Self-interview about Pastoral Emergency

Rather than repeat Tristan Tzara and William S. Burroughs’ idea that language is a virus, I contaminate you. If you’ve been tagged, the game invites you to please tag 5 of your blogging friends with these questions.


What is the working title of the book?

Pastoral Emergency, it’s my second poetry book.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Reading a lot of children’s ABCs books as a new father, I stumbled onto the abecedarian form. Also, working with the Chicago-based writers loosely organized as The Next Objectivists, my interest was piqued in Oulipo and Conceptual Writing techniques in generative systems and collective authorship. Chaucer’s “An ABC”, Zukofsky, Silliman, Inger Christensen, Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary, Matthea Harvey’sThe Future of Terror/The Terror of FutureJessica Greenbaum, Tom Disch’sAbecedary

Theoretically, the pastoral emergency—that is living us—challenges contemporary poetry and poetics in two ways: (1) the breakdown of hermetic communication between the thing and its meaning in the traditions of semantic narrative, and (2) the unprecedented climate change which I think-hope I can help to fix by modeling an ecological and global consciousness. Since 1916—through DADA-Surrealism-Fluxus-Situationist International-Third Cinema-Ecopoetics-Ethnopoetics-Language Poetry-Post-Avant—aesthetics has been protesting for more ethical ways of being and acting. It has never been more urgent to live and perform between the cage of negative capability (with its comfy cul-de-sacs and paradoxes) and the cage of logos (with its unconsidered relations between cause and effect such as the relation between art and war).

What genre does your book fall under?

Genre Poetry. It’s right next to Genre Fiction. It’s still falling, though, so watch your toes.

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

Wallace Shawn. If he’s unavailable, maybe a young Richard Dreyfuss with a film noir cast of Peter Lore, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Ann Savage, Joan Fontaine, and Gene Tierney (one for every letter of the alphabet). Co-directed by Fellini and Godard with cinematography by Chaplin.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A documentation of contemporary eschatology, Pastoral Emergency performs a mustering up of courage to face the Saussurean crisis (the arbitrary relationship between sign and signified) interrupting the tradition of narrative illusion-making and immersion-bating as well as the ecological crisis brought to us by our faith-sponsored big-tent productions of the apocalypse.

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

Two years and two children.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Raymond Queneau’s “Exercises in Style” (thanks to Larry Sawyer), Georges Perec “A Void” (thanks to the Next Objectivists), Linh Dinh “Everything Around What Empties Out”, Chris Tanasescu’s “Nomadosophy”, Tristan Tzara, Vanessa Place, Craig Dworkin, Kent Johnson, Cecilia Vicuña, Rosmarie Waldrop.

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

The book does not discuss mimesis but mimics the absent border between inner and outer nature.

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

Agency, Pastoral Emergency must be published with metaphysical agency.