Dear Readers and Poets,
I'm excited to share with you this little Q&A with Detroit-raised poet Anna Vitale. A writer and performer, she is a PhD candidate currently working on her dissertation in Madison. Her books Anna Vitale's Pop Poems (OMG! 2010) andUnknown Pleasures (Perfect Lovers, 2013) are little raw gems of vivacious sound and dark meditations. A huge fan of hers, I wanted to sit down virtually with Anna Vitale and ask her to consider some questions on poetry and process.
How do you feel about solitary versus collaborative writing?
I hate being alone, so being a writer sucks sometimes, but then I forget all about that because I'm really in the writing. The times when I'm doing it, really really in it, those feel like collaborations with a whole life or lives that are and are not my own. I also really like to write and perform with other people, but it is scary because I am not sure if we will like what each other is doing. It also requires a bit more planning and commitment than I have been able to give lately. But I have some unpublished collaborations and some others in the works. Marie Buck and I have written parts of a poem called Birds of Paradise that imitates a German dominatrix. We haven't looked at in a while. I also love writing letters. Since 2004, I've been in a band called Melting Moments. We practice every few years. I'm also in a band called Cover Cover, which is more of a desire and a concept than anything else. I've collaborated for a long time on hosting readings. I also used to work on the online magazine textsound.org, which was a collective of sorts. And in the next year or so, I'll start a press called Vitale Brothers, and that will be a collaboration. And last but not least...in 2017, Roof will publish my first book, My Detroit, and I've asked a lot folks to read and respond to that to make it better. So even a thing I wrote "alone" was not that at all. That is the whole idea behind the title, too. A thing that I wanted to be mine and mine alone, where I grew up, is not that at all, and thank god for that cuz that is big-ass city for one person all by her lonesome.
What does the term “poetic process” mean to you?
Hell. But the devil has a great tail, so it's not all bad, or it is, but that's alright.
Do you feel it still is (or ever has) been important to memorize poems?
Oh yeah, definitely. I love it when people know their poems by heart. A lot of my writing lately is far too dense and essay-like for me to memorize, but when I was in high school and doing slam poetry, oh man, we used to kill it. I mean, it was all about being able to recite the work so you could present yourself to the audience in a full way. I don't want to look at the audience so much as talk to them now, so I try to fall into parts of the writing or the experience of performing that allow me to deviate from it. When I hear someone laugh in the audience at a part that I didn't realize was funny, I usually react, but I don't know when that will happen. So that's the opposite of memorizing. But I love knowing words to things and I still remember Alison and Candice's phone number (my childhood friends) which is like a song that even they've forgotten!
If you could spend a day in the body of any poet (dead or alive) who would you choose?
I don't think she was a poet, but my mom had a sister that died when my mom was 16 and the sister was 10. She was sick from the time she was born till the time she wasn't alive and I want to know if my own feeling and fear of dying prematurely really comes from her or what. The desire for, or the curve away from, premature death has something to do with poetry.
Do you ever get sick of poetry?
Do you have any advice to veterans of poetry?
If you go to war, which is to say if you insist on a poetics (a set of facts about how language and social relations function), don't be surprised that people who are already tired of being pushed around grow tired of hearing how entitled you are to your reading of your writing. Jerk off instead. Stop writing poems. Leave us alone.
In your mind, are technology and poetry in bed together or still in an awkward flirting phase?
It depends on what technology means and what poetry means, but they are probably in bed together with a lot of other things. The bed is terribly crowded, absurd, barely sparse. "10 little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell out and bumped its head." The bed, in that rhyme, is the technology and makes the poetry--the jumping, the rhyme, a child's identification with small animals like itself--possible.