Interview with Joshua Marie Wilkinson on Swamp Isthmus

Swamp Isthmus is a book about the sad and wonderful clunkiness of being alive in a body that will soon be so much dust. Whatever we might try to glean from history from the materials available to us, we’re being blasted forward away from deeper understanding. Faulkner’s well-known statement that “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past” also loomed large. And I think the book’s propulsion forward yet backward looking curiosity—fraught with violence, upheaval, desire, etc.—is trying to account for both of those concerns: our lack of understanding history as its preeminent lesson, and that the past’s not passed—its dead are presiding over us.

I want my poems to goad at and fail at and long for something bigger, even if it’s steeped in impossibility.

--Joshua Marie Wilkinson, interviewed by Christopher Nelson

12 or 20 (second series) questions with D.J. Dolack


I don’t have questions in mind when I write or draft, or even edit really. I don’t feel as though I’m deliberately trying to scratch an itch or address some kind of question.  I guess it’s more about trying to build the mood of a situation or experience -- the notion that cannot be described. This is usually where words fail -- where language fails. But I enjoy trying to wring as much out of it as I can.

--12 or 20 (second series) questions with D.J. Dolack on rob mclennan's blog

Whittling a New Face in the Dark is now available from Black Ocean! Find it here.

Inside the Mind of Rauan Klassnik

Two recent interviews with Rauan Klassnik, in which he talks about The Moon's Jaw, Twitter, decadence, the charm of churches, and parade floats.
with Drew Kalbach at The Actuary HERE
You see, I can make small pieces. Sometimes those small pieces come decently formed into units, but sometimes also it takes a lot of work to make the units right. Then i have to arrange and sequence those units. This is what i’ve come to, what my brain/DNA/blah, blah has bequeathed to and imposed on me. My work’s evolved within this statuesque (ie, Holy Land is spare and pared down, also, but it’s also quite different from the new book) and i’ll have to see where i can take the stones and stony in my new book.
and with Paul Cunningham at Radioactive Moat HERE
Yes, my poems are filled with death but they are filled also with bright, vivid and lively striving against that death. So, yes, life, decadent, and rotting, increasingly so. But, life. I have no problems with artists trying to impose on things, impose on their subjects, the words, their images, their readers even. In the end, really, artists are trying to enslave their subjects and their audiences. For a period, anyways. But I do feel like some artists are using the wrong chains and electrical boxes, the wrong chocolates and flowers, the wrong starvation, coaxing and rape techniques. The wrong sweet nothings. Certainly I am not real big on socially PC bullshit. Bringing that stuff to your art doesn’t seem, to me anyways, like a good idea.
Order your copy of The Moon's Jaw here.

Blood Lotus Interviews Black Ocean Publisher

Read an interview with Janaka Stucky on Blood Lotus and scratch the dirty underbelly of publishing at Black Ocean -- learn about our growth and development, what enthralls our editors and keeps them reading, and a little about what keeps us running. You can read the original interview HERE, and it's also been reblogged on Poetry Foundations's blog Harriet HERE.

We pour ourselves into the editing, design, publication, and marketing of each book because we care deeply about what we do, and because we only publish authors who also care deeply about what they do. Why anyone would settle for mediocrity in the world of publishing is beyond my comprehension. There are so many other paths, so many pleasurable pursuits… Often I think I’d like to spend my days exploring the planet, becoming an athlete an expert duelist or a musician, taking pictures of the sun and the ocean floor, having sex in the morning and just staying in bed for hours… If I’m giving all those things up to be a publisher then I want to be the best publisher I can be.

The Nuanced Glitter Baby: Interview with Feng Chen

This is the first in a series of Q&As we'll be posting with Black Ocean authors. We will try to do a mix of authors chatting with authors, staff members, and everything in between. Feng Chen's book is forthcoming in 2012. Keep reading to get as excited about it as we are! (Questions in bold.)

Nikki Cohoon (Web Editor, Black Ocean): First, I want to say that we’re excited to have you in the Black Ocean family. Would you mind giving us a little sneak peak from Hunger Transit? Do you have a favorite poem or line or section or bit that you could share, and maybe tell us a little about it?

Feng Chen: The editors and I are actually discussing a new title for it! Right now we're calling it BUTCHER'S TREE which is very different from the tone of Hunger Transit. I've had a lot of trouble titling this book, actually. I don't like titles.

My favorite line is : 

I want to kill you with my glittering heart.

and my favorite poem would probably be this one:

Concerning Repetition

I am a good person with a bad heart.

The photographer takes a picture of a thousand open refrigerators. 
Because refrigerators are inhabited more than bodies are. 

You are the soup that fills my skull.
You will be hanged because the world we’re guessing at doesn’t exist. 

Roads bend back into their own meatus. 
Yesterday, I amputated it. 
If only I could show you.

It was the color of blanched skin with a little bit of pink and blue. 
I put it in the fridge above the lettuce, next to the butter. 
The photographer takes it out because it is too artificial. 
What can I say?

You can tell anyone anything if it happened in a dream. 


I don't think this poem is very representative of the whole book because it's much less lyrical. I wrote most of the poems under lyrical influence, but I chose this poem because of the first line, and maybe because right now I'm just attached to non-lyrical more aphoristic poems and this was a pretty late revision... though the last poem I wrote was very image playful. I like this poem because it's honest. I think that the "good person with a bad heart" is more applicable to the typical of my demographic, which is the highly-educated humanities person, who often come out of their education with this self-reflexive, guilt ridden identity. When I wrote the book, though, I was more focused on personal evil and personal desire, not the larger kind of public relationship I was gesturing at just now. 


What has the publishing process been like for you? Has there been much back and forth? Can we expect the finished book to be fairly close to the manuscript you originally submitted, or has it changed in any way?

It's changed quite a bit. I think I drove Janaka and Carrie crazy because I was doing so much editing, and I was kind of neurotic and didn't think to be systematic in tracking them. The biggest thing I've learned is that I shouldn't try to "improve" something that feels like it comes from a different self, and that I need to track changes like a machine, or else it's difficult to work with multiple people. Because I didn't relate to the poems as much when I was editing it (in contrast to when I submitted it), I kept feeling like I needed to change it into something "better", but all I was doing was making it more disjunctive. However, I do think that my retroactive injections to the poems and the editor's hard work and very useful comments gave it a coherency that wasn't there before. I still think it needs more editing. But Janaka made a rule: no more line editing. It's like when I can't stop picking at the bumps on my face. No one can tell the difference, but I still see bumps to pick at.

I actually haven’t seen your forthcoming book yet, but I have read some of your poems and writings online (I love your blog!). What I’ve read seems so aware, alive, responsive. How does the everyday feed into your poetry (or does it)?

The poems in this book are very personal, so the poems are completely everyday-fed, like special cows in a pasture of everyday-grass. This may seem strange because there are lots of mythical things in it, but the everyday is mythical, the way events and objects take on significance to us. I think they mythical tends to signify isolation now. It's difficult to relate to classical mythology or folklore (well, except vampires) even though they're still familiar. There isn't much room for that kind of storytelling perhaps because people don't relate to living in a world where gods care about humans, even if it's in a sadistic way. I don't relate to it. Maybe that's why they're in my poems. It's about alienation, trying to pull the dead back into the everyday.

What consumes you?

Worry and art. Most recently, the film The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky, which makes me want to think more about magic.

On your blog, you often share paintings you are working on. Do you distinguish much between words and paint? Do certain subjects find their way into paintings, others into poems? Does it matter what ends up where? (I am especially interested in this because I do visual art too, and sometimes feel torn about what to give my attention to, worry that I can’t feed both the writing and the art beast at once, but also that I can’t live without either.)

They can have very similar effects. Both language and painting can convey narrative and meaning directly, and on the more abstract side, both rely on how colors, images, or meaning-textures and sound produce feelings in the viewer/reader. They work in different dimensions, but overlap a lot. Sometimes I like to make drawings or paintings because it feels more natural. Thinking in words actually feels very unnatural to me. That's why I like poetry--it assumes that language is strange.

Five words you love?

Baby, Glitter, Ant, Pig, Nuance.

You often work in lists, windows, prose blocks, in addition to lines. How did you consider form when working on your book? Did it drive or shape the book in any way?

I like lists because they build meaning through accumulation and layering. Most of the poems in the book are free form without structure other than clumped stanzas. Nowadays I don't make lists as much as splatters.

What question would you like to ask yourself?

I want to ask myself to memorize a poem. I don't know why I am afraid of memorizing it. I feel like I am afraid of forgetting things, but I'm more afraid of remembering them. I don't know why. It's like I don't really want to exist.


An Interview of "Black Ocean" Quality--The Blood Jet Writing Hour

Joe Hall (Pigafetta Is My Wife) and Brandon Shimoda (The Girl Without Arms) recently sat down for an interview with Rachelle of the Blood Jet Writing Hour. They beging by talking about the mighty Black Ocean itself and its aesthetic. Brandon mentions that he thinks our aesthetic is "encapsulated in the name" and:

To me it's a feeling; it's kind of a feeling that combines great empathy, a metallic taste--it's kind of a color. Thinking about the aesthetic, their books are so different, but I think one of the qualities they all share is a great empathy.  There's a lot of deep investigations into the darker ends of love.

Joe adds that

I latch onto the black part of the black ocean. It's like a dark pulsing heart....there is a darkness there that is a luminous darkness.

They go on to read excerpts from their books and to reflect on their processes.

Some highlights:

Brandon on form in The Girl Without Arms:

The girl without arms was sort of a different world. It was more a matter of finding the right instrument with which I could scrape out the inside of my brain.

I like arranging things and I like the way things present themselves visually...I'm not sure I was thinking about anything formally--it's kind of like drawing.

Joe on the process of writing Pigafetta Is My Wife and the long poem form:

I had this journal and I realized I wanted to use it, and it just seemed impossible to not write in a long poem format given the scope of the journal itself. And because the book is about this circumnavigation of the world by Magellan, it just seemed like the right thing to do. How could you capture a journey in one poem?

Something that both engaged the reader and taxed the reader at the same time...seemed really important to me. At the same time it was about this relationship I was in with my partner that was occurring over long distance. That was this thing that was always starting and stopping. I wanted that idea of recurrence and that sort of grasping outwards that happened over and over.


You can listen to the interview here.

Joe and Brandon were both drawn to Black Ocean for its aesthetic, and the fit they felt with their own work. If you feel similiarly drawn, be sure to submit during our open reading period! There are no reading fees, but we do ask that you consider supporting us, perhaps by purchasing a subscription. More details here: /black-ocean-blog/2011/6/1/smooth-sailing-on-the-open-black-ocean.html