Wednesday, February 15, 2023

TtD supplement #233 : seven questions for Shane Kowalski

Shane Kowalski lives in Pennsylvania. He teaches creative writing at Ursinus College. He is the author of Small Moods (Future Tense Books).  

His poems “Brassiere” and “Valuable Observations” appear in the thirty-sixth issue of Touch the Donkey.

Q: Tell me about the poems “Brassiere” and “Valuable Observations.”

A: Both “Brassiere” and “Valuable Observations” were written spontaneously. I didn’t want to think too much about them, nor did I know too much about what they’d be. I just wanted to feel them out, basically. “Brassiere” begins with an image, while “Valuable Observations” begins with an absurd setup. It was kind of easy to follow those initial impressions to their logical conclusions. (At least “logical” to the pieces themselves).  

Q: How do these poems compare to some of the other work you’ve been doing lately?

A: These are part of an ongoing project of writing I’ve been doing for over ten years now. I post them to my tumblr, sometimes with minimal revision. There’s over 2500 of them now. They are all short, prose-poem-ish, weird short tales, whatever the mood is that day. They are separate from the longer pieces I take my time with.

Q: How many of these shorter pieces might see further publication, whether in chapbook or book form? How are pieces such as these shaped, if at all, into manuscripts? And are your longer pieces posted to your tumblr as well, or are they seen as something different, requiring alternate spaces?

A: It’s tough to say. I regularly send shorter pieces out for the fun of it. I had an idea of just grouping them into mini-chapbooks over the years and trying to get them published that way. So that they may never be fully together in a big collection. I kind of liked that idea of fragmenting all of them. Or denying them togetherness in some way.

My longer pieces aren’t posted to tumblr, no. They definitely require a more private space, where I can tinker with them and figure out their moods.

Q: Are there further differences between these structural threads apart from length? Do you approach the longer poems differently than your shorter works? And what brought you to the point of working these two separate structures simultaneously?

A: I think the differences lie in the voice. If it feels like the voice needs more space, more scenery, then I’ll most likely indulge that. The shorter pieces always seem to have a more hyper-focused, crystalline voice, while the longer pieces have that novelistic, baggy voice. Otherwise, the distinction between long or short is merely incidental or superficial, and it feels good to toggle back and forth between those calibrations.  

Q: With this stretch of poems posted to tumblr and a book under your belt, as well as your various works-in-progress, how do you feel your work has developed? Where do you see your work headed?

A: This is a hard question to answer. I can’t even say for sure if my work has indeed developed? I presume it has? That seems better than staying stagnant? I can imagine the trajectory of the work has been greatly influenced by things in or of the moment: books I’m reading, music I’m listening to, people I know, my job, all the stuff that happens in life, etc. To that end, I have no clue where my work is headed. I hope new and interesting spaces. I just like to keep writing and not think too much about it.

Q: I am interested in the suggestion you have of denying your work a potential “togetherness,” offering instead through pieces posted individually, and possibly grouped, but only in chapbook-sized collections. Is this lack of interest in “togetherness” prompted by wishing to remain open to moving in multiple directions, or something other?

A: Hmm. It’s honestly probably remaining open to moving in multiple directions. I love changing my mind! Who knows—it could also be a fear of commitment? I think there’s a suspiciousness in “togetherness.” Why are all these poems and/or stories together, really? It seems like there’s a foundation of randomness or of the arbitrary underneath it all.  

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A: Lydia Davis, most likely. It’s tough because there’s so much work I go back to because I’ll weirdly remember it out of the blue. It won't be with me for a great while or I’ll let it drift from view, but then I’ll be going through my bookshelves or something online will remind me of a certain book and I’ll have to go and read it again. This happened recently with Night Moves by Stephanie Barber. It’s this book published by Publishing Genius that culls a bunch of Youtube comments about Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” into a really cool artifact of collective online melancholy and memory. It’s a cool little book.

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