Friday, May 22, 2009

An Interview with Joshua Marie Wilkinson

Joshua Marie Wilkinson was born and raised in Seattle, and he is the author of four books: most recently, The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth (Tupelo 2009). An edited collection, 12x12: Conversations in 21st Century Poetry & Poetics, is just out from University of Iowa Press, and a new chapbook, Until the Lantern's Shaky Song, is also just out from Chicago's own Cinematheque Press. He lives in Andersonville and teaches at Loyola University Chicago. This interview originally appeared in The North Branch.

JEM: What authors or movies do you come back to most often? What have been most foundational for your creative development?

JMW: There’s an old Joseph Cornell film (collaged together from another film he found) called Rose Hobart. I’ll return to that forever. Fassbinder’s short film (I only have it on VHS, and I no longer have a VCR) Germany in Autumn. I adore that film. Antonioni’s work from the mid 60s; his film Red Desert. Authors: Blanchot, Niedecker, Stevens, Davenport’s translations of ancient poets, Giscombe, H.D., Notley, Ceravalo.

Are your undergrad literary influences still just as important to you? If not, how have they changed and who has taken their place?

No, not at all. My favorite poets in undergrad were Michael S. Harper and, later, Yusef Komunyakaa. It was formative, you know, but sensibilities change. When I found certain other poets (Dickinson, Celan, Bunting, Elizabeth Willis, Jay Wright, Blaser—lots of others), new curiosities were formed.

What are some of your biggest non-literary influences? Are there any that you are surprised or embarrassed by?

My non-literary influences are mostly painters and visual artists—and especially musicians: Memphis Minnie, Gordon Matta-Clark, Blind Willie McTell, Richard Diebenkorn, Joel R.L. Phelps, Yoshitomo Nara, Damien Jurado, Nina Nastasia, Califone, and Neko Case to name a few. As for embarrassment, there’re a few, but I’ve left them off the list.

You grew up in Seattle, now teach in Chicago, and have lived a number of places in between; has your work changed significantly based on where you’re living?

I think it has. When I was younger, I had a fairly classic case of wanderlust. I spent months in Turkey, in Czech Rep., in Spain, and I lived for longer periods in Slovakia and Ireland, Arizona and Colorado. The places—landscapes, faces, train stations, markets, languages—all filter into the work in unexpected ways, mostly without warning.

Which house/apartment from your past has been your favorite and does your experience there have an effect on the poetry that you’re writing now?

The worst place was this little tiny room I rented in Dublin, in graduate student housing, and I had five roommates. But I got so much work done in that room—drafted much of my second book and wrote my film thesis on the movie Festen. It had a big window onto a vast green pitch with woods beyond it. It was like a tiny college dorm room; totally uninspiring, but I work in caves—light is of no use to me, and though it lacked character it was a great cave.

What in film influences your writing? Are you drawn more towards one than the other?
Everything in film: how the titles roll, how images click into each other, how characters move, how the camera moves—or doesn’t—there’s no aspect of film that bores me. Somehow, I’m drawn more to poetry. Most everything I do, it seems, is scored by poetry. It’s woven into nearly each part of my day—reading, writing, teaching, commenting on students’ work, my editorial projects, the presses I work with, the journals I read, the correspondences I keep, the book projects I’m working on. It has sort of taken over my life. Going to readings, setting up and hosting readings, even walking to work, I often listen to poets in conversation or reading their work on my headphones.

Your Rabbit Light Movies are a series of videos of poetry readings. What made you want to start this series?

I started RLM in early 2007 on a lark. I made a little poemfilm of me reading one of my new poems dubbed over traffic lights of a street (Colfax) in Denver, where I used to live. It was about a minute and clicked together in a matter of minutes; and I liked how it looked and sounded. So I called up my friend Julie Doxsee and took my camera over to her house to have her read from her new chapbook and film it. That was it. I burned the first few episodes onto DVD just to add to the landscape of poetry—there’s nothing like hearing it in the poet’s voice. It moved to the internet when burning the dvds became too cumbersome—and I like people being able to access it from anywhere there was an internet connection.

As paper press dies, do you feel that poetry will eventually become a mostly digital medium? What would you most like to see happen?

I hope I’m dead before poetry becomes “mostly digital” as you say. My hope is that more and more fine art (and even slapdash) book-making comes into the fold, in the vein of Flood Editions, Ugly Duckling Presse, Corollary Press, Effing Press, Braincase Chapbooks, Black Square Editions, Kitchen Press. I’m bored by digital chapbooks, e-books, kindle—all that. Without the physical object to hold—to carry with me on the train, to pull out of my bookbag, to hand to a friend or student, to open and close, to place on a shelf to admire the little spine—I feel like I’m just clicking around on a screen, and not engaging with the work in a material way—even if the screen is comprised of more materials than a chapbook! I think (or, I hope) that poets will always take interest in the materiality of the word, the materials of the object that doesn’t just house the work, but is formed along with it. There are a few online journals that I think are great—and I edit one myself—but there’s nothing like getting the new copy of Chicago Review or Conjunctions or 6x6 or The Denver Quarterly and paging in and out of till the next one comes…

What do you hope to accomplish in future work? What would you most like to see your students and other writers accomplish in theirs?

I hope to complete a big long poem that’s in progress. As for students, just that they learn to love poetry and seek it out on their own and redirect their lives around it—no small task!—that’d be enough. Other writers are fine with out my meddling.


No comments:

Post a Comment