Thanks to Martin Rock for tagging me in this memething going around. I’m tagging Carrie Murphy, Rohin Guha, Niina Pollari, and Andrea Quinlan—if they would like to fill this out!
What is the working title of the book?
Funerals & Thrones
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After researching the occult in relationship to poetry, I was fascinated by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’ late night visits from Pan (their spirit guide) as they moved the planchette across the Ouija board. Similarly, or more notoriously, James Merrill channeled the spirit Ephraim as a muse—a mystical dialogue that led to The Changing Light at Sandover. These poets loved the theatre of it all as much as I do, although I can’t entirely assert this. Maybe they wholeheartedly believed in the spirits they communed with. At least, on the most basic level, they understood that one could use the occult as a method to talk about something else entirely, giving into the illusion and the disguise of secretive language.
Years ago I wrote a straggler poem called “The Hierophant” after the tarot card of the same name. I then began writing about a magician character, which turned into “The Magician” poem. A magician being both a Houdiniesque illusionist and someone who has access to otherworldly powers was intriguing—a line between the real and unreal. I had a pair. Two tarot poems turned into a dozen, and soon I was telling a story, using the Major Arcana as contact points. The tarot were created in a time when literacy was rare—the symbols and icons in the decks come from an oral lineage. It’s a journey that involves Judeo-Christian dogma, paganism, and numerology. While the cards weren’t always used for divination, they have a deep history in symbol and story.
What genre does your book fall under?
Experimental in-so-far as Funerals & Thrones is an experiment of the real and unreal. It uses lyric, the occult, religious iconography, queerness, phantasmagoric gender, feminism, violence, and the Major Arcana of the tarot (somewhat ekphrastically as I looked at the Rider-Waite art often while writing)… all to construct a house of cards.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The ghost of Divine would come out wearing a paper dress made from all the tarot & a poorly constructed halo + angel wings. Her eyes would be smoky & golden. She would stand in front of a black screen and make intense eye contact with the camera while reciting the entire book from memory. Maybe she would occasionally spit and/or take a swig from a bedazzled flask she keeps in her cleavage.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Myth blurs with the everyday in Funerals & Thrones, a tarot chapbook that strokes the feeble thread connecting rapture and bloodshed.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’d say about 2/3 of the poems were written last year, with a good third of the book being created in a single month. This is a very unusual creative process for me—but once I knew what I was going for, the flood gates were opened. There was a period of shelving, distance and intense final edits. Although it came together quickly, I had much cutting and polishing to do.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
More commonplace than cabalistic… “P.S. You Rock My World” by Eels + “And Then You Kissed Me” by the Cardigans + “Northern Star” by Hole on repeat. I read bible verses and a pamphlet about domestic abuse. Pamela Colman Smith’s illustrations of the tarot gave me so much.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The title references being buried in the earth and being in the air with angels (Thrones are really fancy celestial beings, not, like, really fancy chairs). Like the tarot, language is tricky and poetry can be multifaceted—fantasy lifts the mind from the body. The tarot gave me a vessel to write about catastrophe in a way I otherwise might not have been able to.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be published by Birds of Lace in August. Their entire 2013 season is a powerhouse. Check out birdsoflace.wordpress.com for their full catalog + to buy a 2013 subscription.