How have online literary journals affected the way you read poetry?
Online literary journals allow me to more easily encounter an intense level of diversity. Styles, techniques, traditions, forms: all kinds of crazy words up the wazoo, and all right next to each other to boot. It's incredible, and reminds me how infinite poetry is, and how many poets there are writing it. It's daunting, but also fantastic in the sense of support and community. The inspiration of like minds (all trying to do different things). And with that, online journals also steer me into reading more books. The online encounter of someone incredible leads to searches and purchases.
What would Philadelphia be like without Paul Siegell?
Philly would be 1/6 millionth quieter. It'd be 1/6 millionth less conceptual, less quirky. It'd be 1/6 millionth less narcissistic and less secure. There would also be 1/6 millionth less of the stench of farts.
Wild Life Rifle Fire may not take long to read, but it stays with you--inside your head--all day. All week. Longer even. It's a book that one often wants to revisit. How long did you spend working on WLRF? Which piece from WLRF was the one that started it all?
Thank you for your kind words (and this interview). They are greatly appreciated. Wild Life Rifle Fire was so much fun to write and I'm glad it has an impact. Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 was the day it all started and Otoliths Books released it on Sunday, February 21st, 2010.
It was the morning after the long Labor Day weekend, with me seeking that wrestle and peace of writing something well, and I looked up on a weirdness: I had "ZOOM IN" typed in Helvetica on my screen, a headline for some ad at my marketing department job. I increased the point size a bit but I went too far and it was too much for the margins and then Word broke the line to reveal: "ZOO / M IN." Cue eureka. (Animals in captivity + zooming in makes something larger, but this says minimize.) I fell in love immediately and that, as if a meditation, would become the first page of the book. (Side note: the Disco Biscuits' "Digital Buddha" was playing when all that happened.) I hit print and took "ZOO / M IN" home to show my fiancee. She took one look and said, "Make more."
What was your most played album of your high school years?
9th grade: Pearl Jam Ten and Nirvana Nevermind.
10th grade: Blind Melon Blind Melon, Soul Asylum Grave Dancers Union and Tool Undertow.
11th grade: Counting Crows August and Everything After, Green Day Dookie and Grateful Dead American Beauty.
12th grade: Blue Traveler Four, Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York, Phish Junta and Bob Marley Legend.
If you'd asked about middle school, I'd have said 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be. (What? Sicko.)
Have any of your favorite concerts coincidentally transformed into some of your favorite poems?
From Poemergency Room, "04.06.06 - the Greyboy Allstars - TLA, PA." A buddy of mine who never dances at shows danced his ass of that night.
From jambandbootleg, "SET 1" is an amalgamation of pretty much every PHiSH show I've ever been lucky enough to attend. That's a pretty special poem for me. "11.17.05 - Galactic - TLA, PA" is a great, crescendo-ing opening poem for a reading. "10.19.96 - PHiSH - Marine Midland Arena, NY" is me at my most, er, ridiculous at a show. And "12.03.05 - Iron & Wine w/ Calexico - Electric Factory, PA" is central to the story of how my fiancee and I got together. Highlights!
From the someday forthcoming Trombone Bubble Bath, "05.05.07 - Jonathan Freilich, Skerik, Stanton Moore, Todd Sickafoose & Mike Dillon - Chickie Wah Wah, NOLA" is a poem in the shape of a saxophone, and when I read it I get to produce an energetic and powerful tone, so it's a really fun poem for me to read aloud. It's the kind of poem I throw my hip into.
Tell me more about Trombone Bubble Bath. Is that the only new project on the horizon?
The next big thing is Trombone Bubble Bath, which is currently in manuscript. (((Who's got my publisher?))) Look for poems to go down the left margin, look for some sonnets, and also, sculpted by the spacebar, poems in the shape of a raven, a trumpet, a sax, an old STS9 sticker, Roger Waters on his bass, and a few other kaleidoscopic offerings that I'm very excited about.
I'm also all up in a manuscript called Take Out Delivery. It's completely different than anything I've ever done. Short bursts of (hopefully) bigness. The series started coming outta me in August 2010, and poems from it have been finding homes in places like Dark Sky Magazine, Everyday Genius and No Tell Motel.
Yeah, it's always good to have something to work on, you know? Poems to write and revise, poems to submit. A purpose. I'm looking forward to seeing where all this is going, and I'm incredibly grateful that there's a reader or two out there sharing in this experience with me.
Paul Siegell is the author of three books of poetry: wild life rifle fire (Otoliths Books, 2010), jambandbootleg (A-Head Publishing, 2009) and Poemergency Room (Otoliths Books, 2008). Trailers of these books are yours for the viewing [here]. Paul is an editor at Painted Bride Quarterly, and has contributed to American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Rattle, and other fine journals. He has also been featured in the Philadelphia City Paper, Paste Magazine, Relix Magazine and elsewhere exciting. Kindly find more of Paul's work ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL.
So what was the actual 'process' for selecting poems for the chapbook? Did you go through an elimination process in any way?
The process was quite friendly, as we (the authors) all knew each other in varying degrees and ways even before the idea for the four-way chapbook was conceived. Three of us (James, Ryan, and myself) have lived together in a house that hosts diy music and readings in Columbus, Ohio called Monster House. I've known Jordan since he was 15, maybe 14. For Assuming Size, I decided to act as ad hoc editor and had everyone email me the poems they wanted in the chapbook. If something seemed superfluous or off with a poem I would have emailed them back and offered suggestions about changing it, if I thought it was worth keeping, or told them straight up if it lacked the necessary togetherness with the rest of the book. I also went into the process aware of the inherent stylistic and aesthetic differences of our writing and realized our poems would (necessarily) push against each other, create a curious tension. My hope was that perhaps this tension, that difference manifested by putting them next to each other in a single book might urge the reader to see difference as singularity, to note connection, and not simply dissimilarity.
Were there any interesting challenges/problems/benefits to producing a four-way chapbook as opposed to one per author?
Mostly benefits. It was a very quick process. I already knew everyone's style to a certain degree and could expect at least a little bit about how the book would flow. Ryan and James thought of doing a fourway book to showcase, together, our writing in August while on a music tour. They came home and told me about the idea and I emailed Jordan and he was into it. From there, we pretty much all had poems ready for the book, and I merely had to organize, edit, & design the book, which took about two months. The last week of October is when it came out.
Where does the name Assuming Size come from? Who coined it?
I chose to name the chapbook Assuming Size. Not totally sure how I coined it. I was in what I call "naming mode" when I thought of it. It is a process I developed when I was maybe 15 or 16 and began playing in bands and writing songs and needing to name songs. I think it's also just a process people use every day, too. Mostly the process consists of me zoning out, focusing intensely hard and then not hard; thinking only about the thing I am trying to name, and then not thinking about it, but also thinking about it in a way like the thing you are thinking of is still being thought of, probably in your unconscious, and then the names just present themselves. To sound less pretentious, it's just mainly me sitting in a chair staring at nothing and something at the same time. I emailed Jordan Castro possible titles and he liked Assuming Size. Other potential titles were Ineffable Everyone & Topologies. I chose Assuming Size for reasons associated with what I thought was a major motif in the book. I liked the multivalent-ness of the title, too, that assuming could mean supposing, adopting, acquiring, commandeering, etc. It was vague enough, and just slightly specific enough to not be lost to cliche or to be considered esoteric.
Was there a particular rhyme or reason to the layout of the work in the book?
I read everyone's poems together, laid them out in different ways and orders, and the order in the book is the one I found most fitting. I am unsure totally what caused me to choose the order in this way; I am only able to say that after looking and reading the poems for an hour several different times in multiple orders this layout seemed to go through my chronological filter easiest and the most pleasantly. It's difficult to explain—I just kind of know what I think is right and go with it. Call it intuition or a learned set of arbitrary algorithms. It just feels correct, somehow, to me.
What are your favorite pieces in the book? Were there any you wanted to include but had to/chose to omit? If you had to pick one piece that, starting over, you wouldn't include, which would it be?
I like each and every poem in the collection. The standouts for me, if I have to choose, would be Jame's poem "Arthur danto" and Ryan's "War (explained)." Both are playful and funny and endearing in complex and interesting ways. They are "alive" to me. They are what I like about poetry: its ability to be there after and during the moment, to act as space for the things that could not happen or be said to happen or be said. Jame's poem in particular is very on with the title of the book—it has that understanding of the feeling of smallness that accompanies (possibly) where we are from and how we were raised. It's spot on. I like Jordan's poems for different reasons—for their staticness, their calm demeanor and almost scientific, instructional feeling. I would not change anything about the chapbook if I could.
Any upcoming projects on your part? Anything that the other authors are doing? [Readings/Shows/Etc?] Should we expect more from Monster House Press in the future?
Assuming Size was the first release from Monster House Press, which I founded to release this book. I'm going to publish more chapbooks through it. Just a small, yet dedicated, affair. Josh Kleinberg is on deck to be the next release on MHP, hopefully sometime in February. All the authors usually are working on some project or another and that information can be found at their blogs listed below:
Richard Wehrenberg, Jr.
For more information on Assuming Size click [here]. Purchase a copy today!
Richard Wehrenberg, Jr.is the co-founder of the cooperatively run publishing house, Monster House Press as well as the co-author of two chapbooks of poetry, think tank for human beings in general and Assuming Size. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.