How has your first book changed your life?
73. Maryrose Larkin
How did your manuscript come to be published by
The Book of Ocean manuscript was assembled in 2003 during a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. I had been working on various manuscripts in various forms since the mid-1990s. I would send around to contests, where it would be a finalist or semi-finalist every once in a great while.
By the time I put together The Book of Ocean, I was getting rather frustrated with the entire book contest process. There's a whole school of thought on manuscripts where you keep revising, adding new poems and subtracting old ones, until the manuscript is accepted for publication. I did this, and it made me crazy. I wanted to be writing new poems, new work, and trying to fit new poems with old poems made it hard for me to write anything new. I also wanted the book to be done with, I wanted the poems in the book to be done with, and one of the best ways to be finished with a poem is publish it, but that wasn't happening and it wasn't in my control.
So during the ACA residency, I put together everything that I thought could be a manuscript, and edited it into a shape. Then, I counted all times a word occurred in the book, and banned the top 10 nouns, verbs, and adjectives for two years. It seemed like a way to get away from The Book of Ocean without having it published. And I sent it around in 2004 and 2005, and was a finalist several times, but no book.
The Book of Ocean is the first book from i.e. Press. I met Catherine Daly, the editor, when she came to Portland to read in the Spare Room Reading Series. I had given her the manuscript when she was here and she had reviewed it on her blog. She told me that she might be starting a press in the future, and that she would be interested in publishing The Book of Ocean. In 2006, she decided to start i.e. and my book came out in May 2007.
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
The day my books arrived I was in Seattle visiting Sarah Mangold of Bird Dog fame. We run FLASH+CARD, a tiny press, and I had spent the day gluing pictures onto boxes. I got home around 1 a.m. and there was a note on my door from the lady with dementia across the street (she always starts her notes with my name is ______ and I live across the street), which said she had a package for me. I couldn't wake her up at 1 a.m. so I went to sleep.
I was so excited that I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and went outside and my neighbor brought out the books. I had the irresistible need to open the box in the middle of the street to show my neighbor, who was kind of weirded out by the whole thing.
Before that day, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?
What I hoped for more than anything is that having a book published will make it more likely for me to continue writing.
How has your life been different since?
It hasn't been particularly different. I was asked to read at Open Books in Seattle and that was really wonderful for me.
Were you involved in designing the cover?
Originally Catherine Daly suggested that we try to make an old fashioned cover that would look somewhat like an antique science book, but we couldn't seem to get that cover beyond conception. I suggested an ocean cover, but Catherine did all the design work. She's been an astoundingly supportive editor and publisher.
Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?
I'm not sure. The book hasn't been out for very long.
What have you been doing to promote the book and what were/are those experiences like for you?
I've done some readings, and sent the book out to all sorts of people. I like doing readings, mostly because I like to meet new poets. I'm working on sending the book out for review, and I am also trying to set up readings.
I've also set up a blog, mostly to sell FLASH+CARD publications.
I'd really like to be better about promoting, and I'm not. I think poetry is a gift economy and I don't feel all that comfortable about asking for gifts in general.
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?
Putting the book together really helped my writing move forward, especially when I banned the words I overused.
I've become really interested in the physicality of books. I hadn't realized how different writing looks when it is in a book vs. on a screen or on a printed page. The shape of a poem changes so much based on size. I've seen work on a screen and then on a page and then in a book and it all seems to be different work. So I'm thinking a lot about the book or the page itself as enclosure
How do you feel about the response so far and has it had any effect on your writing?
So far people have been very generous about The Book of Ocean. I'm really surprised by how much people like it. I'm finding it a little easier to sit down and actually write now that I have the book. I'm somewhat less likely to feel that I have to clean the floor, and go food shopping, and take care of everything before I have the luxury of writing.
Do you want your life to change?
Yes. I'd like to be less sick, I'd like to be better read and I'd like to be a better writer. I'm really afraid that I won't get all the writing done I'd like to.
I work for myself, and although that means I'm usually really broke, it makes time for writing and reading.
Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?
I think the practice or process of anything changes the world. I write because it makes the world more interesting not because my writing is in it but because the practice of writing changes me inside and the world outside simultaneously.
2 poems from The Book of Ocean by Maryrose Larkin:
introduction to Book of Gardens
She considers 1 as bone
Gas stations punctuated highway but they had
We cross the phenomena of light
Here is what we have twisted
A name is not description but ornament, becoming and
To be wholly replaced as we travel
Look how quickly she becomes other, a changeling
We can be hidden The jump to replace The action of will
This light, juxtaposed, determined as balance
The ornament not describing, the name clinging
How quickly, in order to color, you hide: juxtaposed, free
The letter I as ornament To replace all possible light
The light, naming, hides under balance, a constant,
. . .
next interview: William Waltz
. . .