STARK WEEK EPISODE #4: “I saw a small boy on a great precipice” — Bianca Stone on the cover of King of the Forest
For Episode Four of Stark Week, Bianca Stone answers some questions about working with the forest king Sampson Starkweather for the triumphant cover of King of the Forest!
1) What was your experience working with Sampson?
Joy. It was like working with a doting older brother.
2) What was your process (how did you come up with the idea)?
I had just illustrated the Birds LLC book by Ana Bozicevic, Rise in the Fall, and I’d been wrapped up in the idea of the cavalier, the knight. Her book felt like an army charging over a hill. It was always the Joan of Arc figure I pictured with her book. I’d done drawings of knights in armor, looking at a pamphlet my fiancé’s father gave me on armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has always been one of my favorite things to see there. Obviously they were so insanely masculine. I couldn’t fit many of them into the tone of Ana’s book.
Luckily, I opened Sampson’s book King of the Forest. The knights charged up, offering themselves. But they too seemed too masculine for his book. I say this because the poems had the voice of a young boy, whose vivid imagination was tangible.
Rather than faceless, colossal suits of armor, I saw a small boy on a great precipice. One whose power was great, but who was afraid and isolated.
The artwork I did for Sampson was inspired by the cover of Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man. Which Sampson really loves. And so do I.
Dark contrasts and cross hatching….I’m already there.
Actually before we were friends we read together, and I remember him telling poop jokes. Or was it a poop poem? He had a chapbook called City of Moths and I bought it! My mom was there and saved the flier with our pics and bios. It’s hanging in the bathroom at her house, and when I was home last time, I noticed him on there! I had never made the connection in my mind.
Sampson and I are close friends. I love every time I get to collaborate with him because he’s so goddamn energetic. He’s one of the most dedicated, hard working poets I’ve ever met. While it might feel sometimes like your opinion isn’t filtering through his buoyant, manic stream of awesomeness… it is. He listens and takes everything in. He has a very generous heart and he’s a fucking fabulous poet.
Bianca Stone is a poet and visual artist. She is the author of several chapbooks and the poetry-comic I Want To Open The Mouth God Gave You, Beautiful Mutant (Factory Hollow Press), the editor of Monk Books, and a regular contributor for The The Poetry Blog. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, Crazyhorse, and Tin House. Stone collaborated with Anne Carson on Antigonick (2012), a new kind of comic book and translation. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, poet Ben Pease, and their cat. For more information, check out her page at the Poetry Foundation.
WEEKS: A lot can kill you in a week. Even more can eat you at your weakness. A whole week of hair growth depends on, uh, genetics? Weeks contain a finite series of burritos and an infinite burrito of choices. Hoopla, regrets, collapses, dancing so hard you have to pour a cup of ice water on your dome, other times that feeling like you have to drag yourself so hard by your own collar your shirt might tear. Huge trucks at night carrying turned-off, unblinking versions of those normally blinking signs that say CONSTRUCTION AHEAD or SLOW LANE ENDS, except the signs are big so the trucks themselves say OVERSIZED LOAD and are blinking, themselves, even though their cargo’s dark. What I would like to do is nominate Sampson Starkweather to rewrite the entirety of America’s highway marginalia, to be the official roadside spokespoet for all of America’s restless feelings. I don’t have shit to do with those decisions, so what is happening instead is that this week will be Sampson Starkweather week here at HTMLGIANT, aka STARK WEEK.
THE BOOK: Sampson’s debut book of poems, The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, is out now from Birds LLC. It’s really big. Like almost 400 pages. Who does that? It’s what it says it is. 4 books. All the feelings enacted in the opening paragraph happen inside of its four books, which are categorized as “poetry/life.” Sure, yes, yeah.
WHAT’S IN IT: It’s a book I’d give to someone just coming to poetry and to someone who feels totally burnt out on poetry. Those are kind of the same readers, I think. That’s why the whole week. Starkweather’s poetry is the existence of a nonexistent photograph of Andre the Giant jumping off the top rope. In his introduction, Jared White mentions “bass-voiced sexy soul-singer slow jams” and “punch-drunk Harlequin-robocop masculinity.” The poems have angry leaked dreams and love before roads and a pistol-whipped desire and the world’s saddest TV and offensive hurricane names and corpses wrapped in huge tropical leaves on islands named after them and that’s just in the poems you can read on the excerpt page.
WTF IS GOING ON: Over the course of this week, we’re going to feature a series of guests talking about Sam’s work in each of the books within T4B—1) King of the Forest, 2) La La La, 3) The Waters, 4) Self Help Poems—and also we’re going to hear from the awesome artists who made the covers for each of these four books. There will be criticism, talk of process, grand sweeping theories, tiny insightful scalpels. You’ll get to read some of Sam’s poetry. There will be some talk of what goes into, in 2013, putting out a 400 page book of your poems that is actually 4 books. Maybe there will be some interaction, multimedia, surprise. Buy a copy of the book if you want to follow along closely. I promise it won’t feel like being stuck on a brokedown bus at a rest stop in Connecticut. There are poems that feel like that, but not in this book. Here’s a list of who’s coming at you: Matt Bollinger, Ed Park, Bianca Stone, John Cotter, Melissa Broder, Eric Amling, Elisa Gabbert, Jonathan Marshall, Amy Lawless, Sommer Browning, and Jared White.
WHO IS SAMPSON STARKWEATHER ANYWAY, IS HE THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING GUYS DO: The reason a lot of people want to share and talk about Sam’s huge ass tree-killer is because he and his work (which are impossible to unspoon from each other, which is how it should be) is like getting the best high five of your life from Teen Wolf. He is loved and easy to love and easy to mistake in rural supermarkets for Javier Bardem. He’s a longhaired poet surfer with a heart of messy pizza and manic kindness. Thank the exhausted fucking stars he is with us and with poetry. Enjoy STARK WEEK.
HOW DOES STARK WEEK BEGIN: To begin STARK WEEK, I talked to Starkweather:
1) Hi Sam. Welcome to Stark Week. This is how it starts, with an interview of you. Our interview starts with the “who is Sampson Starkweather and what’s going on, what is this stuff all over my arms, is this sap” portion of the interview. So let’s start at the start. Four books? Why? Why buck the prevailing model of slim little precious supermodel books? More importantly, why buck it in this beautifully thunking doorstop fashion?
Sorry about the sap “this forest / is unusually horny.”
In the end it came down to precisely the opposite of your question: “Why not?” Why not 4 books in 1? Why not a 328 page monster poetry collection that sounds like a seminal lifetime work by some famous, award-winning, about-to-die poet who now tends a garden, published by some big-ass conglomerate press like Penguin, but is actually by some dude with a ridiculous name that no one has heard of (and sounds like a character from Game of Thrones) and has yet to publish a full-length book, on a small indie poetry press that, oh yeah, he just happens to be a publisher/founding-editor of? It seemed ridiculous, audacious, absurd, unheard of, taboo, laughable—in other words, perfect.
July 15th, 2013 / 1:28 pm
Jeff T. Johnson’s got an essay on “The New Hybridity” at Fanzine.
Castro thinks Ahmadinejad should stop slandering the Jews. You can add that to the list of things Castro and I agree about.
Mathias Svalina has been writing Book Proposals for Broadway Books. From “My Year on a Moving Sidewalk”:
This book will be popular among readers who enjoyed such books at Mary Roach’s Stiff, Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars & the City of Portland, Oregon’s downloadable pdf “SIDEWALK REPAIR MANUAL: How to Repair and Maintain a Sidewalk.”
Tender, imaginative, wry and wise, the poems in Stone’s first collection take the reader from the bottom of the ocean to the orbit of the moon. In between, the geography of the heart is mapped lyrically and unexpectedly.
Not a lot to complain about in that description, is there?
At the Faster Times, Kyle Minor absolutely loses his shit over Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird. I stopped pretending I could follow what he was talking about somewhere toward the middle, but the upshot seems to be that he likes her book very, very much.
And finally, as if you needed me to tell you, the launch event for Richard Yates is at BookCourt tonight. It begins in about ten hours, which means that I am going to leave my house in a few minutes to head down there and claim a seat.