Interviews, Featured Authors

"The Next Big Thing:" Kiki Petrosino Participates

Kiki Petrosino’s second poetry collection will be available this August, she’s responded to “The Next Big Thing” questionnaire–a self-interview project for poets about recent or upcoming work. We’ve posted her answers along with some tags for other poets also participating in the world wide web venture.

SB: Where did you begin generating ideas for Hymn for the Black Terrific?

KP: Re-reading Moby Dick, I encountered Melville’s description of “the black terrific Ahab,” and started thinking of the ways obsession can warp the mind. This book is about dysmorphia–the bodily kind, in which the sufferer sees his or her body as ugly or deformed, and the special poet’s variety, in which the poet disdains her own creative output no matter how promising it may be.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry. Also: Suffering. Also: Not Suffering.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The final section of the book features a recurring female figure whom I call “The Eater.” She should be played by a Venus Fly Trap.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“Let’s all freak out about beauty.”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published and represented by the talented people at Sarabande.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two years.

What other books would you compare this collection to within your genre?

Better yet, here are the books that my book would like to invite on a date: Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars, Sabrina Orah Mark’s The Babies, Darcie   Dennigan’s Madame X.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Food and eating; body image and American womanhood; Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia; two recent trips to China; one recent marriage (mine); darkness and its varieties.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The titles of the poems in one section of the book are taken from the English translations of dishes that were served to me on my trips to China. In English, the titles became whimsical and inspiring, though they had little to do with food. Examples: “Tun Back Your Head and There is the Shore,” “I Love You. No Discussion.,” and “Linked to Blood.”

Hymn for the Black Terrific, Kiki Petrosino

Petrosino offers us wildly inventive lyrics that take as launch pad allergenesis, the contents and significance of swamps, a revised notion of marriage, and ancestors—both actual and dreamed. The eponymous second section storms through Chinese delicacies, doubts, and confident proclamations from regions of an exploratory self. Hymn for the Black Terrific is a book of pure astonishment.

For a classroom-ready reader's guide written by the author herself, follow this link, and explore more titles with reader's guides in Sarabande in Education

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Featured Authors

Featured Authors: Sallie Bingham

An Interview with Sallie Bingham, author of Red Car.

Sallie Bingham will be reading in Louisville this Saturday with her son Christopher Iovenko

How do you feel your work has grown or changed since the publication of Transgressions in 2002?

I know now that less is more. I used to try to plant, explain, elaborate on my characters, as though the reader wouldn’t otherwise understand. Now it seems to me a single detail, perfectly chosen, stands for paragraphs of description. At the same time, I am becoming less and less interested in plot, which seems often so artificial.

The one story that stands out in time and place in your collection is “Sagesse,” set on the beaches of Normandy shortly after World War II. Did the inspiration for this story come from a childhood memory of your own? Did you do any sort of research for this piece?

I did no research for this story, but it is based on a powerful memory from my childhood. In 1949, my family moved to France for a year. The country was still deeply shadowed by the war—food was rationed; people were thin and poor. I was deeply moved, and frightened, by my first experience of suffering as a national, as well as a personal, trial.

In an interview from Transgressions, you remark that “it’s not so much that beauty passes, which everyone more or less knows, but that its effect, even when in full flower, is ambivalent.” This theme is carried through this new collection, and in “Fresh Salmon,” you write “he thought how pretty she was before he thought how pretty she must have been.” What words might you have for women dealing with aging and the loss of their own beauty?

Above all, aging is liberating. No woman has escaped the imprisonment of her looks, either because she is considered to be beautiful, or because she is not. Finally to lay aside this definition, with all its corollaries, is to become free. And, for a writer, the resultant invisibility is a great mercy, allowing for unhampered observation. Of course all this assumes that one’s ego is not deeply enmeshed in one’s appearance.

Many of the couples depicted in your collection have no plans of marrying. The story “Porn” refers to the “fearsome demands of matrimony,” and the mother in “A Gift for Burning” talks about spending nearly all her “time and energy getting married and unmarried and married again.” Could you talk about these characters’ choice to remain single late in life?

A time may come when marriage and independence are not mutually exclusive for women, but it will not be soon. Marriage is, above all, for the welfare of husbands and children, and their concerns inevitably top the concerns of the woman involved. A great deal of growth occurs because of the sacrifices marriage demands of a woman—in fact I sometimes doubt if women, or men, grow up without it. But for a woman with an interest in her own development, marriage is at best a side-track, at worst a fatal obliteration (given the reinforcements of our culture). However, to think that by escaping the literal fact of marriage, we escape the demands and expectations of that state is a little foolish. Women are expected to be caretakers in all relationships. Marriage only makes that a little more obvious.

Similarly, your stories deal with the trickiness of love affairs. In “That Winter,” Helen wonders how could “a man change so fast, over the course of a few hours or days, from the person she’d found charming, interesting, possibly worthwhile, to something glowering or glum, silent, unreachable.” Could you comment?

Our hope leads us into relationships. One might perhaps call it delusion. Without hope, we would probably remain alone—but who is without hope? And the fact of hope, its particular aspects, makes it difficult to see its object, at least at first. In this story, the man doesn’t change. She begins to see him.

The story “Doing Good” deals with a son who’s gotten in trouble with the law, a son who is “still trying to redeem himself from the misfortune of having been born with money.” How do you think the effects of wealth have driven him to such recklessness? And could you elaborate on the mother’s comment that “much unacceptable behavior is simply a poor substitute for getting in the water?”

It is not money per se that leads this character into trouble but the shame and silence that surrounds money. We have not come to terms with the unfairness of life which is exemplified by the way money is earned or inherited. Since there is no way to discuss this, the children of wealth grow up distorted by unrecognized guilt. They may escape into arrogance, or into despair, but inevitably there will be some kind of acting out. One of the charms of my narrator is that she believes in simple solutions, such as getting in the water. And she isn’t entirely wrong.

On that same subject, an interesting thread running through these stories is motherhood. From the yearning for babies to the distance of grown children, it is a constant struggle for your characters. Could you discuss?

The passion inspired by children results in struggle. Children can’t be contained, or held. They must leave. The women in my stories know this, consciously or unconsciously, and dread realizing that this inevitably thwarted passion will be the great emotion of their lives. “The Orange-Juice King” is an interesting story-within-a-story as a character remembers a legend that her grandmother told her.

Do you think that growing up in Kentucky, in a culture where storytelling is rich, has affected your writing?

Yes, indeed. I grew up in a story-telling family at a time when this aspect of life was already almost gone. My grandmother had a store of strange, frightening ghost stories and dark fairy tales, inherited from her Irish nurse. (She wrote two collections of these.) They were iconic, unexplained, often involving violence. The ancient black woman who had been my father’s nurse had equally iconic stories about my father’s childhood—she was the only teller of those tales. Through her three generations of the family came to life in all their strangeness. The one story told from a male perspective in this story is “The Big No,” a story about a young, homeless kid who mistakenly leaves his diary at a woman’s house who writes the word “NO” on a slip of paper and puts it in between the pages.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I stole this shamelessly from my partner, who spent many years wandering through the west and southwest. Having missed this particular form of growing up, I borrowed his stories (another is the story about the Greek island).

Red Car, Sallie Bingham

Forty-year veteran of the novel, noted feminist, and author of more than ten books, Bingham returns with Red Car, a collection written in her signature style--discreet, sly prose often circling taboo subjects.

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Featured Authors

Featured Authors: An interview with Neela Vaswani

Your previous book, Where the Long Grass Bends, was a collection of short stories with a strongly mythic cast, and your memoir is told in meticulously rendered vignettes. How did you move from fashioning fiction out of the tales of your childhood, to turning your childhood and young adulthood into a (nonfiction) tale?

When I write in any genre, the raw materials and techniques are the same—it’s just the approach that differs. Early in the book I say, “I pledge allegiance to story,” and that’s what I always aim to do, to honor the simplest and most valuable truth at the heart of any story.

One thing that was different for me in moving from fiction to nonfiction was crossing the wiggly border between “unreal” and “real.” I had to learn to develop a kind of flexibility towards my “real life,” to see it as a story, a narrative, and to cast myself and my parents as characters in that story. Another adjustment was learning to create a kind of nonfiction voice/persona that had the ability to meditate, to think out loud with insight and a retrospective distance, and then to also disappear inside the “character me” in scenes.

I also had to wrangle tone. In writing some experiences from my childhood, I felt there was a sticky tone of defensiveness or self-consciousness that got in the way of the story and my overarching points. In adjusting my written tone, I found that I felt differently about my real-life experiences; I loosened my grip on them and let them be an organic part of who I am rather than something “that happened to me.” I’d experienced that same kind of personal release and cleansing when writing fiction, but with nonfiction it felt even more profound.

Your background is Indian- and Irish-American—two intensively chronicled, often romanticized, identities. When the personal has so much overlap with the familiar, how did you confront the challenge of making your experiences read as yours?

The simplest thing I did was to focus on the particular way I see the world—as me, Neela, rather than as someone who is “half Indian, half Irish.”  Still, I had some negotiating to do.

At first, it was difficult for me to explore my Indian-American identity without falling into the same story-patterns and language as other Indian-American writers. I felt that same caution when writing about biracial identity; there has been so much written, especially recently, about our identity and experience. I wanted to try to speak from those traditions and shared experiences while also telling my story in a fresh way.

Through early reader response, I found that most people felt my father’s section was more “interesting” and “exotic,” and my mother’s more mundane. So I went back to my mother’s section and worked on showing what was unique in her childhood. I wasn’t just writing about my mother being Irish-American; I was writing about a girl whose mother was dying of cancer, who negotiated with the religion she’d been born into, whose closest friend was gay in an unwelcoming climate, whose passion was historical inquiry, who was obsessed with cleanliness and the idea of travel to the Far East, etc.  At the same time, I wasn’t just writing about an Indian experience; I was writing about a Sindhi experience, a refugee-Amil-Bombay-doctor-Sufi-Sikh-Hindu-Jesuit educated-meticulous-creative-intensely private-Sindhi-Indian.

When we talked about Where the Long Grass Bends you said, “one person’s story cannot be told independent of another’s.” You Have Given Me a Country reads, in part, like a lived argument for that inseparability. Did the telling of your parents’ stories alter, or amend, your sense of your own?

Knowing my parents’ stories and stepping into their skins via the telling of those stories definitely helped me to understand them—and myself—better. The simple act of casting my parents as “characters” opened up their history and humanity in a new way for me. I also found that little things from my childhood that had seemed meaningless at the time (for example, lighting a red candle on Christmas Eve or my father’s love for model trains), suddenly made sense, had context and meaning.

I felt very strongly that I could not tell my story without first telling my parents’ stories. One surprise for me was that in writing about my mother’s culture, I was able to connect with it more strongly than I ever had before.  The strange thing about my Irish-American heritage is that it had always felt like something that belonged to my mother but not necessarily to me, perhaps because I am not Catholic and don’t “look Irish” in a traditional sense. No one has passed me on the street, done a double-take, and asked, “Hey, aren’t you a Sullivan from County Kerry?!” 

The structure of You Have Given Me a Country seems almost quilt-like—distinct sections stitched together to create a decipherable whole. How did you approach blocking (to borrow again from quilting) the elements of your life to build a memoir that is also a meditation on race, family, and how we decide who we are?

The memoir actually started as my Cultural Studies PhD dissertation. I had the factual and scholarly skeleton to build from and I filled it out with journey, characters, personal reflection, and scene.

The first section sets up my parents, the second is our story as a family, the third and fourth delve into a type of poetic analysis of categorization, love, and nation. The final section returns to a more narrative approach and brings the reader up to a fully informed present. It’s my hope that the more theoretical and historical aspects of the book will resonate because readers are first introduced to these concepts through the lives of the characters—who are real people. I felt it was important to make sure the reader was invested in my family before exploring the equally important “personal as political” aspects of the book. I tried to set the emotional blocks in place first, and then the philosophical.

Photographs are interspersed in the text—were they always a part of the project? What role do they serve?

In the earlier narrative sections of the book, the photos serve as artifacts, as pieces of historical grounding. In the more theoretical sections about love, sexuality, and legislation, I made sure to include photos of my cousin John, his partner Jim, and my mother and father. In those sections which are a more fact-driven, I used the photos to create intimacy and humanity.  
Most of the contemporary photos in the book are ones I took. The photos from the past are ones I chose from a larger selection, so even in that way, through my selection, the reader is given another bit of my “view” on the story.

There’s a photo of my mother and uncle standing on their Long Island lawn—newly middle class, my mother in her First Holy Communion dress and veil and my uncle in his Boy Scout’s uniform. What I love about the photo is that it is slightly blurry and on an angle. The photo doesn’t reflect the text, but it captures the spirit of the story. When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by this particular picture because it looked to me like my mother and uncle were wearing uniforms that showed they were a part of something American. Growing up brown, in-between, and minority on the exact same Island, the photo called to me with a sense of belonging that I both longed for and found terrifying.

When writing about my father, I included a page from his passport stamped with the word CANCELLED. I wanted to connect the idea of a “cancelled” citizenship, the strange official-ness of passports and stamps and nationality, as opposed to what resides in the human heart. That’s the power of images I hope I successfully integrated into the memoir.

You Have Given Me a Country, Neela Vaswani

A blend of history, memory, myth, and cultural studies, this memoir blurs borders of genre and identity, exploring what it means to be biracial in America. Following her heritage, Vaswani reveals the self as culmination of all that went before.

For a classroom-ready reader's guide written by the author herself, follow this link, and explore more titles with reader's guides in Sarabande in Education

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Featured Authors: An Interview with Ander Monson

You write across genres—poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—with a great sense of formal play in all three. What made you chose poems as the appropriate vessel for this collection? How does verse direct you as a writer?

All of my work—and the work I love to read—is powered by verse. With the exception of some of my nonfiction, I have a hard time not thinking about the way the words sound in my mouth, and how much breath I can hold in a sentence. All writers should train as poets because of what it does to your thinking about language and the microcosm of the line and the sentence.

Having said that, these poems were always poems, and the subject matter only really presented itself in this form. Revision is a process of trying to rethink and reshape and reconnect some of what’s going on, and given that a lot of this material has to do with the space between total noise and silence, this all presented as poem.

There’s a web element to the book too— Many of the poems in the book are refigured and reinterpreted somewhat, and you can read them in a different (and partly user-selected) order along with a lot of other material. The website is set up to be clicked through based on recurring images and ideas in the poems, so you can click on “blood” and it’ll take you to another “blood” poem, or into some very different spaces than you see in the book. I hope it reads as its own experience independent of the book, but that it also expands the reading experience you get reading the book, too. Maybe that’s too dorky to try to explain, but I’m pretty excited about it.

The collection includes a number of “sermon” poems. What drew you to sermons, and how does calling a poem a sermon affect the reader’s experience of it?

I’m a longtime fan of the rhetoric of sermons, particularly the ability of the sermon to contain litany after litany, to build and cusp and connect, and then to subside into the rafters. A sermon is beautiful language. It’s persuasive language, but first it has to sing. I wasn’t interested in making a mockery of the form, and I hope they don’t read that way, but repurposing the form to use to get to some rather odd territory. Calling a poem a sermon situates the reader more clearly to the speaker, and allows me to go rather more strident and imperative with the voice than I am usually comfortable with. And since so many of my poems work as dramatic monologues, it seemed like an obvious (and weirdly freeing) decision to try to access the registers of sermons. Plus it is another form to work with, another way of summoning that pleasurable double experience in the reader: it is a poem, it is a sermon, and it is somewhere in the matrix connecting or overlaying these two things.

The poems in The Available World bounce with wordplay; my favorite is “randomness/radon gas.” How does the mouthfeel (to appropriate a cooking term) of a word influence the way you construct a poem? How does sound shape your writing?

Mouthfeel is a great way to think about it, actually. Doing some research on tortilla chips for my nonfiction book,Vanishing Point (2010, Graywolf Press), I found my way into a scientific subfield of sensory evaluation, which tries to quantify the way things taste, feel, smell, are crushed, how long they hold their crunch, and so on. Mouthfeel is very much of that world, and yet it’s also inherent in the way I write poems. Part of the process of these poems (particularly the title poems) involved entering the text of the original poem into translation software to translate to Spanish, or to French, or to whatever, then re-translating it back to English. This produced a level of arbitrariness that I found useful. Then I had to go back to the new poem, usually differing in significant ways from the original, and try to rebuild it so some of that awkwardness and randomness was squeezed out of it, leaving only what I thought was meaning-making. That arbitrary machine process also produced some interesting language that would have never occurred to me, which is particularly appropriate for these poems that try to engage aspects of the digital world.

One of the constants in your writing for me is the persistent interest in technology, and the impulse to use technology to make life understandable, habitable. Does writing provide a similar way of ordering experience?

Writing is of course a technology, the poem a technology, the story, the essay, the video game, the painting. And those technologies are designed to allow us to explore and understand and sing and represent the world in different ways, no less than what virtual spaces do for us, or superaccurate simulations of global positioning data, or the ways in which scientists poke and prod and describe the world. My interest in these technologies has a lot to do with obsolescence and that inherent tragedy, our own ruination, and awareness of our passing with regard to time and knowledge. But the way into the technologies for me is often through the surfaces of them, which I find beautiful and moving and which I try to apprehend and represent, for in doing that I feel like I can pause time—which is what the poem does, after all—and try to gather all these threads together for a moment. Everything for me is about order and disorder, and as you suggest, writing is absolutely just another way of knowing, and because I fail at so many of these other ways (writing programs in assembly language that might simulate a voice or a virus, for instance), this is the one that I can access the most satisfyingly and often.

Your poems are full of what you call “somnambulists”—how does the accumulation of detail and the obsessive action of the poems act as an ice jam, a building up that allows us to break free?

There is an unthinkingness to the ways in which data collects in the poems, in the ways it washes over you (as reader/ recipient of the poems). I think of these poems as trying to articulate a way in which to live in this world of availability, or at least to count what I can while I can as it all stacks up and towers over and spills, tsunami-style into the world. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. There’s definitely a systole and diastole, a gathering and release (or I think I have the order wrong, but the sound is better this way, so sometimes you have to leave it as is, errors and all), happening in the poems. The poems are obsessive because I’m obsessive, and the poems refract and magnify that and apply it to the world in ways that I can’t normally do because I’m either not smart enough to do it in the moment, or am afraid to unhinge myself like that. Form gives you that tension between paralysis and release, because left to its own devices, everything just decays, degrades, diffuses.

The Available World, Ander Monson

Inspired by the cult Japanese video game Katamari Damashii, these poems increase in size and momentum, rolling more and more into their orbits as they go. Formally inventive and fun, The Available World examines the beauty and terror of excess.

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Featured Authors

Featured Authors: An Interview with Alex Taylor

One small town kid to another, I know that writing is not a common occupation when you grow up in a rural place. When did you know that writing was what you wanted to do? Is there anything you’ve learned along the way?

My father was an educator, so books were always important parts of my life, and I inherited my father’s natural curiosity, something that most writers have in spades. As a senior in high school, I read The Sound and the Furyfor the first time. While I missed a lot, I grasped enough to understand that that book was working on a level much deeper and closer to the bone than the horror and sci-fi I’d been reading. In the beginning, I just wanted to write ghost stories. I suppose I still do in some ways. But after reading Faulkner I became entranced, possessed. I’d write a short story every week. And these were no longer stories about vampires and ghouls—these were stories about real people with real problems. They were awful stories, yes, but I was putting in the years of loneliness that it takes to be a writer. Faulkner cultivated in me a love for language and also a desire to pierce the heart of existence. I would simply tell any young writer to not wait for experience or life to happen. Sit in the chair. Be alone. Read. Write. Read again. There is pain and doubt, though those come later. In the beginning, I think you’re unaware that you can fail. I know I was unaware. So I just did it.

You have used the geography and culture of Kentucky as the cornerstone of your writing. Can you talk about your love for Kentucky, and why you’ve chosen not to chase the bright lights of big city life?

Well, Kentucky’s kind of a strange place. We’re a stubborn, no-nonsense kind of people, and we still retain a pioneer’s attitude about the harshness of surviving in a malevolent world. Very few folks have ever had a boot put to their throat, but a good many Kentuckians have, and this makes us interesting. Plus we’re still clinging to our guns and religion, and I’ve always been attracted to both those elements of the culture. Anything that makes folks in Washington or New York nervous is probably full of good energy. That’s my take, anyhow. As far as geography goes, anyone whose been to my part of Western Kentucky knows that it’s been ravaged by the coal industry. So the landscape, in many areas, is uninhabitable. In some ways, this is kind of good. Nothing but scrub cedar and sedge grass will grow there, but at least it won’t be developed into subdivisions. I love that paradox. As far as city life goes, this trend of young folks from the country wanting to hit the pavement is baffling to me. There are plenty of attractions in cities, but there’s also a kind of black melancholy that descends on me if I stay too long in a city. I’m probably not giving cities enough credit and maybe I’ll wind up doing time in one. But I’m fairly comfortable drawing a hard line on this one.

Could you talk about the tone of your work? What about the macabre and grisly attracts you as a writer?

I tend to write about nasty events and murderous behavior in part due to the fact that I grew up in such a stable home. My parents were and are rocks. But when I started attending school I quickly learned that a good many of the kids in my class weren’t faring as well as me when they went home each night. These were kids who might have to fight their dad just to get a spot on the floor to lie down in. It stood in stark contrast to what I’d known. But really, any story worth its salt has to have a strong sense of danger and of consequence. Some writers that I read are beyond my understanding because their characters may be well-drawn and three dimensional, but nothing is being asked of them. Plus, I think it is the duty of the modern writer to confront the existence of evil.

A common construction seems to be playing off the tension of “three’s company.” Usually one character, if not all three, ends up with the short straw. It makes for enthralling reading. Do you consciously triangulate? Why?

No, I’m just trying to construct believable characters and then throw them into desperate situations. Sometimes that comes out in a triumvirate of sorts. I have a story in there called “Things Both Right and Needed” where this fellow is convinced the other two folks in the tale murdered his brother. I guess three people is a manageable number to work with on the page. You can have one fellow and pit his desires against another fellow. Then introduce another element—in the case of the story I was just talking about, it’s a woman—which introduces really a fourth element, the element of sex, which is always replete with trouble. Really, what I’m trying to do is ratchet up the tension. One way to do that is to keep piling on the obstacles my protagonist has to maneuver around in order to get what he or she wants.

When using dialogue, you successfully stay true to the dialect of the region you are writing about. Does this make writing more difficult or do you find it frees you up to paint a richer, more whole picture?

I want my readers to understand that I’m writing about country people, people that may or may not have been to college, who likely don’t use correct grammar but are intelligent and self-sufficient nonetheless. I use the dialect in order to capture these people. I probably wouldn’t write about them if they did speak perfectly. Plus, it’s through incorrect language and sentence constructions that new and vibrant images and tones are born. I overheard a child say once: “And there he come, straight out of the nowhere.” To me, that’s beautiful. That definite article ‘the’ right before ‘nowhere’ alters the meaning of the sentence is such a fascinating way, as if ‘nowhere’ is a specific region where only harridans and strange wizardly folks are known to live. Using such a dialect really doesn’t seem like much of a hindrance to me. The only drawback is that you can overdo it. But, then it’s often hard to say what a reader will find inauthentic. To some people, the world I’m writing about doesn’t exist.

Besides writing and reading, do you have any other hobbies or interests that feed into your writing?

I try to fish a lot. That seems to correspond with writing in that both are acts of faith and can be incredibly disappointing or exhilarating. Writing, like fishing, is an attempt to catch some piece of mystery that tugs at the end of your consciousness. I also adore firearms, though I don’t know if this helps my writing. The gun is a truly magnificent creation, a tool of definite and exact purpose, containing both the elements of control and chaos. I love country music, and that more than anything I’ve mentioned thus far feeds my writing. The narrative technique in those old songs is incredible and they are infused with wit, humor and pathos for the plight of all of us. I admire the simple directness of country music, something I don’t really have in my writing. I’m kind of a thick writer in that I love imagery to the point it often chokes out my narrative.

Many of your characters are eccentric. Is there any particular character fryou most enjoyed writing and, if so, why?

I really enjoyed writing Buzzard, the Christian biker in “The Long Poem Continuous”. He’s a cantankerous fellow who doesn’t have a lot of patience for intellectual grandstanding and educated ignorance. The two poets in the story are clearly people that operate under no code whatsoever. They’re products of a broken system, fools whose only belief is a belief in nothing. What I like about Buzzard is that he is clearly the more virtuous of the three, despite his aliteracy. He’s more virtuous because he has the courage to plunge, literally in this case, into belief.

The Name of the Nearest River, Alex Taylor

A resonant debut from an unexpected new voice in southern fiction. This collection reveals hidden dangers in the coyote-infested fields, rusty riverbeds, and abandoned logging trails of Kentucky, where men take too much whiskey and women take too many men.

For a classroom-ready reader's guide written by the author himself, follow this link, and explore more titles with reader's guides in Sarabande in Education

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