Saturday, June 12, 2010

Light in All Directions: Wins SDBA

My second full-length book of poems received a San Diego Book Award, so in honor of Light in All Directions, I'm beginning this blog. With the words "all directions" in the title, I have a lot of leeway.

Light in All Directions is my second book of poems from Poetic Matrix Press in Madera, California. Back in 2001, Poetic Matrix had a chapbook contest to which I submitted a manuscript titled "Liquid Monolith," my twist on 2001: A Space Odyssey. The contest was focused on the new millennium. Since I think trauma has an incredible shelf-life, my poems were about how we wouldn't escape the past in the future. Not the festive tome Poetic Matrix Press was looking for.

Still Poetic Matrix gave my chapbook an honorable mention (It would later be published by Oak Grove Press as "River Murmurs"). About a year later, an editor of Poetic Matrix Press called to say that he wanted to publish a book with "duende." Did I have a full manuscript like "Liquid Monolith" and, if so, did I have a better title?

"What's a duende?" I asked.

"It's an earthiness that transcends into the metaphysical, giving rise to a dark music," John Peterson of Poetic Matrix told me. "And there's also a touch the demonic to it."

"Then I'm your man," I said and then sent in Driven into the Shade. Poetic Matrix published the book in 2003 and 100 copies of it included a CD of musical performances of the vocalese poems in the book. Where those CDs went, I don't remember.

Now I'm back with a new book and at least three people beside my mother like it. Any questions? Yes, the man with the beard in the back.

What concord can light have with darkness? What's the relationship between Light in All Directions and Driven into the Shade?

Good question. Very Biblical. The concord of light and darkness is shadow. Aesthetically, shadows represent the ineffable that poetry implies. Driven into the Shade was perhaps a bit more reactive than Light in All Directions. For example, in the poem "Fireworks," the persona is a bit passive in his relationship to fire, whereas in "Fire Mind" from the second book shows someone who's more reactive. I'd like to think the second book is the kind of book someone with a little more experience would write. Yes, the woman with the scowl in the front row.

At key points this book gets political. Don't you think poetry should avoid politics?

Two things, first, if I were dealing with theoretical politics, you're correct. I should just write op-ed columns. But I tried to write about moments when policy intersected with someone's life. Perhaps I pushed the metonomy or allegory at points, but I tried to keep physical contact with the world we live in. Second, politics can't be avoided. To quote the late, great Lucille Clifton, "The decision to go out your front door is political." Yes, last question to the man in the third row wearing the double-breasted pin-striped suit that I wish I had.

The voice in Light in All Directions is inconsistent. In some poems there's a strong narrative and in other poems you leave the reader floating in a dark void and bumping up against random words. Where's the light in that?

Well, the truth is, sometimes there appears to be no light. I know some of the poems in the middle section are difficult, but by the time readers make their way to the "Radiate" section of the book, their poetical eyes will have adjusted to dark so they can see.

Now, I want to thank you all for coming. You're invited to join me for a special reading of Light in All Directions at Winston's Beach Club in Ocean Beach, California, on July 12, 2010. The reading will be hosted by Chris Vannoy of the Drunk Poets' Society. The reading begins at 6 p.m. and there is no cover. Winston's is at 1921 Bacon Street.