This Isn’t Really an Interview: Robert Alan Wendeborn Talks to Dan Magers and Carrie Murphy About Their New Books
Robert Alan Wendeborn: So, first I guess I want you two to say something about yourselves, intro or whatever…
Dan Magers: Carrie do you want to go first?
Carrie Murphy: haha sure
what do you mean, robbie?
like a mini bio or like a funny fact or something?
RW: um, introduce yourself
on the fly
DM: okay, shall I go?
DM: I’m Dan Magers, originally from Kansas City. Moved to NYC in 2003 (the day of the NYC blackout, one of the worst days of my life) and wrote a book called Partyknife which was published this month by Birds, LLC.
Also I work in book publishing by day
so, Dan first, but the question is for both of you, describe the process of writing your book. was it intentionally the way it is now from the start, or just turn into the thing that it is now along the way?
Carrie has left
DM: I have spent about eight years writing a “first book”, but started hitting my rhythm with the poems that became Partyknife almost three years ago now.
A lot of the poetry that I wrote beforehand is unpublished and I cannibalized a lot of it for the Partyknife poems. So I mostly just laser focused on the book until it was perfect.
I know a lot of people who have multiple manuscripts. I am not one of those people I have had one manuscript that has mutated until it became Partyknife (and I guess has gone through a million iterations
if that makes sense
Carrie has joined
CM: sorry guys
i feel so dial-up
RW: ok now carrie, do you need the question?
CM: talk about the process of the book?
CM: ok no, i got it
so my book is pretty much my mfa thesis. it basically started to emerge during the second year of my mfa, when i just started writing poems about being a teenager. i don’t think that it necessarily ended up being something different than what i wanted it to be, but i definitely didn’t set out to write a book about girlhood
but once i started the poems and there were just more and more poems, it all happened
DM: That’s awesome. My MFA thesis sucked.
Very Ashbery imitation
CM: haha. i mean, no one’s to say my MFA thesis DIDN’T suck..just someone happened to want to publish it!
revised, of course
RW: So, quick follow up for Dan, there’s a lot of nostalgia in both books, do you think that has to do with the amount of time you worked on it?
and Carrie, why DO you think you came to write about girlhood, which seems inherently nostalgic for an adult
DM: Actually, I think I started hitting my stride when I started focusing on my years in NYC, and maybe especially my first few years in NYC, when I was in Grad school.
CM: well in some ways i feel like my feminist consciousness was REALLY spurred when i was in grad school. i kind of knew i was going to write something about femalehood or womanness or what have you, but…then these poems just started coming, and i was really attracted to writing about how INTENSE it is to be a girl. i also took a class called representation of girlhood and that really helped solidify a lot of stuff for me. also i really liked (still like) the gurlesque, and i felt like the aesthetic situation of the gurlesque was one that i really appreciated and wanted to be a part of
although i dont think my book is really that gurlesque
i don’t know, girls are fucked up and weird
i wanted to write about it.
DM: Are you familiar with Marisa Crawford’s The Haunted House, Carrie?
CM: YES LOVE IT
DM: I feel like that talks about girlhood too
CM: bought it at AWP in 2010 and flipped for it
yeah I love that book and her writing
CM: that book was def. influential.
DM: that’s super interesting
RW: now that we’re on the topic…
what are some more influences
Dan I think you mentioned Ashbery?
DM: Yeah, I was obsessed with Ashbery when I moved to NYC. I tried to read him for two years in college without figuring him out.
But when I got to NYC, it really started sinking in
Esp Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror at first, but my favorite is Three Poems
My writing for a long time was under his sway
maybe still is in ways
me: that’s interesting, was there a moment where you decided you couldn’t write like Ashbery? Because I see very little of him in Partyknife…
CM: dan, you’ve been in NYC since 2003, which is the year i graduated from high school (and i went to college in NYC for a year, 2003-2004) seems funny, kind of.
DM: Ha, I’m so old :)
I think it feels easy to imitate his work, and so a lot of people try, but only JA can write JA.
I think I wanted something more immediate feeling
not sure how I can describe it
JA feels like a EKG of the unconscious
and I wanted conscious
DM: I guess
CM: i feel that
DM: I mean that’s my take
Carrie, did you have a major poetic influence?
i would say not a MAJOR one, no
actually the poets i like best are people i don’t write like at all
DM: like who?
CM: but people say they see a lot of anne sexton in my book, which makes sense because i WORSHIPPED her when i was a teenager. never very much of a plath girl though
DM: how old were you when you started reading Sexton?
CM: anne carson (duh), kevin young, i newly love jennifer tamayo whose work i think is brilliant
maybe 15 or 16, i guess
DM: that’s about when I discovered Allen Ginsberg, who was my awakening into poetry
CM: oh man! i read some of the beats when i was younger too, but mainly i think to seem smart
DM: I was super into them
CM: also my cat ate my beats anthology, partially
me: I think everyone was into the beats
DM: that’s awesome
CM: i read ginsberg in a jewish american lit class in college and then i think i was ready for him
what attracted you to him so much?
DM: I felt like when I was a teen in KC without access to cool hangouts and stuff, I read a lot and was led by the nose by blurbs from books to books
On the Road I read and really liked
and saw on the back the blurb that said it was the novel equivalent to howl
so I read Howl
I wasn’t into poetry
but Howl blew my mind from the first lines
when I read it, it was like I wanted to more than read it
it was like I wanted to eat the words
I felt like I would never have that experience again
and I never did
then I started writing poetry
CM: do you think you ever will?
DM: no, it felt like a baptism, like I was baptized into poetry
can only happen once
how old were you?
RW: that’s intense..
DM: I guess I was an intense kid
DM: I think 15
CM: no i think that that intensity is common in teenagers, no?
but it manifests itself in different ways
DM: Also I was in an all boys jesuit school so I think that affected my perception and mindset
DM: very catholic
CM: AH YES
i dated some catholic school boys when i was in high school
i thought going to their prom was like THE PINNACLE of life i could achieve
RW: Quick observation, both of you were into poetry in High School? What was it like, liking poetry in High School?
DM: I felt like reading poetry like the beats gave me a sense of identity.
I think also I wanted to move away from KC
the beats influenced that and also woody allen
CM: well a bunch of my friends were writers and were into poetry too, also i had a really supportive creative writing teacher and so it felt kind of normal. writing and reading it was an outlet, but not necessarily because i didn’t have another outlet
DM: what were your other outlets? How did poetry win out?
CM: hmmm. i don’t know that it has, necessarily! haha
DM: that’s very interesting
I see that you do lots of types of writing
CM: i just wrote poems because i just wrote poems, and that’s kind of the same today. it feels like the right thing to do, but i don’t think i would call it an “outlet” per se. it’s just…part of it all.
DM: what does writing poetry give you that culinary writing doesn’t?
or vice versa
or non-fic prose writing in general?
CM: i’ll answer, but i want to ask you what it’s like being a writer working in publishing?
i’m sure there are lots of them (i originally wanted to work in book publishing myself)
but i think it’s an interesting vantage point of the writing world
esp for small presses, etc
DM: I learned a lot about how the book process works, from idea to book and selling the book
I work at a large publishing co, but there are similarities (differences too)
It made me less shy about trying to put my work out there
because I realized that no one else will really do it, particularly if you don’t seem that into it
CM: hmm, i don’t know. poetry is where i can be crazier and more myself. it’s less than analysis of the world than a naming of the world, for me. (although i guess some people would say naming is analysis)
DM: that might be generalizing too much, but a sense of it is true
CM: that’s a good lesson to learn, i think
and are your coworkers like HELL YEAH dan has a book?
i imagine it’s a supportive environment?
DM: They understand the importance of selling the book, and see that I work really hard at selling it. My book is also pretty intense and in your face. It’s very very different from my personality.
I think a lot of people are surprised I would write such a book.
CM: really? how come?
DM: well a lot of people know me as things beside a writer, like a co-worker or relative. I think my personality is very different from the persona of the book.
CM: yeah, i know that feeling, to an extent
DM: But long story short, yes, my colleagues are very supportive.
CM: haha, well good!
DM: Carrie, did you win a book contest, or how did you get that ms accepted?
CM: keyhole had published some of my poems before, and peter cole, who runs the press just said you know, if you ever write a book send it to me.
so i was like i’ll send you my thesis when it’s done. and he kept up with me about that, reminding me, so i eventually did. and that was that!
CM: kind of a lot of dumb blind luck more than anything
DM: that’s how the world turns
CM: i revised it for a few months afterwards, but that’s basically the story
DM: did you get lots of edits from Birds of Lace?
or was it pretty close to what you gave them?
CM: oh no, i i think it’s pretty much exactly what i gave gina abelkop, who is the editor
CM: which sounds like OK I DON’T NEED EDITING
RW: What about you Dan? Lots of edits from Birds LLC?
CM: but i think that’s more just gina’s policy…she doesn’t edit too much, i don’t think
DM: Yeah, I got a shit ton of edits.
They really transformed the book, or helped make it what it is
CM: it seems like you have a great relationship with birds llc
DM: I think it used to be three parts
Sam Starkweather who was the editor who worked closes with me
he brought up Baudlaire
DM: and was like, you know there is a lot of disgusting or grotesque stuff in your work
but Baudlaire also has this sense of the spiritual and the transcendent
…so could you be more transcendent
and he had this way about making a hard edit seem like an amazing goal
DM: and I felt so comfortable writing the poems, that I pushed myself to do that
RW: Yeah, just be more transcendent
RW: that’s easy
DM: yeah everyone laughs when I say that
but Sam has this ability like a coach to get the best out of you
also there are five editors and they all had amazing suggestions
RW: Good editors do that
DM: working with them is awesome
they are also very proactive about marketing
CM: they are!
i loved all the people on facebook and twitter who made their pictures the cover of your book
it’s so key to have a good editor, both in the work and in the world
DM: yeah, that was one of my favorite things of 2012
I felt very loved!
I am also really proactive about marketing, I want people to read the book
so Birds and I make a good team
DM: we push each other pretty hard to do all these things, which is cool
RW: So, I need to go, but i have a quick game for you guys to play, you guys keep talking if you want and send me the transcript?
RW: an hour was def not enough…
DM: we can maybe do another installment sometime
CM: that was an hour?
DM: I need to actually have dinner :)
CM: oh well i was in and out, damn internet
RW: so I’m just going to give you one word
RW: and respond with two tweets in length
CM: robbie, we could always continue through email, too!
DM: or google docs
this was lots of fun
CM: oh yeah google docs sounds great
thanks for all the great Qs you asked me dan!
DM: thank you, Carrie, and thank you Robbie!
CM: i’d like to ask you more about your book’s subject matter in particular, but maybe in the doc
RW: so the google doc is open
I’ll paste the words in, you guys to the quick response the words, but be honest and try and be quick
that’s kind of the point
DM: me too
RW: THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH
CM: sure, thanks for asking
RW: it went too quick, but have fun in the google doc
CM: dan, i wish we could have talked more about boys catholic high schools
maybe in the doc!
RW: and dan, you should read with Carrie in NYC soon
your work would go well together
CM: yes, come to dc! i’ll email you about a series
FOLLOW UP GOOGLE DOC
CM: Intuitive to me in some ways. I let the line tell me where the line wants to break and then sometimes I go back and break it in a new way.
DM: people have criticized my line breaks and syntax, but I think very hard about them.
DM: I like short poems.
CM: I write too many short poems
DM: Would love to write a long poem next.
CM: I also would love to write a long poem….or more than one. It’s really going against my instinct to do so but get out of your box, right?
CM: this makes me think of reading the web description of a purse for sale….”blue leather with kisslock closure”
DM: it will never happen.
DM: the key.
CM: Sometimes good and sometimes boring.
DM: love it (I’m so catholic)
CM: Tell the truth but tell it slant—the only Dickinson quote I know.
DM: it’s important, though maybe people tend to see the irony in my work.
CM: sincerity seems very teenage, doesn’t it?
CM: oh Robbie! I’m not sure I have much to say about this, nothing that’s too insightful anyway. I think of Cat Marnell on xoJane, Tao Lin. I don’t know why sincerity has to be new or old.
DM: I remember when Andrew Mister gave a reading in Brooklyn and had this New Sincerity banner he put up for the reading.