The Next Big Thing

THANK YOU, Sierra Nelson, my long time collaborator and poet-hero, author of I Take Back the Sponge Cake – for tagging me for The Next Big Thing question series blog hop.


What is the working title of the book?

Concept Album: The Year In Boring Dreams

Where did the idea come from for the book? [and]  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Inspired by fellow poet Pete Miller and our collaboration LOCCAL, I started writing some ditties to wash hands to, to put up by the sinks in public restrooms. Then I couldn’t stop hanging out in bathrooms, couldn’t stop thinking about what people write and think about and respond to in public restrooms. Toilet stalls are the original online comment section. Ever since the seventh grade, when I wrote my first anonymous protest poem in the girls bathroom stall in Jr. High (and was later caught out by the Natural Helpers), I’ve been writing these poems.

When I visited Rome recently, all the fountains told stories, which led me to the ancient Cloaca Maxima, aka the City’s Anus, one of the earliest sewer systems. I think a city’s public health works reveal as much about that society as their religion does. The Romans, actually the Etruscans, even had a goddess for it: Cloacina. She controlled sewers and sexual intercourse in marriage. I can’t stop thinking about that combination of duties. These fountains led me to the “Talking Statues” –fascinating statues where poets have written their anonymous political rants for 600 years.

So, several hundred or so years later, I have amassed a body of poems about water: the water cycle, where we get our drinking water, the physics and chemistry of water, what our flotsam and jetsam says about us, the songs the ocean gyres sing. Which leads me to the poems that are concept albums. I imagined I was writing a summary of an album, like Stevie Wonder’s The Secret Life of Plants but it was an album about eating chips, or finding a place to live with my family not full of mold and rats. I have spent many hours of my life listening to albums in headphones. I don’t believe in anthologies, in poetry or music. I want the whole album, in order, side A, then side B. I might choose to repeatedly dip into only track 2, side A, but even as I put the needle down, I can see all the context swirling around, so I know where I am reading or listening in the greater scheme of things.

Mostly, the poems are the stories and incantations of the everyday things that comprise the majority of one’s hours. Last summer, I decided to track my dreams, because I thought maybe that would unlock the awesome world of magic I lost sometime around age 14, but found that my dreams are stunningly dull. August 15, dreamt of checking email, and playing computer solitaire. I shit you not, I really dreamt that. I used to think I didn’t dream, but through this tracking exercise have discovered that it only seems like I’m not dreaming because my dreams are so boring they sneak right under the radar disguised as Real (Boring) Life.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Philip Seymour Hoffman as water and Dustin Hoffman as soap.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

“We huff the musk of fog machine / see ourselves in the drunk robot pig rooting in dream.”

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My writing group, LHGTI – without those guys scaring/inspiring me with their intellect and deadlines, I would not have written 99% of these poems. Michael Seiwerath, who, in the nicest and most supportive way possible, encouraged me to evaluate my complaining to dollar ratio, (Complaining : $), which led me to cut down on teaching hours to clear space for writing. As Duke Ellington put it, “I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.” Except that I’m not Duke Ellington. Terminator, and Terminator 2. Also, Tootsie. Sea shanties. Listening to Pink Floyd and Larry Norman and Betty Davis records on headphones. Saying the same 12 phrases to my kids over and over everyday like the broken record I swore I would never be.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are riddles. And jokes.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I recently discovered that, unlike with college applications, my mom is not going to send this out for me. So I am in the process of sending this around.

Next up:

For next Wednesday, I’ve tagged Jason Whitmarsh, author of Tomorrow’s Living Room, and Emily Beyer, who both have manuscripts I want to read.

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