To celebrate the release of her poetry collection, Wolf Centos, during Sarabande's twentieth anniversary year, we played a game of twenty questions with Simone Muench. She shared her thoughts on everything from the "trinity of Cs" to what single book must survive the apocalypse. Read on for this and more!
Summarize your forthcoming book, Wolf Centos, in the form of an old-school SAT analogy: A:B::C:D.
Most things regarding high school and SATs cause me alarm, so I asked poet Jackie White to help me out. Here’s hers—Wolf Centos: loss :: homage: hunger
How did Wolf Centos get its start—what was the germ?
As I was reading poetry across decades and continents—Alejandra Pizarnik, Anna Swir, Emily Dickinson— I began to recognize that many writers are drawn to the image of the wolf. My friend, Brandi Homan, had previously introduced me to the cento form as she had written a “Red Dress” cento series that I love, and the wolf seemed like the perfect motif for this particular form that has been underutilized. Additionally, writing poetry has always been a call-and-response art for me, and homage and salutation are at the cento’s center.
What’s the most daring thing you put into words while writing Wolf Centos?
“It is the human that is alien”—Wallace Stevens.
Do you write/edit to music? What’s your record of choice?
The old standbys: Dexter Gordon’s Ballads; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads, The xx’s xx, and anything by Califone.
Do you write/edit to booze? What’s your drink of choice?
Champagne cocktails, Prosecco and red wine—lately pinot noirs. And, my colleague and poetry compeer Jackie White just brought me Limoncello all the way from Rome. . .
Describe the moment you knew you would be a writer.
It was more of a progression than a moment. But two significant occasions in my life include being a depressed 16-year old in Dr. Brownson’s AP English class, reading Plath for the first time, and finally comprehending the jet force and allure of language. Then, in my second year of college as a Psychology major, I yearned for literature, so I picked up English as a second major in order to read fiction and poetry, which ultimately led to being a poet.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? Any lucky charms, rituals, tokens?
Nothing quirky just the trinity of Cs: coffee, computer, and cats (Youki, Misa, and Clemens)
What was your favorite book when you were twenty years old?
Blowup and Other Stories by Julio Cortazar. It remains one of my favorites. Many thanks to Professor Bruce Bassoff at the University of Colorado—Boulder for introducing it to me.
What is your favorite or least favorite word?
Fuckfuckfuckfuck. . . so many articulations and powerful spondaic couplings: fuck you, fuck me, fuck off. . .
What author would you like to lock in your basement to write you a novel?
I find questions in which you have to choose one author an impossible task. Dead—Lawrence Durrell (who could turn down a tetralogy); Living—Toni Morrison.
An ice cream flavor is named after your book, what does it taste like?
Dark sea salt chocolate with Syrah swirls and a mysterious ingredient that you recognize but can’t quite name, so that you are in a perpetual state of “the uncanny” during consumption.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors or someone working on their first manuscript?
Read as much as you can and not just poetry, though read that too—consume science fiction, glamour mags, the OED and the BBC, science journals, graphic novels, film and music reviews, etc. Also, be persistent. . . rejection is part and parcel of being a published writer.
What’s your research obsession right now? (If you were to camp out for a week in the library, where would you pitch your tent?)
I would pitch tent next to the sonnets, with H.P. Lovecraft and Ambrose Bierce as late night company.
If not a writer, what would you be?
A b-girl or a roboticist.
Shout out to your favorite indie bookstore?
Open Books, Book Cellar and Myopic Books.
What two authors would you like to see in a celebrity death match?
Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker bringing forth Pinhead and the Cenobites.
What’s next for your writing? Anything at the tip of your pen?
I’m currently working on a book of collaborative sonnets with poet Dean Rader. We refer to them as the "Frankenstein Sonnets" because each piece sutures the old with the new in that the first line of each poem is cut from well-known or fairly known sonnets, and acts as a skein of flesh that we then graft new flesh/lines onto.
What do the next 20 years hold for literature? Predict the literary climate in 2034.
More and more collaborative work, hybridity, and patchwork (à la the cento) productions.
If only one book could survive the apocalypse, what should it be?
The Palm at the End of the Mind so that we never forget to marvel at language and imagination.
Compose a haiku in honor of Sarabande’s twentieth anniversary:
Sarabande’s lush dance!
Books delirious with words
unbutton our shirts. . .