Thursday, October 4, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Sarah Lang

Bio: Sarah Lang was born in Canada.

1 - How did your first book change your life?
I decided that the second seminar was no longer worthwhile, I would leave. So, one day, I got up and left (Office Space style). I’m no longer perusing my PhD.
2 - How long have you lived in Chicago, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?
I lived in Chicago from Sept 2005-March 2006 and then again from Sept 2006 to June 2007. I no longer live there.
I think it is too early to say if it made an impact; I usually have to sit with things for a good while.
Does gender? I suppose it must--androgynous as I feel, and was raised--I still live in a gendered culture.
Does race? I don’t know. I grew up in a very multicultural environment. Ethnicity, or culture and language were much more identity markers.
I lived in three different neighbourhoods when I lived in Chicago. The last, Woodlawn, is one of the worst neighbourhoods in the US. Yet, I was a 10 minute walk from the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Hospital.
Children would do their homework (rather commendably) on my steps, in the cold, at night, while their mothers had sex for crack.
I would walk from campus--which was a walled city--through the hospital, past waterfalls and LED monitors--cross the street, walk one block, and be in the projects. People were living without windows. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why there weren’t riots.
I also lived in the posh neighbourhoods. Needless to say, you could buy fresh groceries within a 5KM walk.
3 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I write clumsy, insufficient, I write French, and I am sad because when I write, I really feel that I only-write, I accompany, but from so far away, I only write with the greatest possible love, but only shadows and allusion, not even of my hand but already spoken by French, not even of my composition.
All I am trying to say, Antouylia, is perhaps but this:

All the books that I could write revolve around the book that I shall never
write, which allows all the others to be written, and this book of books is the
book of You.-Cixous, (With) Or the Art of Innocence

In other words, all my writing, all writing that I have ever done is part of one book. That book has chapters or sections, but it is one book.
4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?
I consider them part of my job (as teaching is to a researcher). It is my professional duty, and as such, I try to be professional.
5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I try to write poetry that doesn’t suck.
6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I think I would need you to define “outside.” If that means any reader but me, no, I quite like it. I think I am usually “my own worst critic,” but sometimes it’s good to work through something with someone--show them a line you love but know can’t leave the house, so you can then delete it, etc.
If you mean an editor at a press or whatnot, no. Again, once the work is ready for publication, what others do with or think about it is rather irrelevant to me.
If you ask me to talk about typography and book design, that would be another question.
7 - When was the last time you ate a pear?
One month to the day.
8 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I’m going to take it you mean writing.
As I write this, I mean no disrespect to those who educated me later in life, nor my peers; however, the best writing advice I ever got was from Martin Godfrey, the Canadian children/teen writer, at the age of about 10. Three things: 1) Stories can start with something other than one day. In fact, start in the middle of something to grab someone’s attention. 2) Show don’t tell. 3) Remember that there are senses other than sight. (And throughout, focus in.)
9 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to photography)? What do you see as the appeal?
Photography is my needlework.
10 - Just what is it about airports?
They are, in a way, everywhere an nowhere at once. They are both highly anonymous and personal. They are the physical manifestation of ambition.
In a word, they are *ports.*
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Currently, I have a routine lack of routine.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I don’t think about it. If I do not want to write; I don’t. If I do, I do. If I never feel like it again, then I will never do it again.
13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?
NA
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any
other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Music. I want to write Tallis’sSpem in Alium.” Bj√∂rk’sAll is full of love” or “Generous Palmstroke.”
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
When I first went to the Waldrops’ for a party or whatnot, I suddenly learnt a new way of living an adult life.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Sail, tallships style. Be a rock star. Own a really good bed.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Composer. If I had heard music before the age of ten, and was trained in any way at an earlier age (I can sing and play various instruments, but not with the same fluidity with which I can write), this is what I would have done.
But, as that was not the case, and as I was reading theoretical physics books at the age of 12 or so, I probably I would have ended up a cosmologist, who really, really wanted to be an astronaut.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

Made me? Nothing. I did that as I do other things. What made you eat an apple? What made you walk? What made you drink juice instead of milk?

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Kathy Acker has really been a relaxing read lately. She calms me down for some reason.
Last night I watched Romance and Cigarettes. It was pretty darned grand.

20 - What are you currently working on?

This.

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