Review of ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON

Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon: Prose Poems on Silent Film is predicated on a history of pictures; exploring the power of images with only thought as accompaniment, Robinson presents a very individualized historical account, from the first Cinématographe Lumière to the intrusion of the talkies. Each poem is partnered with a title card captioned by Gregory’s impenitent hand. The poems themselves are present-day reactions to the films they are titled after. From tongue-in-cheek quips to poetic nostalgia to light, staccato snippets of audiences laughing together, Robinson suspends his readers through his unique hybridization of film and poetry. The connection between the two is highlighted through his exploration of “the link between identity and occupation” (“The Last Laugh”); from imagined lives of grand personas to the small, meek position of the McDonald’s employee, readers see Robinson’s work as images that break “free, first from stillness and then from their creators” (ix) taking direction from the films for which Robinson writes.  All Movies Love the Moon succeeds in creating a space for the two great genres of silent film and poetry to merge on a dialectic of passing thoughts and images.

All Movies Love the Moon is published by Rose Metal Press, Inc., an independent press from Chicago, IL that is dedicated to the publishing of hybrid genre work that transcends traditional forms. To see more work from Rose Metal Press, visit the website: http://rosemetalpress.com/index.html. Information for how to purchase All Movies Love the Moon is available on their website.

An Interview with Tony Trigilio

Credit: Jacob S. KnabbTony Trigilio is a professor of creative writing at Columbia College in Chicago and also co-founded the poetry journal Court Green. He has published several collections of poetry, two books of criticisms and chapbooks. His newest additions include a book-length poem White Noise and the poetry collection The Complete Dark Shadows (of my Childhood) Book 1. Along with being the recipient of many grants over the years, including the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry in 2009, he has published critical essays about the Beat Generation, articles and book reviews. On the side, he plays in the band Pet Theories and hosts the podcast Radio Free Albion.

Alyssa Walker: When and how did you decide you wanted to write as a career? What sacrifices, if any, did you make? How did your original path toward journalism influence this?

Tony Trigilio: While in school, I had fourth grade teacher Miss Omark, who had us do creative writing exercises all the time. When I was writing, I got this thrill that I didn’t get from anything else. One time, she had me write up a poem I’d written and put it on a poster board. She taped it up to her desk, and, now that I look back on it, I realize it was my first published poem.

As an undergraduate student at Kent State, I started working toward a degree in journalism. Even after I had switched into English and graduated, I was doing some freelance journalism. I transitioned out of journalism because I found thatthe field placed too many constraints on language and ideas. Journalism taught me discipline in my writing, and I’m grateful for this. But the boundaries it imposes on what a writer can say and think were too much for me, and I had to leave. I had to make a leap of faith, especially when I left the journalism field and was leaving behind a defined career path. I had to work extra hard and be disciplined if I wanted to succeed.

I think “sacrifice” is a strong word. There is of course my music career, and I did eventually have to make a choice between this and my writing career. When I went on tour with my band after a brief period of unemployment once I’d received my M.A. from Northeastern University (Boston), I realized just how hostile the American environment is to art-making. Happily, I’m playing music again, though, with the Chicago-based band, Pet Theories. I realized I needed to be back on stage—needed to be using a part of my brain that doesn’t work when I’m writing. I’ve finally gotten back to music and know what I was missing during that period when I had to leave. It’s not a problem to balance music and writing now.

AW: How would you describe your writing process–time, medium, aims, brainstorming, etc.? Does it change by genre or style?

TT: If I had to use one word to describe my process, I’d say“organic.” As we say in Zen Buddhism, I like to have a “beginner’s mind” when I’m working on a piece of writing—or, as my Zen teacher calls it: “I don’t know mind.” I try to start with as little preconceptions as possible. Start with an image or sound. Generally, I start in a notebook by hand and then go back and forth between hard copy and computer. I’m also an obsessive journal keeper and I’ve learned to put the editor who lives inside my your head outside the room when I’m working on a first draft. You have to be okay with first drafts. And there’s lots of revisions—and that’s when you need the editor in your head, during the revision process.

AW: It seems that all writers have a kind of fixation on a point in their lives that they tell over and over again. Tell me about a childhood memory or life-changing moment that has stuck with your during your writing career.

TT: There is the first time I got published in fourth grade, in Miss Omark’s class. That poem was about tornadoes, which scared me tremendously. I remember on television they would always say go in your basement during storms, but I didn’t have a basement.

In my earliest years, as a toddler, I would watch the soap opera Dark Shadows with my mom. As I got older and continued to write, a part of me was always trying to write about that experience, and this finally led to The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), a gigantic experiment in poetry and autobiography. Book 1 was just published in January 2014.

AW: Nobody talks about titles. What is your philosophy on them? How much value do you put on them? Does your attention to them change for single poems, books of poetry and criticisms?

TT: Everyone feels differently. I like titles a lot. Titles propel me into a poem. I do understand that some poems might feel like they need to be untitled but I push myself a little further if I start to think that. With books of poetry, the title has to reflect the core of the collection and the collection has to reflect the title.

With books of criticism, or any books like like that, the title has to forecast what the book will do. You’re working with a different audience and different tone when writing criticism, and the title should portray that.

AW: How do you know when you’ve collected enough to create a book of poetry?

TT: I write until I’ve exhausted a narrative arc. I work on one poem at a time, then look back and see if there is something there to suggest a collection of poems is forming.

AW: Talk about your process of finding a publisher: Who did you seek out first? Who gave you a chance? Why did you choose the route you did? How did the process change for you when publishing poems to when you were publishing books of criticism?

TT: With individual poetry, I sent my work to literary magazines I liked to read. All I want from editors is to read my work carefully. I also would look at the acknowledgements in the books of poets I love and send my work to those that published them.

My first book, I was a perfectionist. I was very gun-shy about sending it out into the world. When I finally started sending it out, it was to every contest and publisher I felt I had an aesthetic connection to.

AW: What other jobs do you have? How do they hinder or enhance your career as a writer? Do you consider yourself a writer first?

TT: I’ve been teaching for twenty-five years. Teaching is the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. I consider myself a teaching artist. The writing I do finds itself into the classroom and exercises, and what we do in class finds its way into my writing. I come home inspired by my students every day. Students come here as apprentice writers; they see you as a model.
Possibly the job that surprises folks the most was that I was a shoe salesman for a while right before college. I learned how to be communicative and clear, making sales pitches and anticipating the responses of my audience (while trying to get them to buy shoes!).

AW: What tips, quotes, books, tool, etc., have stuck with you as a writer? Do you still refer to them from time to time, such as with writer’s block?

TT: John Daido Loori’s Zen and Creativity, Chogyam Trumgpa Rinpoche’s Dharma Art. My favorite poems that remind me of why poetry matters to me and that help me regain a spark if I feel I’m losing one: George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous,” Harryette Mullen’s “We Are Not Responsible,” and Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish.”

AW: As per your extensive work with the Beat Generation, specifically Ginsberg, how do you personally see that influencing your writing? Do you think all poets or writers in general should have an influence like that?

TT: Yes, it is inevitable. It gives you permission to be yourself. As for Ginsberg, there’s an experimental spirit in his work, and in all the Beats, that inspires me—they wanted to break apart mainstream writing and make something new. It made me trust my unconscious—reading poets like Diane di Prima, William S. Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Elise Cowen. I edited a collection of Cowen’s poetry (Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments, published in 2014 by Ahsahta Press), and seeing her writing process at work definitely helped me with mine.

AW: Do you see your poetry as “fragmented, oulipian, chilling,” as other as said?

TT: I like all those descriptions. I’m very influenced by conceptual art, which has an oulipian essence as you said. I also do a lot of project-based writing. I try as hard as a I can to be vulnerable, even when you can’t find “me” in my poetry, like in White Noise.
I hope my poems are fun, too.

AW: With White Noise you explain how you were inspired by Bernadette Mayer’s ‘x’ method (from her poem, “X on page 50 at half-inch intervals.” Do you see this method of ‘cutting and pasting’ as unethical as a writer? As plagiarism by using Don DeLillo’s words? What did you do to keep it original but still invoke the message and feelings from the sources?

TT: The key to making it ethical for me is that I’m transforming the original work into something new—which is also how appropriated art stays legal, via transforming rather than sheer copying.. You have to sculpt the original into new work. The hardest and most satisfying part of White Noise was sculpting the methodically generated material into a new piece. That’s what made it feel like I was creating something.

AW: What is a question you would like to be asked in an interview? The answer?

TT: I’m probably asking other poets the questions I want to be asked in my podcast, Radio Free Albion. The interconnections between editing, publishing and teaching, which we already talked about, are important to me, and I like to talk about this with other poets who teach and/or edit. I also like to talk about the stories behind particular poems.

AW: I actually brought a poem with me that I was hoping to ask you. Being totally honest, I don’t fully understand your poetry. It’s cerebral in pure image. Can you talk to me about your poem “Evidence”? I’m not sure how we go from evidence to liability waivers. It seems as if that the evidence at the beginning is more of the conclusion to the poem and the beginning comes after.

TT: I think that’s a good close reading of the poem. The poem originated in a hike I took about 10 years ago in Colorado. This was the first time I’d ever been in a high-altitude setting. I’d always been told that high altitudes affect the body, but this was the first time I actually experienced this. After hiking up just the smallest of hills, I had to take a break because I could feel my heart almost trying to punch itself out of my chest. I’m in good shape, so I knew that this was an effect of the high-altitude. I’m not a nature person. I’m generally afraid of nature, so it was kind of bizarre for me to even be hiking in the first place. I prefer urban life. As my heart was pounding in the high-altitude, I thought about the liability waiver I’d signed about cougars before going on the hike. I began to regret the hike and its high-altitude discomfort and threat of cougars. I wanted to get out of nature as fast as I could and back to a city. This got me thinking about the collisions of civilization and nature—the liability waiver, for instance, and just the general presence of human beings in these wild nature settings. All of this was rattling in my head as I wrote the poem. The poem is my exploration of the evidence of our presence that we leave behind in nature, and the evidence of nature’s presence in us.

Interview with Hannah Pittard

 

Credit: Jeremy Lawson

Credit: Jeremy Lawson

Hannah Pittard is the author of The Fates Will Find Their Way and her forthcoming novel Reunion due out October 2014. A graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, she is currently teaching fiction and creative writing at DePaul University. Her fiction has won her numerous awards, including the Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award in 2006, and appeared in magazines such as McSweeney’s. She is also a consulting editor for Narrative Magazine.

Alyssa Walker: When and how did you decide you wanted to write as a career? What sacrifices, if any, did you make? How did your original path toward criticism influence this choice?

Hannah Pittard: I’ve always liked writing – I liked writing essays, I liked writing stories, I liked writing sentences. Words have always impressed me with the subtlety they allow. When I was a kid, I remember listening to my uncle and grandmother debate – for nearly an hour – whether a particular bird outside the kitchen window had been sauntering or strolling.

AW: How would you describe your writing process—time, medium, aims, brainstorming, etc.? Does it change by genre or style?

HP: I write what comes. And I write what’s bothering me. I write the behaviors that keep reappearing in different circumstances.

I like to get as much house cleaning done as possible before sitting down to write because – if there’s a distraction, if there’s an excuse – then I’ll always take it. So it’s best – for me – to start with a really tidy home. Or, if that’s not possible, maybe just walk to a coffee shop.

AW: Tell me about a childhood memory or life-changing moment that has stuck with you during your writing career.

HP: Every ride in the car that I took with my father. Or with my grandmother. Or with my brother and sister. Especially if John Prine or Willie Nelson was playing. I remember them all and they stick with me.

AW: Nobody talks about titles. What is your philosophy on them? How much value do you put on them? How did The Fates Will Find Their Way come about?

HP: I studied, for a time, at St. John’s College. It’s there I fell in love with the Greeks. I also fell in love with Virgil, from whom the quote comes.

AW: Talk about your process of finding a publisher: Who did you seek out first? Who gave you a chance? Why did you choose the route you did? How did the process change for you when publishing your short stories to when you published your first novel?

HP: With stories, I did everything on my own. I didn’t have an agent. I made contacts. I sent emails. I submitted countless stories. I stayed, as best as possible, in people’s minds. I was polite, but tenacious. When I finished The Fates, I sent it to three agents, whose names I’d been saving since my days of submitting stories. All three wanted the book. I chose the one who sounded the most level-headed: he was excited but cautious. He was optimistic, but realistic. I liked that. He sold the book a week later.

AW: What other jobs do you have? How do they hinder or enhance your career as a writer? Do you consider yourself a writer first?

HP: I waited tables while writing The Fates. I waited tables, in fact, right up until my first day at DePaul. I don’t think waiting tables inhibited me. It helped. I spent my mornings and early afternoons writing. I spent my evenings making the money necessary to pay bills. You have to have a pretty strong will – you have to be determined to get up and do the work (preferably in a clean house).

AW: What tips, quotes, books, tools, etc., have stuck with you as a writer? Do you still refer to them from time to time, such as with writer’s block?

HP: Read. Read. Read. Read. And I’m not talking about re-reading Harry Potter. Read new things. Read old things. Ask you best friends what the best books they’ve ever read are. Read those. Ask your favorite professors what the best books they’ve ever read are. Read those. I dare you not to want to write after reading so much great stuff.

AW: How was The Fates Will Find Their Way born? What was going through your mind when you were writing it? Was it originally an idea made to be published or did it turn into that? How?

HP: It was just there, this idea. I’d thought I’d shrivel up and die if I didn’t write it.

AW: How do you see the role of your mentor, Ann Beattie, playing out in your work—specifically in The Fates Will Find Their Way?

HP: Ann has created an endless number of possibilities for me. From the first day I met he, I thought she was the bee’s knees. When I realized – miraculously – that I had her respect, I vowed to keep it, continue to earn it, and to try to impress her every day.

AW: What is a question you would like to be asked in an interview? The answer?

HP: Other dream career? Comedian.