Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Denise Cecilia Banker
The Next Big Thing

My friend and fellow writer Catherine Keefe invited me to participate in The Next Big Thing self-interview project. Catherine posted her interview here.

Poet Mary Biddinger, author of Prairie Fire, St Monica, and O Holy Insurgency, is the project's brainchild.

I have been remiss and I hope you'll forgive my absence, my negligence but, as with everything else in my life, I have an excuse: since Christmas I've been, mostly by choice, homeless, moving from place-to-place. In February, I stayed in a downtown Seattle penthouse, an apartment in Seattle's historic Biltmore apartments, and in a cabin near Discovery Bay. This week I'll abide in a house overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Not exactly what most would imagine as homeless; nonetheless, at this point in time, I have nowhere to call home, which has brought me to my latest musings, or, as we might say, a framing device for my next big thing.

What is your working title for the book (or story)?  Zero at the Bone

Where did the idea come from for the book? I've been working on this chapbook for quite sometime. The poems came from a face-to-face experience with mortality and the metaphysical that knocked me on my ass. Many of the poems in the chapbook were first conceived seven years ago. Some might claim that, after seven years, we're not even the same body at the cellular level, yet, here it is, I've been toying with this material that long. (We'll let best selling author and parasitologist, John Janovy Jr., handle the debunking of that seven-year-cell-renewal myth.) Seven years ago doesn't exist; All phenomena is dependent on conceptuality; The "I" cannot be found; these thoughts are destablizing for me. The Dalai Lama attempts to explain the myth of inherent existence; how, under the delusion that the "I" inherently exists "we view the self as existing under its own power, established by way of its own nature, able to set itself up." This view can be so prevalent that the self may feel independent from mind and body, as if it could exist in someone else's body if its were dying or, if it weren't as smart or talented as it wished to be, it could exist in the brain of someone more talented or smart. I'm not pursuing Buddhism's conception of "emptiness" in this chapbook, but I am pursuing the imagination and, if things don't inherently exist, but are dependent on conceptuality, and words are simply tools necessary in the communication of thought, which doesn't inherently exist, then what I'm trying to do is use words to evoke illusions of permanence. I'm concerned with visual object persistence and luminance. I want to illuminate the ultimate truth of impermanence "that allows for changes brought about by conditions." I'm not trying to pin down any butterflies and I'm not trying to wrap readers in a tangle of brambles.

What genre does your book fall into? Poetry

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Well, Helen Keller, were she alive and an actress, might be able to play the speaker of these poems.  

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? God is Love.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I didn't write most of the poems as a draft of a book. I initially wrote them in an attempt to make sense of how I was seeing and experiencing the external world. I then collected several poems into a coherent whole. The chapbook has evolved since that first draft.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I will submit my chapbook to poetry contests.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? In terms of form, Emily Dickinson, from whom I've taken my title. Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Christina Rossetti  come to mind in terms of sensibility and exploration. I've studied Daoism, Lao-Tzu and Chuang Tzu in the ongoing evolution of these poems.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Experiencing life in this form has inspired me to write these poems. But more specifically the experience of death caught me so unaware of how fully, without even being aware of it, I conceptualized all phenomena as inherently existing that I have been spinning ever since. And, even though his genre isn't poetry, Lee Martin's blog has been inspirational.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? I believe an artist must tread the border between reality and the subconscious, must welcome archetypal experience, and nurture sense experience beyond the five senses we securely engage in apprehending reality. The other day I watched a short short produced by David Lynch called "Boat" in which Lynch drives a boat so fast from the blinding light he reaches the darkness. I plan to stand in a wilderness among the birds. Along with the named studies above, I also studied Terry Tempest Williams' Leap in this process.

Other writers I've tagged in this post are:
Jennie Shortridge whose latest book is Love Water Memory
Erica Bauermeister whose latest book is The Lost Art of Mixing
Benjamin Vogt who is the author of Afterimage
Tom Gannon's Index

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christmas Break

I've taken a long Christmas break. Read six books, four of which were poetry titles. Visited family and friends in Nebraska and Colorado, and am now readying to move to my home on the Olympic Peninsula.   If I focus on the whole action, I am exhausted before taking a step; If seen as one step after another, I am better able to assimilate the move's value. Here are a couple of masters with advice:

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” 
 Beryl Markham, West with the Night


Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
             placed solid, by hands   
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
             in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
             riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
             straying planets,
These poems, people,
             lost ponies with
Dragging saddles—
             and rocky sure-foot trails.   
The worlds like an endless   
Game of Go.
             ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word   
             a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
             with torment of fire and weight   
Crystal and sediment linked hot
             all change, in thoughts,   
As well as things.

There is beautiful birdsong outside the window.  And the sun is shining.