As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.
Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.
“Poison Can Be a Pig” is a sestina made from language drawn from my experiences in meditation. I am always looking for representations of meditation, prayer, or spiritual practice that capture how bizarre and hilarious those experiences can often be; after all, we are seeking transcendence, so there is a constant oscillation between the ordinary and the extraordinary. This poem, with its demanding sestina structure, is a container for animals strange and familiar, spiritual objects like on offering of flowers in front of a Buddha statue, and a mix of pulled muscles and spiritual adoration. I hope it gets at the push and pull of practice, of just trying to be awake in the world.
Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?
Part of the pleasure of a sestina is seeing what the poem does with the form’s repeated line endings, so I like the long sentence in stanza 4 that takes those end-words on a suprising journey: “The cock might swallow a snake, might stretch its/ neck out to transcend its cocky state, its own/ occipital exercise in adoration/ a midlife crisis perfectly relaxed.”
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
Practice! Write regularly, even when you don’t feel like it and you’re not inspired. All you are doing is creating raw material. You can find a shape later.
Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!
I grew up on a ranch in Alberta, where one of my chores was to shoot gophers with a .22 rifle (because they threatened the crops and our cattle tripped in their holes in the ground and broke their legs). Now I’m an anti-gun activist, suing the State of Texas over the law that allows people to bring a concealed weapon into my classroom at the University of Texas.
What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?
My chapbook, 24 Hours of Men, just came out from Dancing Girl Press. I’m doing readings from that book and continuing to write new work towards a full-length volume.