Diane. But most of my experiences have been positive.

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

I've received a bit of fan mail, which is, of course, very flattering. I found a blog once which was pretty much devoted to trashing me. At one point, the blog's author said she'd like to see me fall off of a tall building. That was a little scary.

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Practical considerations:

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

I am Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College. I teach creative writing courses. It's great work, and I'm very devoted to it. It keeps me young(ish) and on my toes. On the other hand, it takes a great deal of energy and time which, at this point in my life, I'd like to devote to my own writing.

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

My significant other flew the coop a decade ago. I did not see the fruits of his occupation, so to speak, as he didn't pay child support.

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

Yes. When I moved to NYC "to be a poet," as a young woman, and instead was a secretary. First love, lotsa cockroaches. You know the story.

Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?

I don't even have a retirement plan.

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.)

Well, I've suffered a helluva lot, but rarely in the name of art. I think I made my mom suffer a bit. A teenage poet is a terrible thing to witness.

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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?)

When I was a kid I dreamed in iambic pentameter. I'm sorta psychic and can read tarot cards. I'm pretty good at fixing copiers and xerox machines. And toilets.

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: _____

Tell her it's a persona poem and that I was channeling my sister.

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?

What affairs??

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

"and sometimes y." Because "y" is a very good question.

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

"And now, a poem in twenty sections," said the poet.
No wonder twenty stood and fled the poet.


Diane Seuss is Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Indiana Review, Blackbird, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Georgia Review. Her newest collection, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, won the Juniper Prize and will be out in April 2010 from the University of Massachusetts Press. New Issues Press published her book It Blows You Hollow, and her poems have been widely anthologized, appearing in Boomer Girls, Are You Experienced? and Sweeping Beauty, all from the University of Iowa Press.

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