A One Question Interview with Nick Rattner

As a former/lifelong member of the Michael Jordan fan club, I was really excited to ask Nick Rattner this question about basketball and poetry, and I was even more excited by his response.

Nick and his Frequency students are hosting a reading this coming Wednesday (Oct. 30) at 7PM, 186 Carpenter Street. I hope to see you there!

Nick, your Frequency bio describes you as a poet and sometimes basketball journalist (among many other things). Are these modes of writing completely separate to you? Is there a point where basketball and poetry meet?

Long before I learned to read, I played basketball. We had a mini-hoop in our basement where I spent several hundred hours impersonating Dr. J and Larry Bird. In high school, everyday after school for about three hours, I would play in pick-up games, now impersonating Michael Jordan. I played on a team in college (impersonating Allen Iverson) and for many years after (more humbly, as myself). After I blew out my knees and realized a career in the NBA was probably not going to happen (though, you know, who knows?), writing about basketball seemed a good way to prolong my lifelong love affair. But, as we all know, writing about something you love can only faintly approximate the feeling of being in love. So, for me, the connection between the feeling I have while playing basketball and the feeling I have while writing about basketball exists at the level of avocation but not intoxication.
And the journey to find one’s voice, for me, is akin to my youthful process of trying to be and, for hours at a time, actually being Dr J or Larry Bird. Your imagination is that powerful when you’re a kid. When I started writing, I was Allen Ginsberg. No, really, I was. Then, Catullus, Petrarch, Byron, Simic, some vague concoction of Zen monks and long-bearded Chinese poets, Rimbaud, Vallejo. You are those other people until you become yourself, which happens to us all, if only here and there, fitfully, eventually, no matter how comically and/or tragically we evade. Your knees go. What remains is the belief in the moment and in your brain or soul or whatever’s ability to spontaneously react, to find the right physical reaction to the moment, a reaction you’ve been preparing for with everything you’ve got. Probably, the human interior is more complex than an NBA regulation basketball court. It’s definitely harder to play against oneself. But the movement of images through rhythm, for me the most basic definition of poetry, could apply just as well to basketball, provided we are willing, perhaps strong enough, to think of ourselves as an image who is nothing more and nothing less than a spontaneous reaction to all other images.

Nick Rattner is a poet, sometime basketball journalist, Editor at Ugly Duckling Presse, and co-translator with Marta del Pozo of Yván Yauri’s Viento de fuego / Fire Wind (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011) and Czár Gutierrez’s La caida del equilibrista. Previous occupations include teaching English in the sierra of Perú, refurbishing industrial buildings for a concrete company in northern New England, and creating exhibits for the Museum of American Finance. He holds a Masters in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and teaches at Holyoke Community College.

A One Question Interview with Joanna Howard

Our literary festival and fundraising event, Feed The Writers, is just a few days away, and we are so excited!

The event will feature readings by Laura Brown-Lavoie, Rick Benjamin, and Joanna Howard (yes, this is an amazing line-up). This week Joanna answered one question for me. One thing (of many) that I love about her response is that she refers to Rosemarie Waldrop, a wonderful poet and person whose books will be up for raffle (along with Joanna’s and work by many other incredible local authors).

If you manage to get out of this event without feeling serious fall writing inspiration (and happy to be alive in general), I will be shocked and not believe you.

Joanna, what is the meeting point of your identity as reader, as writer, as human?

In her short essay “Collage or the Splice of Life” poet Rosmarie Waldrop discusses Tristan Tzara’s famous Dadaist recipe which urges writers to take an article, cut it up, draw out the scraps from a hat, and assemble a poem and ‘the poem will resemble you.’ Waldrop tells us she used collage techniques to avoid writing poems about her mother, only to discover after following this recipe, that the poems were still about her mother. However, she says “something else was also beginning to happen.”  She admits, “Even with such a mechanical method, ‘the poem will resemble you'” but, she adds, “any constraint stretches the imagination…Any constraint pulls us into semantic fields different from the one we started with…” and in a sense takes us out of ourselves.

As a writer often working with language collage techniques, and working under many hidden constraints, it is still my eye that finds the scrap of text, and my mind which sees within the juxtapositions of disparate scraps inevitable but uncanny serendipities. When I know I am also working with content from my life–people I have met, phrases I imagine they have uttered–the incorporation of the random or chance elements only opens up the imagination to other possibilities within these known materials.

In short: as a reader I collect, as a writer I collate and collage, as a human I can not avoid my own subjectivity–my politics, my personal feelings, my limitations will inevitably infect my work–though these former techniques allow imagination to help take me out of myself.

Joanna Howard is the author of Foreign Correspondent and On the Winding Stair. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines, including Conjunctions, the Chicago ReviewUnsaidQuarterly WestAmerican Letters and CommentaryFourteen Hills,Western Humanities ReviewSalt HillTarpaulin Sky, and others.

A One Question Interview with Mary-Kim Arnold

Hybrid Writing with Mary-Kim Arnold starts on October 15.  So far it seems October is between genres, which gives me the feeling that we better all jump on that boat before it climbs up onto land and blasts off. If you’re wondering how amazing a fall of hybrid writing could be, here is your answer.

Mary-Kim, what does it mean to write between forms/genres?

form is shape of an object
genre is category

was not born into a single genre
hyphenated from the start & of nations themselves divided

of families: not one, but two & now more than that

what is form but that we make it? the flat stones piled up
along the trail to the peak of Mount Sorak
the red brick building of my youth & its paved driveways

what contains us but this body & my mother’s square hands
the mark on my left ear & not one but many & not this but these

the imprint of all we have loved & the childhood friend with whom I collected twigs
& all that has touched us & my daughter twirling in a dress I once wore

all that we have known in the body & in the mind & in the form
of all the objects we have laid our hands upon

all these hands always reaching

 

 

Mary-Kim Arnold’s writing has appeared online at Tin House, The Rumpus, HTML Giant, Two Serious Ladies, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming at The Pinch Journal and burntdistrict. She lives in Pawtucket.

A One Question Interview with Mark Baumer

Looking forward, on this Friday, to turning into rainbows or volcanoes with all of you. This week I interviewed the legendary Mark Baumer.

 

Mark, what is a sentence?

The sentence was born in 1971. It weighed three-thousand pounds. Prior to the age of five, the sentence died twenty-seven thousand times a day. On its sixth birthday, the sentence decided to devote its life to the problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. Sometimes people ask the sentence why it is barefoot. The sentence does not believe in the luxury of being anything more than a sentence. For nearly two decades, the sentence was a businessman as well as the quantitative decision maker for almost every human alive. The world struggled. It was more fragile than everyone originally thought. The sentence began devoting large portions of its life to the art of intense seclusion. Once, the sentence spent almost four billion years alone. It did not speak to anyone. As technology continued to develop, people began using more and more artificial forms of the sentence. The organic and natural sentence that we all grew up with was abandoned. People believed in these new technologies so much that they began to wear artificial sentences on their faces. The american luxury of this new artificial sentence world was not infinite, but very few people accepted that they would ever have to give up the luxuries and comforts of this new sentence world. In an attempt to kill itself, the organic, natural, and very elderly sentence accidentally gave birth to something called the internet. This sort of happened yesterday. It’s too soon to know whether the internet is a good thing or a bad thing. Ultimately, the new sentence theories will probably infect everyone’s face with a disease similar to brain herpes and the internet will be heralded for a short span of twenty years before a piece of mud crawls out of the center of the earth and breathes on us until we all turn into volcanoes or rainbows.

 

 

Mark Baumer wrote 50 books last year.

A One Question Interview with Kat Murphy

Happy Saturday, folks!

Today we spoke with Kat Murphy.
How do you know how to end a poem?  

For me, a poem begins with a spark.  Something awakens the herd of imagery and words.  It rushes to my mind with no clear direction or form, but it keeps moving.  It shifts, it destroys, it shifts, it creates.  And so, when to end a poem is when a feeling of peace arises from the dust, settling.
Kat Murphy is a poet and  an intern for Frequency.

Photo credit: National Geographic

A One Question Interview with Darcie Dennigan

It’s Friday already. This week I spoke with Frequency’s own, Darcie Dennigan. 

 

Darcie, what space does writing inhabit in your life?

It’s sort of like the pool of tears in alice in wonderland. I’m swimming in it, and what a morass– and it’s of my own making (no one told me to try to write)– it engulfs everything, and I guess I am really happy it does.

In an interview in Bookslut, Maggie Nelson was talking about “leaning against” other texts, and letting them inhabit you– she said the phrase “thinking with other minds”– and I guess that’s also a way to describe the space writing inhabits in my life– it makes reading a different, more gluttonous experience, for instance.  I am so happy to have writing because I don’t have to inhabit myself all the time.
 
 
 
Darcie Dennigan is the author of Madame X. She is an instructor at Frequency.

A One Question Interview with Carole Maso

It’s a beautiful September Friday in Providence. Clear, sunny, a little chilly, and brand new trapper keepers are blowing through the streets. Take a walk, writers! And while you do, think about these words from Carole Maso.

 

Carole, beyond–or perhaps extending from–the physical act of pen to paper, or finger to key, what does it mean to write?

To write is to fall prostrate at the altar of the unsayable.  A place one gets to ponder the great mysteries–not to tame them, or understand them, but to be close to them.

 

Carole Maso is the author of ten books including, Mother and Child, Ava, The Art Lover, and Defiance. She teaches at Brown University.

A One Question Interview with James Cronin

A long weekend means lots of writing time, right? Here are some thoughtful words to get you going. Our interview this week is with Jim Cronin.

 

Jim, what do you discover through writing?

     I had done a lot of writing as a lawyer and as a judge but that writing was purpose-driven, and the purpose was to advance various occupational goals.

     Creative writing has a different goal, and is more of an exercise in consciousness. Nowhere is this more true than in poetry. Consciousness, as the psychologist Julian Jaynes pointed out, involves language. Every word is a metaphor for our experience of the world. To hold it, to comprehend it, to remember it, we need the magic of words. Poetry is a close look at that process, hence the old saying, “All poetry is about writing.”

     What do I discover through the writing of poetry? The simple answer is that I discover the world and myself.

 

 

After a four decade career in law, first as a trial lawyer then as a juvenile court judge, James Cronin retired to pursue his interests in literary studies and writing poetry. He resides in Westport, MA with his wife, Edwina.

A one question interview with Evelyn Hampton

Here’s a little weekend writing inspiration for your Friday. Our first ever one question interview is with Evelyn Hampton.

 

Evelyn, what is a sentence?

While I’m walking around Providence, I see pieces of trash that are
sentences. I see them in fences, where they have become twined in a
link, being made into a tatter by wind. They seem like flags of the
forgotten. Right now I am watching the size of a cat as the animal
breathes–watching changes things measurably. I wish something
forgotten would change me. I keep on writing sentences, trying to be
remembered by wind. Maybe we are language’s capacity for anguish.

 

Evelyn Hampton’s first book, Discomfort, will be published by Ellipsis
Press in 2014. She has been a Frequency instructor, among other
things.