RRB: Ann, I’m going to take a snippet from your blog and put you on the spot.
“I am a would-be philanthropist with my nest egg, but I would go down. The egg came from winning a poetry contest: $20,000. The text of my poem is as follows and appeared in a hard cover volume called Touch of Tomorrow, $80 a copy:
I don’t understand “but I would go down.” I also tend to sympathize with people who are much more concerned with paying the rent, raising babies, and putting food on the table than about writing or even reading poetry. I’m a fan of poetry and poets—don’t get me wrong. But poetry is a luxury. A poet who forgets that fact is, in my opinion, a poet who has lost touch—or who simply wants to write for other poets.
$20,000 is a fortune for most of us. $80 a copy is well beyond the means of all but a very small minority of people. Help me out here.
AMB:The “speaker” of this essay-memfic (“narrator” if short story) would like to help friends who seem to be asking for hand-outs after she comes into her windfall of $20,000, but she realizes she needs her nest egg to avoid borrowing herself. Her empathy comes from her own recent poverty. Instead of offering loans, she offers advice about how to win a prize in poetry. (She won a contest sponsored by a vanity publisher).
The writer, Carol Novack, has coined the term “memfic” to describe fiction that is part memoir, and I owe this term to her. What is “true” about this story is the poem in it: I really did place that poem in a vanity press edition of a hard-cover volume called Touch of Tomorrow where it appears on the first page. I might have been eligible to win a cash prize for it except I lacked the funds to get to Las Vegas, where the vanity press held its competition (winners needed to be present to win). Another writer (but I should need to verify this) has suggested that the genre be called “speculative nonfiction,” possibility I like.
Is poetry necessary? For me, it is. For Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a luxury.” For the narrator of “Po-cash,” poetry is lucre. I write less poetry than prose. I imagine a poetry audience--an audience of poets-for-poets--as I do.
RRB:Really? Isn’t that somewhat limiting? I mean, poets writing for other poets, or painters painting for other painters, or composers composing for other musicians is, well, writing/painting/composing for a rather limited audience.
Wouldn’t you rather belong to a somewhat larger club—a less well-endowed club, no doubt, but a club with its feet planted firmly on planet Earth, its head well out of the fog, and its hands on things like diapers (baby or adult) and tooth decay?
AMB:It’s interesting that you should mention tooth decay: this is a theme in my long manuscript excerpted at Big Bridge called Work on What Has Been Spoiled. The writer in the story feels she has lost her teeth as an “inheritance,” “without teeth you die,” but her fear is caused by writing itself and is delusional: she only thinks her teeth are changing colors.
I feel unapologetic about writing poetry for an audience of poets. Perhaps if poets were snobs as a class -- narrow-minded or intolerant -- I might see it differently, but poets (as I see poets) work in poverty and humility and are the most tolerant of people. I do not mean that in a religious sense nor that all poets are poor; I mean poetry is poor, the most poor (most pure) of art forms. Poets are “my people,” and I prefer an audience of poets when I give a fiction reading as well.
I have a very close friend who had not heard of Sylvia Plath. When Plath’s son, Nicholas Hughes, took his life not long ago, I told my friend about it, and my friend said, “Who is she? Does her poetry rhyme? I hate poetry that doesn’t rhyme.” I am not in a position to write for him, but I am in a position to give him poems that he can take home and try liking or not liking in privacy. My friend is facing bankruptcy (despite frugal living and steady employment) and changed most of his two boys’ diapers. It hasn’t occurred to me to write a rhyming poem about his life, but he figures in my stories.
RRB:Very interesting—especially about the bankruptcy.
Tell us, please, about some of your stories before we get back to your poetry.
AMB:Jefferson Hansen recently interviewed me (in audio format) about short stories that appear in the latest volume of Big Bridge. In the interview, he asks about influence and other topics that relate to my short fiction writing. You may visit Jeff’s website at and hear the interview.
My primary concern in fiction writing today is with the line between fiction and nonfiction. I experiment at that line, sometimes writing fiction stories, sometimes writing memoir or nonfiction stories, sometimes blending or blurring the line between the two. I am not primarily concerned, for example, as one writer friend is, with the differences in style between imagination (invention) and realism. I value both invention (imagination) and realism, whether in fiction or nonfiction. For me, “the frontier” in so-called experimental writing relates to fact, to memory (how memory is presented), to time (including but not limited to chronology), and to point of view, to narration itself. The musicality, rhythm, and syntax of language also matter.
RRB:Thanks, Ann. Although I’d love to post one or two of your short stories here, I’ll have to leave them to our readers’ imagination—or to their dexterity with Googlesnaps—and get back to your poetry (which is, after all, the business of our little corner). And so…
I found the piece “ars poetica” at Logolalia.com. If I’m not mistaken, it first appeared in the International Library of Poets’ Best Poems and Poets of 2005.
Please tell us about this one—how it came about; what you wanted to say with it; your take on writing poetry about the art of writing poetry (always a risk!).
AMB:I wrote this poem, without title, in Houston, Texas in 1995. The International Library of Poets, also the publisher of Touch of Tomorrow, wrote to request a second poem to include in their Best Poems and Poets of 2005 volume. While I trust it appeared there, I didn’t order a copy at more than $80 nor did I buy the CD of poems performed by professional actors. It’s ironic to mention. Flarf came about when a group of poets in New York set out to write bad poetry for inclusion in International Library of Poets’ volumes. Nada Gordon, Gary Sullivan, K. Silem Mohammad, Sharon Mesmer, and others discovered how really difficult it is to write bad poetry well, that is, to keep words written as lines on the page from becoming poetry; whereas I had submitted to International Library of Poets from Minnesota as a joke, too, but as a different joke. I wanted to avoid competing with trained poets I knew: trained poets who would sooner swat at shopkeepers with folded umbrellas than submit to a vanity press. (I learned later that even prestigious contests in poetry sometimes ask winners to finance publication in their contracts, but that’s another story.) Early in 2007 (or late in 2006), I received an invitation to submit a poem about writing poetry to the ars poetica project, edited by Dan Waber, so I sent this one. I prefer not to explain the poem but to let the poem speak for itself. I have published two vanity poems, and you have found both of them: secreted on the internet.
Others of my poems appear in ~*~_W_O_M_B_~*~, P.F.S. Post, MiPOradio, onedit, The Argotist Online and other journals. XAM: Paragraph Series with lithokons by mIEKAL aND is a cycle of prose poems from 1998 published by Xexoxial Editions in 2005, and dog barks up a tree at the apple left in it under a deerslim moon, 18 poems, was published by Orium Press for the Dusie Kollektiv in 2009. I tend not to submit poetry (or prose) for publication but wait to be solicited. It happens on a regular but rather slow basis that I am solicited. I’ve compared my method of waiting to be solicited to others’ method of submitting for publication, and the two methods seem to work about equally well in terms of frequency.
RRB:Very interesting, Ann. Knowing what I know about the thoroughly demoralizing business of submitting, I might be tempted to borrow your approach. I’ve never really understood why an editor/publisher needs to sit on three or five poems for six months before deciding to reject them. I mean, what’s the point? Why not just send back a quick note saying “Sorry, but your stuff simply doesn’t work for me.”
Can you explain? Is this supposed to be some kind of a kinky power trip our would-be editor/publisher is on? And no, I don’t buy the argument that (s)he’s got thousands of submissions to wade through. Nobody’s got thousands of submissions to wade through—and besides, we’re talking poetry here, not movie scripts or novel manuscripts.
AMB:It seems in the so-called poetry “business” (so-called because poets rarely earn money at it directly), editors procrastinate. It may be a kinky-power trip, as you suggest; perhaps it depends on the editor. To work without pay (yet with a training that did not come free) is demoralizing, as demoralizing perhaps as the submissions process itself, the submissions process that has become increasingly demoralizing as print publications have begun to disappear and paid editors have lost their posts. An editor’s work ethic comes into play whether s/he is paid or unpaid, whether the publication is print and/or internet: efficient editors return quickly; inefficient editors delay.
RRB:Okay. Thanks for the insight. I suppose “inefficient” is somewhat more forgivable than “kinky-power-tripie.”
Okay, let’s move on to one of your poems that is not a vanity piece. How about “This is Why I Loved You,” which you wrote in early 2006—but which first appeared in print only in September, 2009 in The Argotist Online (Editor: Jeffrey Side), and then again in dog barks up a tree at the apple left in it under a deerslim moon (Orium Press for Dusie Kollektiv, 2009.)?
RRB:Well, Elizabeth Barret Browning said it first: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” But I think you’ve made an admirable contribution to the general theme.
I want to thank you, Ann, for your patience and forbearance in what might otherwise have proved to be a rather confrontational interview.
November – when all hearts beat as one in the warm-up to Thanksgiving. (The warm-up may greatly exceed, in anticipation and expectation, the day itself – but that’s another story.) Ann Bogle is a poet of great expectation(s), pace Dickens; November, by default, is her month.
It would be rude of me to launch right into Ann’s poetry without a proper introduction. And so, Ann’s modest bio:
Ann Bogle's short stories and poetry appeared in print journals until the millennium and in online journals after that. She lives in the jurisdiction of her birth, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and visits New York where the friends in poetry live. Her chapbook, dog barks up a tree at the apple left in it under a deerslim moon, was published by Orium Press for the Dusie Kollektiv in 2009. Ana Verse, a b-l-o-o-k or book-of-a-blog, documents her weblog at http://annbogle.blogspot.com. She is a contributing member of Fictionaut.
Grace brought Ryan
with his saw
to grind the trunk
and make the logs
build the stack
and clear the leaves
the tree left
when it died
“I’d told three people—who later called, broke—of my success. I said they could write a poem, too: anyone can! They said they didn’t want to write a poem. They said they were too busy, working, to write poems. When they realized all I intended to give them was a story about a poem, they asked me why I didn’t get a job (if I couldn’t be useful).”
It’s the end of a cycle.
The pause before.
I’ve been here before but never known it.
Before, they told us to be beautiful about it.
Now, they tell us to be quiet about it.
Other people’s poetry is all the poetry there is.
I dance driving.
I am a member of cabs.
Your opal eyes
Your sea-blue eyes
Your sky-blue eyes
Your ice-blue eyes
Your gray-blue eyes, your periwinkles
Your hazel eyes
Your violet eyes
(almond-shaped and almost cubist)
Your indigo eyes
Your topaz eyes, your sunkissed lashes
Your turtle-sundae eyes.
I loved your black shiny hair
Your turquoise streaks
Your blond parade
(your hair that speaks)
Your red-sown hair
(cosseted in its own knot)
I loved my friends without sorting things first.
I loved your ringing in the ears
Your Rolling Rock
Your rough-hewn jaw
Your three-day beard
Your staggering toward me
in your navy mugger's cap
in a werewolf dementia
(I loved you and would have shown it to the moon)
I loved your nifty pronouncements
that drifted like seagulls over the pay lot.
And later, your country squire's avant garde
Your full-grown beard
Your handsome sons
Your spirited daughters
I loved you because you had good taste.
I loved you because I learned many things from you.
I loved you because you fed me.
I loved it that you read out loud to me.
I loved the personalities of your women.
We didn't lean.
I loved the country you were born in.
I loved its theater and rock n' roll.
I loved your classicism.
I loved earth more than I loved you, first;
I loved the animals, second;
I loved the children of other people in the wildest, most abstract way,