Monday, January 16, 2017

Preamble to a coversation with Albert Goldbarth

Maybe it was this line that did it (?): 
“Earlier, I said, ‘in a trough between crests’—sea imagery. I mean in part that dark, as it grows deeper, takes the world away, and a sleepless body will float all night in horrible separation from what it knows and where it’s nurtured. Freedom is sweet; but nobody wants to be flotsam.” 

or this one: 
“But all that’s the future. Life is never the past, the present, or the future. Life is moments the size of the Thailand bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny.” 

Probably it was this: 
“At the foveal pit in the eye in the back of the eye in the back of the pineal gland, everybody Quixotes.” 

Everybody Quixotes. Of course they do. But few better than Albert Goldbarth. 

It's a rare thing to read a writer and think, truly, Whoa, to dig a book from the pile so unlike all the others—but it happens, occasionally, this unearthing of some rare and mysterious thing unlike any other thing and the decision there and then to tie your heart's strings to it. So it is to fall in love, and so, years ago, I fell in love with Goldbarth's collection Many Circles, or I fell in love with Goldbarth himself, as it's hard to figure where persona/person end/come together. Then I fell in with many of his other books. I'm probably not alone. 

When the news hit us that Goldbarth would be dropping a new collection this January—The Adventures of Form and Content—we knew Essay Daily had to commemorate the event, but how? An interview was suggested, but Goldbarth doesn't do interviews, except this one, in which he says he'll never do another interview. I felt like a schlubb even asking, but it was easy enough, actually: Goldbarth really doesn’t dig interviews, but our appreciation of his work is as genuine as it gets, and he gets this, I think, and anyway I suspect it’s not interviews he hates so much as the regurgitation of his work for the sake of some bored-to-tears blather, the post-reading Q&A, talk for talk’s sake, the mindless mastication of his poems and essays until the nice raspberry flavor has been leeched and you’re left chewing day-old gum. Nobody likes day-old gum. 

The back-and-forth, the repartee, I daresay, he quite enjoys. And so here we are. 

The genesis of our participatory conversation with Albert Goldbarth is below. Questions and replies are in the next post. Enjoy. 

Thanks, Albert.


September 10, 2016

Hi Mr. Goldbarth,

Craig Reinbold here, once more, c/o Essay Daily. We've corresponded a few times regarding the Daily's forthcoming anthology, of with you are a part, but I'm writing today with a different project in mind. Jeff Shotts at Graywolf recently got in touch with Ander and I (Ander being the chief around here) to see if we'd be interested in doing something to commemorate the release of your new book, The Adventures of Form and Content, this upcoming January.

The first, obvious thought was to see if you'd be up for an interview—though Shotts warned of your antipathy towards interviews, and he directed me to an anti-sort-of-interview you did for an interview website, during which you let fly, "for that matter, kill your interview website, and launch a new one devoted to reprinting the work of unjustly neglected poets of the past, or unjustly neglected poems by living poets: give work that's passing into obscurity a new hold on life: let poems of merit speak for themselves (not serve as an excuse for webchatter), and allow fresh light to strike masterful writing that's headed otherwise into the darkness." Well, shit. Well, actually that's more or less what we do at Essay Daily, featuring writing and conversation by and about essayists living and dead, so maybe we're not totally missing your mark.

Give work that's passing into obscurity a new hold on life. Fucking a.

Anyway, maybe you'd be up for some sort of interview, or at least a pre-interview parley? And to be honest, when I say interview, I mean conversation. For me, your essays do stand on their own, and I'm not excited about digging into or tearing them apart looking for something beyond the absolute thrill and sense of playfulness and wonder I get from reading them. If anything I'm a sucker for the essayist himself, which may not be any better, I suppose, but do you know what I mean? In so much as the essay is a brain on a page trying to get at the heart of something (a thought/question/obsession), we read essays because we're interested in/fascinated by that particular pulsing brain. E.g. Can you tell me what exactly you're trying to say with your use of white space in... I hear you read science fiction? Have you read any Liu Cixin? Any thoughts? What'd you think of The Martian? I’m less interested in picking your brain than in just hanging out a bit, here, in letters.

If you're up for it, maybe we could converse, like this, a bit, and I'd scan these letters and put them online via Essay Daily, and that might be a good time? I've also thought it might be fun to collect questions (or comments, or whatever) from writers at large, all over who knows where, via postcard, and then forward these postcards to you and you could respond or not and we could pair your response or non-response for fans to check out. It'd be fun to bring in other brains, I think.

An idea, maybe a little wobbly, out there for your consideration. Any thoughts, about any of this?

I'll wind down here, and await whatever response you might have.

But quick: in response to your give work that's passing into obscurity a new hold on life comment, I'd like to share a poem by Julie Marie Wade, a Daily contributor. I don't really know if this poem is passing into obscurity or not, but maybe that's not important? She ended an essay with it a few years ago, and it's stuck with me, and I'd love to share it with you:

For my mother

Here, on the Atlantic, sunrise
the reversed syntax of my Seattle youth:

I marvel, still young, at what
it means to have been

to see at last the

to read—for the first time—
whole chapters of my life

as an aside.



No comments:

Post a Comment