Sunday, July 31, 2016

Amelia Martens, The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat


And the apology I made for you came from a willow tree. From a lemon. From some mud I found in the living room. Our daughter thinks you are a giant. She asks you to lift the house, so she can put her dolls in a timeout. There is a crack in the back of my mind and I am filling it up with forget-me-nots and sailor’s knots and do nots. There is a place behind my retina where I am fragile. If I see a sun, if I see a squid, if I see something shiny, I should pick it up. I should turn my head. I should stop watching you while you sleep because I am going to wake you up. I am going to wake up. I am sorry and you have gone to buy more mousetraps.

I am curious about the short pieces in Kentucky poet Amelia Martens’ first full-length poetry collection, The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat (Louisville KY/Brooklyn NY: Sarabande Books, 2016). Composed in striking, self-contained sentences that accumulate into delightful single-paragraph narratives, the pieces in this collection seem closer to (select) works of fiction by Gary Barwin, Ken Sparling, Sarah Manguso and Lydia Davis than “poems,” causing me to read the book as a delightfully rich collection of very short, dense, occasionally dark and even whimsical stories. While one can argue that naming is certainly important, at the same time, it is also completely irrelevant. As she responds in a recent interview for The Cloudy House:

After our first daughter was born, the prose poem started coming to me in full force. Simply, I did not have time to fret over the line and was so desperate in my need to write under the duress of new-motherhood, that I ran with what was coming so as not to shut progress down via the editor in my mind. As I investigate the prose poem more fully, I see that there are likely several reasons, beyond the time constraint, that the prose poem came to me. This form is versatile, subversive, narrative, allows for play with the structure of a sentence as a rhythmic unit. And women writers have been creating a much wider range of poems in this form than I was previously aware—see Holly Iglesias’ Boxing Inside the Box. The Jesus poems are a result of living in the hyper-religious landscape of western Kentucky and in this time. The “our daughter” poems are fragmented glimpses into daily living with our two daughters, Thea and Opal. These two main threads allowed me to switch my approach and move to another way of looking if the poem wasn’t working.

There’s an intimacy these poems allow, in talking about children, farming, Jesus and other immediate concerns, situations and ephemera. The poems are charming, direct and unsettling. In the interview, she speaks of a shift in her writing due to motherhood, and it makes me curious to see the writing she was doing prior to this collection, just to understand the differences; are the differences, for example, structural only? What does her take on the “prose poem” offer that her prior work hadn’t yet caught? Either way, these poems have the best qualities, one might say, of classic children’s literature: tales both light and dark, writing out wars, spirituality, domestic matters, and, as The Cloudy House tells us, “push between the extraordinary ordinary, our little and big world problems, and direct attention to the surreal mesh of our realities.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part three,

Did you see my first set of notes here or even my second set of notes? I have been producing so many notes lately. What does it all even mean?

[Marilyn Irwin]

Hamilton/Ottawa ON: New from Marilyn Irwin’s shreeking violet press [see her recent “12 or 20 (small press) questions” interview here] comes Hamilton poet and critic Ryan Pratt’s chapbook, Rabbit months (June, 2016), produced in an edition of fifty copies. For his first chapbook-length publication, Rabbit months is a short collection of eight meditative, first-person lyrics that intrigue for their language, rhythm and density. Whether a first chapbook or otherwise, this is a worthy collection of poems, and am looking forward to seeing where his work ends up next.


Two white-tailed deer climb
end days      escarpment confines.

New Year’s Eve
reddens your old house,

rehearses the snow mantra
I smoke in creek, repeat.

That summer to sprint on thank-yous:
classifieds classified, notching

carrots against natural reach
to lawyer parents, long distance,

when my first name
was Remember.

Migrate, darling
or risk starvation.

I sometimes visit, gather books
and music, wonder where you live.

But in the den      I hear no birds,
no false fascination.

Brews become revered
as spirits, emptying

the dew of another year
you’ve gone rabbiting.

Ottawa ON: From Amanda Earl’s AngelHousePress comes Ontario poet and publisher Kemeny Babineau’s latest, House of Many Words (2016), a poem set in ten acts. As the chapbook opens:

A narrator stands in the shadows. On a mounded earthen stage is a large arched doorway. Stretched across the doorway is a white sheet with altering shadow shapes upon it. Behind the sheet is the orange glow of a fire as well as other shifting shadowy figures. Music is played, at first loud, then soft, it could be Rachmaninoff.

Structured as a short play, Babineau’s poem-sequence explores the action of language, volume and inaction, composing a narrative in which quite a lot of nothing happens, and even more nothing is actually accomplished. Even for Babineau’s extensive list of publications, this is an odd work, and one that intrigues; after years of poems playing off surrealism, brevity, landscape and the narrative “I,” his foray into script is entirely curious. Might this be an entirely new direction, or a quirky one-off?

[Anstruther Press editor/publisher Jim Johnstone being awesome at the Carousel table]

Toronto ON: Further from Jim Johnstone’s Anstruther Press comes Wax Lyrical (2015) by Klara Du Plessis, “a poet residing alternately in Montreal and Cape Town.” The narratives of Du Plessis’ pointed lyrics are akin to short essays, composed with a combination of looseness and striking density, some of which suggests far stronger work on the horizon. Part of the question becomes whether or not her poems require a stronger tension and tightness, or if she requires more comfort in the casual spaces, where she allows her lines a bit more air—in this, I would compare her work to early publications by Stephanie Bolster, who became a far stronger writer once her poems negotiated a stronger comfort between looseness and tight density. Already, Du Plessis’ boldness and fearlessness is apparent, as is the fact that her poems will soon be impossible to ignore. I would say that Klara Du Plessis is very much a poet to watch out for.

Feminists fuck like a real man

You’re always unfastening buttons you don’t need to.
It’s very manly.
You must admit that I’m good at bras.
So good at bras, it’s like I never wear them.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Matthew Henriksen

Matthew Henriksen is the author of two books of poetry from Black Ocean, The Absence of Knowing (2015) and Ordinary Sun (2011). His poems have been anthologized recently in Hick Poetics and The Volta Book of Poets. A co-editor of the online poetry journal Typo, he also edited Another Part of the Flood: Poems, Stories, and Correspondence of Frank Stanford, which appeared in Fulcrum #7. He lives in the Arkansas Ozarks, where he assists the Northwest Arkansas Prison Stories Project.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

My intent was to write fiction, but I could never work my way out of the syntax of the first sentence. I broke and rebroke the sentence structure for musical purposes. Then when I was fifteen a teacher showed me Hart Crane's poetry. And it was all over.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I'd say my poems start with sound, but really there is a sense that comes before it. I know I'm looked at as an emotional writer but the impulse to write isn't emotional: it's an awareness of emotion and a urgency for utterance. The more distance I get from my emotional self, the better I've been able to explore that creature who feels. The tool, of course, is sound. When the experience of becoming aware of the emotion reaches the urgency for utterance, sound isn't enough. There needs to be a phrasing that is both musically explicit and intellectually coherent, something that sounds spoken, even if the speech is weird. I talk weird. When some internal phenomenon works its way outward and finds itself wrapped up in my weird talking, I have the first line of a poem. The rest of the poem just follows that. And then eventually there's a book, because I write the poems in a certain increment of time--for the first book all of my twenties, for the second book the four years from the birth of my child through the end of my marriage--and the poems all come from utterances from whatever part of my internal existence I'm in touch with at that time. Everything I've ever written has come one line at a time: there's no plan.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I ran The Burning Chair Readings in Brooklyn for years, then ran them here in Fayetteville, Arkansas for years. Only recently I handed that work off. Readings are integral to poetry, to poetry as I understand it at least. And they've been at the core of most of my close friendships. The presence of faces and bodies and auditory words brings us closer to the poetry. I also happen to think that most poetry, not all, is essentially comprised of words as sound, not as a system of signifiers. It breaks my heart that I don't give readings much anymore. I just can't afford the travel. And I don't have much community here. There are a few poets truly amazing in the Ozarks. We used to get together every month or so and stay up late into night reading poems to each other, but I've decided to give up the social poetry life. I work two jobs, I have a kid, and I put my girlfriend and things like health and finances at the forefront--so poetry readings had to go. As did watching baseball. But readings are essential. However, there are poets like Paul Celan and Alice Notley and C.D. Wright whose books I open and read and the voices are present. Right now Audre Lorde is doing that for me. If I need to hear a poet read, I open one of Audre Lorde's books to any page and she's right there talking in my ear.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I'm just going to say this is part of why I haven't been writing for most of the last year. I don't think poets have any social obligations. I don't think people in general have any essential social obligations. But I'm making the choice to be as conscious as I can be. I'm looking for ways to become more social as a writer and I don't know how. I've been listening to what others have to say. I work with prisoners. They write and we cast their writing into performances and bring it back to them. It's empowering for them to hear their own words. We don't edit the prisoners. We guide their writing but we don't instruct them in creative writing, at least not in a traditional way. We try to show them that they can tap into memory, or their perceptions, and write out of that space without judging. They tend to go really deep in themselves and often will say of something they've just written, "I never told anyone that before." They'll usually talk about a weight being dropped. Men who didn't like each other in their barracks will bond after sharing a poem or two. Every time I work with prisoners, I see poetry doing what I have always thought it ought to do: we heal ourselves and we learn about each other. When we take the performances out into the public, we see people's perceptions changing. Right now, I don't know how anything like that fits into my writing. For now, I only see myself a a facilitator of this kind of work. I'll start writing again, but I'm going to have to go through some sort of transformation before I'll feel like it's worth anything.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
My first book involved numerous outside editors who looked at the manuscript multiple times over the years. The second book didn't get as much feedback, though I begged for it. I think I made a mistake in not taking more responsibility for the work myself. I felt the first book was helped along, like I was the primary composer but there was a collaboration behind my choices. The second book is so much closer to who I was at the time I wrote the poems that they needed to find their own way. I don't plan to ask for much help in the future. I don't think I'll show anything to anyone until I know it's finished. But I always am willing to take an edit. In the end poems are about making them. They're not going to last when we're gone. If they do last at all, it won't be for very long. The poems we are writing hardly exist now, and they're so hard won. I never see any poem as finished because they're intangible flashes, like light in the water. Don't tell me Shakespeare's sonnets are the same as when he wrote them.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
"Refuse to engage in meaningless babble." My college prof, the poet Karl Elder, said this a few times. Poets talk a lot of shit. In fact, most of them aren't actually poets. They just talk about how they're poets, and their poems are out to prove it. It took me a while to see that some very impressive contraptions getting passed off as poems were actually vessels of 100% bullshit.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I write when I feel like writing and I stop when I have to, when I'm tired, or on rare occasions when I feel like basking in the glow of having written something nice.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I read William Blake (obsessively) or I paint (badly). Sometimes I read Hegel, passages at random, because for whatever reason the structure of his thinking and expression speaks to me. But I don't care about his ideas. If I get into a deep hole where I want to write but can't, I read Emily Dickinson. Reading her doesn't help get me out of the rut at all. In fact, I get more entrenched. But it's always better to read her than to write my own poems, and after all, we might as well be happy. I've never understood people who get frustrated when they aren't writing. The world is a truly gorgeous place. There are trees, birds, children laughing, and Emily Dickinson poems, not to mention kimchi soup, sex, and coffee. When I feel stalled, it's when I look at social injustice, which is everywhere, and incongruant with what most poetry is after. So it's not a problem, not to write. Writing and not writing are both luxuries.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
William Blake, Lao Tzu, and Novalis are the writers I take the most solace in. I guess I read their books the way some read scriptures, though I'm a true disbeliever in all things. I feel that way about Emily Dickinson, as well, but she's also the best writer that's ever lived. She has all the spiritual vitality of the other three but she writes poetry that's pure art. I never forget that she's a poet when she's writing. I don't turn to her for a model, really. I just don't think anyone else can do it like that. Alice Notley is similar for me. But I get to see her work as it emerges. I feel like I'm participating in it more because she's writing now, and her vigor and velocity carry over with me when I write. The way she moves through language at that pace, but still working selectively, still meditating, and the way she seems to see immediately through all the nonsense to the line that is poetry--while I can't use her as a technical model because she's so far beyond me, I can embrace that spirit and try to tap into a little of my own. I do study Celan closely. I try to get his syntax in my head (I read all the translations and the German, though I don't know much German). The way he approaches emotional experience through sound and syntax strikes me as something I can try to replicate with my own idioms. Clark Coolidge and John Weiners do this form me as well. Those are the three poets I most consciously try to study and incorporate into my technique. Of course, I'm failing to write like any of them, but that's not the point. I find very specific elements in their poems that help me move my own work forward. I also have a handful of contemporaries in mind--among them Andrea Baker, Kate Greenstreet, Elizabeth Robinson, Susana Gardner, Brandon Shimoda, Dot Devota, Laura Solomon, Lily Brown--who work in the lyric and have ears that I feel are tuned to frequencies similar to my own, and who keep the bullshit and noise out of their poems. I do check myself against their work. I like a lot of poets out there, but most of their work has less and less to do with my own. I  see a lot of the poets I've most closely identified with turning away from the larger poetry scene and just writing in their cabins or their tiny apartments, like Theodore Enslin or Larry Eigner. You really don't need more than four or five poets for your community, as long as you have a good shelf of books.
16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I wish I'd gotten into physics. Or truck driving. Those are serious answers and my feelings have been the same since high school.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Sara Nicholson's What the Lyric Is / Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse

19 - What are you currently working on?
I'm teaching my six-year-old to read with fluency.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ploughshares : an interview with Soraya Peerbaye,

As of this month, until the end of 2016, I'm a monthly blogger over at the Ploughshares blog! And my first post is now up: an interview with award-winning Toronto poet Soraya Peerbaye, author of Tell: poems for a girlhood (Pedlar Press, 2015). You can see the interview here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

rob mclennan interview : Speaking of Marvels

An interview I did back in February around my chapbook Four Stories (Apostrophe Press) is now online at Speaking of Marvels; thanks so much! And: if you're interested in a copy of the chapbook, send me $5 (CAN/US; International, send $7; either send an email at rob_mclennan (at) or utilize the paypal button, above). For other interviews with me that have posted online, check the ongoing list here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Genève Chao

Genève/Geneva Chao has a B.A. In French, an M.A. in English, and an M.F.A. in poetry. Her poems and translations have been published in Boxkite, Can We Have Our Ball Back?, (Satellite) Telephone, n/a literary journal, New American Writing, DIAGRAM, the L.A. Telephone Book, and others. Her translations of Gérard Cartier's Tristran and Nicolas Tardy's (with François Luong) Encrusted on the Living have appeared from [lx] press, where she is an editor. She has twice been a Tamaas resident for work on the intersectionality of language/poetry and dance/the body. 

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Well, one of us is wave one of us is shore is my first book published (as opposed to the dozen or so books that are currently lost on various stolen hard drives or moldering boxes of paper). It has been wonderful so far. Otis has been very kind and conscientious with me, a pleasure to work with. In the past, I’ve had periods where I did not succeed in making the time to finish whole books; I've had things pulled because I failed to please the person in charge socially or sexually; I’ve turned down offers from friends to take a manuscript — I understand that poetry is a small world and that we necessarily work with and for our friends, but for me it was important to have some sense that the work was being considered on its own merits and that my relationship with the publishers as a human did not have a defining role, so I did not want to do it that way. So I just sent this manuscript into Otis’s open reading period and they took it. And yes, that was validating, certainly. But — and for me this is a very important but — the real work of life-changing happened before I even submitted it, when I emerged from a period of indentured domestic servitude the like of which often befalls otherwise fortunate women, and which was debasing and exhausting. This debasement and exhaustion made me understand that no external recognition about myself as a poet was at all relevant to me. I think often we crave recognition because we think it will Velveteen Rabbit us into being flesh and blood and a heartbeat, and of course that never happens, or you just become an enormous whore for more and more of it. And I was always both jealous of and repulsed by the public-like-a-frogness of it all. So my life was changed when I wrote this book and I committed to publicly admitting that I was writing, and the publishing of it is entirely secondary. That said, because Otis is a teaching MFA program, when they invited me to read there it was a fantastic audience of mostly students — the public was allowed too — all of whom had read the work and had interesting questions about it. So that was life-changing because it allowed me to engage in a dialogue about the work that did not feel like poseur b.s., which is the instinctive reaction I have at readings or parties when people start conceptually droning about their work, but which actually seemed to move the work forward.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I read Emily Dickinson as a child, and Shakespeare, and of course I walked around my house reciting them, and then in my early teens Creeley and Bunting and Stevens and Pound and Laura Riding and so on. I was and am always interested in spareness, as an aesthetic, more than ampleness, and in the plasticity of poetry in terms of verse/narrative/theme/music. I of course always loved reading novels, but now I find a lot of them — the Oprah book club ones, the upper middle class white lady bedside ones, horribly dull. I think a lot of these big contemporary American and British novels are class markers. I have friends who read them constantly and pass them to me and... I really want to like Claire Messud, for example, but I couldn’t finish her last thing. I still love all the novels I read as a child, of course, which I think is because I find novels that explore morality — and all the great children’s novels are about this, how you decide who you are, what principles or crimes you’re going to plant your flag on — very satisfying. So I am now writing children’s novels.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
It depends. I do a lot of gestating work. The actual writing is usually pretty quick, and fully formed — minor edits but not a lot of major overhaul. If I feel something needs major overhaul I’m more apt to chuck it and start the next thing, imbued will all the beautiful knowledge of that failure. 

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
My late friend Stacy Doris once told me that she only wrote books and never individual poems. I think this is a useful way of thinking about it. I like the exploration of a theme through the length of a book — though I write very short books so I can get back to bumping Nicki Minaj or making smoothies or whatever. I have a hard time with the standalone poem; I’m not interested in it. I’ve never liked the poems in the New Yorker or those “intelligent” magazines that interrupt their socially pertinent reportage to bring you a poem so you can feel cultured on your way to the tennis club. Not that they are uniformly bad (just most of them), but I dislike this presentation. I suppose I am greedy for more. I want each poem to be the ice cream in the ice cream sandwich in a whole box of ice cream sandwiches, not one stingy truffle all dolled up on a plate.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I do enjoy doing readings, during which I make many inappropriate jokes and will probably at some point segue into karaoke or parkour. I have trouble taking readings too straight, but I love connecting to the reader. I am my reader too.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I have ONLY theoretical concerns behind my writing. one of us is wave one of us is shore is of course a lover’s discourse, and it’s one that specifically gnaws on what Guy Bennett in my reading at Otis wonderfully called “the inadequacy of language.” In this case it’s the inadequacy of French and of English to each other, to translation, to the experience they attempt to describe; the book is in many a bad translation of itself. I have a finished manuscript called i, poor monster that is about motherhood and how it irrevocably alters (not always constructively) one’s mental and physical architecture, sometimes with disastrous results. This started when two very good friends of mine and I all became mothers and our lives instantly fell apart. Motherhood can be catastrophic. It is a seismic shift. Sometimes Lois Lane disappears into the fissure.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
The role of the writer is to make things that people want to read. Beyond that, it’s nice if sometimes they change the world, not necessarily in sweeping gestures but through intelligence and increment. Ursula le Guin was talking in a recent interview about how she was always secretly making her protagonists people of color and readers would never notice; I remember this very clearly, reading The Wizard of Earthsea as a child and not noticing Ged, the protagonist’s, coppery-red skin and then in the second book it’s contrasted to Tenar’s white skin and you’re like Ohhhh miscegenation! My parents were miscegenators, so this was very reassuring to me. 

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Well, the great Canadian poet Alanis Morissette says “the moment I let go of it/is the moment I got more than I could handle” and, though perhaps wildly optimistic, this is an attitude I wish more people would adopt. We have too much poverty mentality and status-grubbing, particularly in the arts. And Creeley says “bite it but take care not to hurt,” which I think is also good advice. 

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to translation)? What do you see as the appeal?
Translation for me is very much a lending of my voice and skill to try to render into one language what I see as the character of a work. It is a work of service. Poetry for me is a work of attacking problems, of analysis. This is the place where I live. And novels are a work of the pleasure of imagining.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
For poetry, I write one poem every morning first thing, while drinking coffee. For novels, I write one thousand words every morning first thing, while drinking coffee. I am extremely rigid about this and I like total silence when I do it, although of course the silence is often punctuated by the screams of battling children. But I am always fighting my way back into that silence where the work can emerge. Because I also have a full-time job plus many other responsibilities, I sometimes miss a day, but it is rare for me not to average over five days a week. If I had fewer other things to do, I would write for longer in the morning. If I have something else to do, like an essay, I crank it out after lunch. I do not write in the evening at all; that is time for food and noise.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I am not a big believer in writing getting stalled — I more sidle up to it if it’s skittish — but I need to take a lot of breaks to do physical things, like walk or eat. Then I find everything falls into place. But of course my routine is a way of keeping things well oiled.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Lavender. Lilacs. The dusty smell of California dirt. Salt water. Eucalyptus, particularly in mist or rain.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Yes, but not directly; more as an overlay. The sections of one of us is wave one of us is shore are named from a song by the great French rapper M.C. Solaar, “Matière grasse contre matière grise” (“Fat matter versus grey matter,” literally translated). I love to appropriate structures from science: I wrote a poem called “Five Specifics,” published by DIAGRAM a hundred years ago, that is of course all based on physics: specific gravity, heat, impulse, performance — such great metaphor words.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I really enjoy critical theory, structuralism/poststructuralism, and semiotics, Barthes and Saussure and Deleuze/Guattari and Baudrillard (especially Baudrillard, who cracks me up) and Guy Debord and etc., but I don’t take it very seriously. These things seem to me like fine amusements. It may be naive to think they provide us with any kind of actual wisdom. But I think that particular twentieth century way of dismantling cities or systems into intentions and attitudes, of trying to understand what everything means, or what it represents or dissembles about, is very much a habit of mine. Other than that…I read a lot of different things, but I wouldn’t say they’re part of my process. The fiction I read is a way of stepping out of that place of constructing and into a space of just rapaciously consuming, with juice running down my chin.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Well, hang glide, obviously. Stacy used to always threaten that we would show up at Fort Funston and seduce a bunch of hang gliders into taking us up for free. Using our feminine wiles. I never actually saw her use her feminine wiles in anything like such a deliberate or targeted way, and I’m not all sure I’d know how, but I would go along for the ride. This now has to happen in an alternate universe. Otherwise, I am not a big believer in bucket lists. Many parts of my life give me intense pleasure and engagement. I do an enormous amount of work of many different types. That is already pretty good, I think.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I think I could have been a great Hero. I don’t mean like Supergirl. I mean like a priestess in a tower setting out torches for her hot affair with some world-class swimmer.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I was too shy to sing in public. Legions of people in karaoke bars worldwide will tell you that’s no longer the case.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Great is a very heavy word. I don’t see a lot of movies because it’s expensive. The last movie I saw that was really great was called Enemies of the People. It’s a documentary by a journalist, Thet Sabbath, who lost his parents in the Cambodian genocide and who gets to know Nuon Chea, who is featured in the film. I think I’ll recuse myself from the book question.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a series called Hillary Is Dreaming, which follows the election and is an observation/analysis of the many fucked-up chimeras Hillary Clinton has been transformed into, either by the gaze and words of others or by herself or her intimates. I find this fascinating and grotesque. I get up and read various newspapers and magazines and everybody’s Twitter accounts and do keyword searches and I try to imagine what it would be like to inhabit that body, to be its puppeteer. Of course I realize that talking about feminism and media is a thing white women do, but I thought I might give white woman a break: these are the economies of all our lives.