Saturday 23 February 2013

John MacKenzie ponders rationalism, art making, and The Reinvention of the Human Hand

Poet John MacKenzie takes a little time to consider the implications of a rationalist mindset on the creative process as he analyzes aspects of my book The Reinvention of the Human Hand. Here's a sample:
Vermeersch makes poetry out of anything and everything: the cave paintings of Lascaux, a Bosch landscape, anesthesia, a boy of an early, unspecified hominin species, and even Warner Brothers’ cartoons. This willingness to experience, examine, and synthesize the whole of life and culture is to me the essence of artmaking.
Read the whole piece here

Thursday 7 February 2013

Peer Pressure: The Next Big Thing

I have been asked to particpate in The Next Big Thing, a blogging meme concerning forthcoming books, first by Catherine Jenkins and then again by George Murray, and despite the almost certain fatal hubris of the meme's title, I suppose it's time for me to get with it and just do the damn thing, so here goes:  

What is the working title of the book?

The working title of my book is Don't Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something.

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

While completing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Guelph, my thesis was a collection of poems on apocalyptic themes using a variety of forms that generate new poetry from existing texts (centos, erasures, glosas, ekphrasis, etc). For example, the working title (actually the apocryphal last words of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa) appears in a cento (a kind of collage poem) composed entirely of the dying words of notable people. The gist of it was that I was creating apocalyptic poetry using fragments of past literary works in the same way that survivors of a calamity might build new structures from the rubble of a ruined city. The finished book will be a continuation, greatly revised and expanded, of the work I began in my thesis.

What genre does your book fall under?


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

This question is clearly biased toward fiction writers, but I'd be happy if the cast of the 1963 film version of Lord of the Flies could be gathered together for a reading of the poems.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 

If the world is going to end, you'll need the right book of poetry for the occasion.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Over three years and counting. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

One of the themes of my previous book was the origin of human culture, so imagining the end of it seemed a natural starting point for my next book.

What other books would you compare to yours within your genre? 

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands by Nick Flynn uses some of the same para-textual techniques I'm using, although my book won't adhere as strictly to those constraints as Flynn's does. I see the formal challenges as more of a launch pad than a finish line. Perhaps Apocalyptic Narrative and Other Poems by Rodney Jones is similar in its thematic concerns. I draw inspiration from many sources; I wouldn't be able to name them all here.   

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

The book is, I believe, somewhat of a stylistic and formal departure for me. It's an adventurous undertaking, but if we aren't trying something new, then we're only repeating ourselves. I think people who have enjoyed my previous work will enjoy it, but perhaps I will win over some new readers, as well. 

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

This question doesn't make any sense to me. Having an agent isn't the opposite of self-publishing. This book will not be self-published, nor do I have an agent. Because work on the book is still in progress, I haven't signed a contract for this book yet, so it is too early to say who the publisher will be.

Make up a question you think is pressing in way of poetry today.

Why are people always checking its pulse?


TAGS: I was supposed to line up five more participants for this in advance, but I hate to be pushy about these chain-letter memes, so I haven't done that. I don't know whether or not they will want to participate, or if they have already been tagged, but I would like to hear about what Stuart Ross, Lauren Kirshner, Chris Banks, Grace O'Connell, and Natalie Zina Walschots are working on. And hey, if they don't want to play, they won't get any guff from me, but you should still visit their websites, buy their books, and read their stuff.