First, I would like to thank Travis Macdonald for tagging me into The Next Big Thing, this literary blog-chain-gang. Hopefully this will provide a decent opportunity to get back to the business of poetry blogging, if poetry blogging is indeed still a business...you know, because the economy. In any case, at least crime always pays.
To the self-interview questions!
What is/was the working title of the book?
I have currently have 3 manuscripts I’m working on simultaneously, so I will provide an answer for each one and number them to keep track.
- “How I Pitched the First Curve”
- “Arizona SB 1070: An Act”
- “Is Ryan Clark a Monster?”
Where did the idea come from for the book?
- I’m obsessed with puns, which led me in a quite organic way to experiment with turning everything into a pun via homophonic translation. Also being obsessed with baseball (Go Rangers!), I naturally equated homophonic translation with the curveball after re-watching the first episode of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Burns told of Candy Cummings, supposed inventor of the curveball, quoting Cummings’ description of his years spent experimenting with the curveball, trying every which way (stance, throwing motion, grip, etc.) to make the ball curve. Just as Cummings toiled away, trying to make that damned ball curve instead of just going straight all the time, I have spent years honing my skill with homophonic translation in order to effectively CURVE the language of a text, to read a text as something other, and to maintain a certain amount of control over meaning while doing so. Cummings’ description of his invention, told in his article for Baseball Magazine in the early 20th century entitled “How I Pitched the First Curve” serves as both metaphor for my own practice of homophonic translation and also the source text for the poetry which comprises the book. Along the way, I translate the article 9 different times to address 9 different social justice issues in the game of baseball--plus a special bonus (and highly personal) 7th-inning stretch!
- Arizona SB1070 makes me angry, and I want it to stop existing. Because I can’t quite erase it, I decided to instead make it say something else by performing homophonic translation upon the text in order to create a book of poetry that speaks against the hate and fear behind the bill.
- When I was a teenager (summer 2002, to be precise) I flew into a bit of a rage and (only sort of) hurt my little step-brother, with whom I was very close at the time. His mother, upon learning of this incident, claimed to not trust me around her kids anymore, which left me feeling quite a bit like some kind of monster. That got to me, and so I tried to off myself by parking my car in the garage and letting it run, as I had already been horribly depressed and suicidal for some time, and I had been fantasizing about replicating that scene from The Client for weeks. It didn’t work, obviously. A few months later I derived a mathematical equation that presumably was to predict the day that I would die, and it churned out December 10, 2011. As that date grew closer and closer, I decided to finally confront that traumatic experience in the garage through a poetry project. On that day, I had 25 of my friends and family send me text messages responding to the question: “Is Ryan Clark a monster?” I then used these as source texts for more homophonic translation, in which I aimed to confront and investigate the experience through poetry.
What genre does your book fall under?
- Poetic Sportsography
- Protestic Arizonoid Exploratorium
- Self-Loathing Self-Help for the Sole
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
- Candy Cummings played by Michael J. Fox; Fred Goldsmith played by Tom Hardy; John Rocker played by Yosemite Sam
- Jan Brewer played by a rusted 10-foot section of barbed wire fence
- Myself played by Cookie Monster after a nervous breakdown; My Car played by Steven Wright
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
- “Failure and response to failure is the backbone of baseball.” -Jason Parks, Twitter, 4/9/12
- Dey tuk er jehbs!
- I scraped all this black gunk from my lungs and made it into a heart and put glitter on it and now you can have it and put it on a bagel, because when you put anything on a bagel it completely ruins the bagel, and yet it somehow remains poetry...or does it...I dunno.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
- Early work on “First Curve” began in the spring of 2010, but that stuff was awful, and I started up again in the spring of 2011, and that stuff was marginally better but still pretty bad. It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 and then also the summer of 2012 that I began writing the stuff that would be considered a first draft of the book. But I initially conceived of the book back in the summer of 2008. It took so long for a couple of reasons: a) Homophonic translation takes a long damn time, as it’s basically working letter by letter and thinking about how to sound each letter through a variety of possibilities; and b) I had to hone my skills with HT to get to the point where I could feel a sufficient degree of control over the poetry. Honing my skills involved a great deal of practice, and a lot of studying phonetics and phonology.
- I began working on “SB 1070” in the fall of 2011 and then finished the first draft in the summer of 2012. Again, HT takes a long damn time, though luckily my skill with it really clicked shortly before I began work on this project.
- The first draft of “Is Ryan Clark a Monster?” was written more quickly than the other two projects--probably around 8-12 weeks during the spring of 2012.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
With all three of these projects, I was inspired to write them as a result of just existing in the world, whether that be existing in the world of baseball as a fan, or existing as an American citizen in the midst of xenophobia surrounding immigration, or just existing as a person with the ability (and inevitable tendency) to hurt those I love.
As for what inspired me to write these projects through homophonic translation, consider it my attempt to help reshape the world into a more loving, caring, and compassionate place. Particularly with “SB 1070”, I want to take this damaging, hurtful document and transform it into a document of care.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
- Josh Hamilton, Sammy Sosa, Pete Rose, Joe Jackson, and Roger Clemens can’t all be wrong, right? In any case, heroin! steroids! gambling! One stop shop!
- Each line is numbered corresponding to the numbered lined in the original Arizona SB 1070, and so one could read the two side by side and see how shit transformed into something slightly less like shit. Tell your friends and start a reading party!
- The book is split into each hour of the day of December 10, 2011. Will I survive to see 1am on December 11, 2011? Read to find out!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will continue to apply finishing touches to each manuscript throughout the spring, and then I will begin sending them off to publishers this summer. So if there are any interested publishers out there...I really just hope you exist.
Who is(are) the NEXT Next Big Thing(s)?
Shailen Mishra: http://sdspeak.blogspot.com/
Steve Halle: http://www.stevehalle.blogspot.com/