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Thursday, February 21, 2013



My friend and brother in art, Dan Vera, tagged me for The Next Big Thing project that’s currently making the rounds on writers’ blogs, websites and other posting places.  I tried to trace back who tagged who but only got as far back as last August. Does anyone know where this all started, or how many people have participated? In any case, my thanks goes out to, most especially, Mr. Dan Vera, but also to Maggie Smith, Catherin Pierce, Katherine Reigl, Adriana Paramo, Sonya Huber, Laura Valeri, Emma Bolden, Luisa Igloria, Marianne Villanueva, Seni Seneviratne , Maya Chowdhry, Michelle Green, Maria Roberts, Michele Gorman, Clodagh Murphy, Keris Stainton, Rowan Coleman, Debbie Viggiano, Wendy Loveday, Anneli Purchase, Sheryl Browne, and Mandy Baggot.  I would not be here without you. 

What is The Next Big Thing? It’s a rolling project where writers interview themselves about an upcoming project and then tag other writers who have work coming out soon then interview themselves a week later (my tags are at the bottom).

Q: What is the working title of your manuscript/book?

A: The working and final title of the book is Pachinko Mouth.

Q: What genre does it fall under?

A: It’s a book of poetry.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?

A: Well, I had these small groups of poems, and was trying to figure out how they might fit together. They weren’t conceived as part of a larger whole, but I was looking for a thread through them. Then, after I had written six pieces called Pachinko Mouth [Pachinko is a popular gambling pastime in Japan. A pachinko machine is a cross between a slot machine and a pinball machine], it just seemed sort of obvious that they were a frame for some of these other poems. Each of the pieces seemed related to a particular bunch of other poems. Since the poems play around with words and thoughts and rhythms, the idea for the book came from thinking about games. A group of poems might be like a game, both for the writer and reader.  There are, of course, rules that frame what the game is and how it is played, but it’s axiomatic that you can’t know the exact outcome of any particular game ahead of time or exactly what path will be taken to get there.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A: Pachinko Mouth is a thing, object, a Galton Box, a beehive, a dowsing stick, a riddle-filled doughnut containing descriptions, explanations, quotations, humor, stories, and last words.

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

A: The oldest piece is about 12 years old. Pachinko Mouth wasn’t conceived as a project in and of itself. Parts of it assembled themselves over a long time. I tend to work on poems and groups of poems the way a terrier worries a beef knuckle. It was probably about two years ago that a real first draft came together.  I had been trying for a while to figure out what all these different things I was writing had in common, if anything. Voice is an unstable isotope. 

Who or what inspired you to write it?

I don’t know if you can say “where” inspiration comes from.  Inspiration comes from “out there” like the way air enters your lungs. Poetry is a kind of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  With other projects there was always an immediate, surface connection between all the poems (women from Greek myths, B movies). I’d write a poem or two and say “I like that. Let do more of those, shall we?” This is not the case for Pachinko Mouth which pulled itself together from all corners of the room.

That said I was sparked for Pachinko Mouth by, among others, Cathy Park Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution, John Donne’s A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, Bernd Heinrich, Dean Young. And this anecdote from Barbara Leaming’s biography of Orson Welles:

“The Thorne rooms [miniature European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American rooms and furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s, constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot. They were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.] were a series of illuminated boxes set into the wall. To see inside, you had to look through a picture frame and a piece of glass that separated you from a densely furnished miniature room…
            I brought Orson a surprise from Chicago, a Catalogue of the Thorne Rooms …hardly had he turned the cover and flipped through a few pages, when he tossed the book on the floor.
            “What’s the matter?” I asked, trying to conceal my agitation.
            “This is useless to me.”
            “This isn’t my magic box. Don’t you see what they’ve done? They’ve cut the frames off!”

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

A: I am very happy to report that the book will be published by Plan B Press in April 2013.

Q: What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

A question best answered by others, but I flatter myself by thinking there might be some similarity between Pachinko Mouth and books by Dobby Gibson, Zachary Schomburg, David Berman, or Mary Ruefle. Apologies to them.

Q: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

A: Billie: Denyce Graves
Boo: Stan Laurel
Farmer Brown: Eddie Albert
Father: Alan Rickman
Galoot:  Michael Clarke Duncan
Robert Graves: Brian Cox
Interrupting Cow: Charlotte Rampling (no slur intended)
Danny Kaye: Matthew Broderick
Mr. Devil You Don’t Know: Donald Sutherland
Mr. Devil You Do Know: Teller
Life: Gary Oldman
Lungfish: Andy Serkis
Mockingbird: Michael Redgrave
Moll: Scarlet Johannson
Marianne Moore: Helen Mirren, or maybe Meryl Streep
Mother: Anthony Perkins
Orange: Bill Murray
Pachinko Mouth: Tatsuya Nakadai
Li Po: Chow Yun Fat
Three Clodhoppers: Terry Jones, Tim Blake Nelson, Jeff Wilson
Valedictorian: Richard Burton
Vincent Van Gogh: Tim Roth
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Christoph Waltz
Dean Young: Adrian Brody
Young Person: River Phoenix
Your Grandfather: Walter Brennan

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

Nothing I’ve said here is—as far as I can tell—anything like reading the actual poems in the actual book. It’s actually a lot of fun to read, with doses of humor, secret messages and—I hope—good looks.

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