The Rumpus Poetry Book Club Chat with Gabrielle Calvocoressi:
The Rumpus Poetry Book Club chats with Gabrielle Calvocoressi about her new collection Rocket Fantastic, the fluid nature of gender, and the reader as collaborator with the text . . . This Rumpus Book Club interview was edited by Brian Spears.
Brian S: Talk to me about this choice to use a symbol to represent the Bandleader. You write about it in your introduction, but I’m curious about how the idea evolved over time and affected the book.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi: Well, you know this book took me almost a decade to write. I’d started some of the poems before Apocalyptic Swing came out. When I first started working on it I had a whole sort of story in mind, personae, an arc… basically the recipe for a disaster.
Eve Linn: Could you comment on how you conceived of this as a narrative?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi: And then in 2012 I had the tremendous fortune of getting to go to Marfa, TX for a Lannan Fellowship where I got to sit in this house that just looked out at this giant sky.
Sarah Fowler: Building off of the Bandleader question—I am wondering when the use/manipulation of breath came in to play? Was it always a part of the equation with that character?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi:I was in Marfa and what I realized was the book was so locked down and not at all what I had wanted or hoped for. I realized I’d started to use this strategy of persona to notwork into the deeper issues of power and voice and the vessel of the body that I’d been working with and struggling with in my own life.
The digital downloads from the 2017 WWC/MFA summer residency are now available. Included in the bounty is this summer’s Tom Lux Tribute reading. Download it for free with any purchase, or listen below!
Recorded at the July 2017 residency of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
In honor of former faculty member Thomas Lux (1946-2017), who taught in the MFA Program for Writers from 1979 until 2006, Stephen Dobyns, Brooks Haxton, Heather McHugh, and Alan Shapiro read from Lux’s poetry and offer remembrances of their friend and colleague.
Here’s the playlist:
Stephen Dobyns: “The Swimming Pool”
Brooks Haxton: “An Horatian Notion”
Heather McHugh: “The Milkman and His Son”
Alan Shapiro: “I Love You Sweatheart”
Thomas Lux: “Snake Lake”
Here’s the link to “Snake Lake” originally published in the Atlantic.
An essay by Peter Orner (fiction) appears in Guernica:
After the Earthquake: Oral Histories on Life, Death & Survival in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
by Peter Orner
Five years ago Dr. Evan Lyon, a physician who has worked in Haiti since 1996, and I began to conduct interviews with residents of the city of Port-au-Prince. We set out with considerable help from Laura Scott, Jean Pierre Marseille, Katie Kane, Doug Ford, and Edward Loiseau. The project started with a simple notion: What’s life like on the streets of Haiti’s largest city since the cataclysmic earthquake of January 12, 2010? There are number of good books about Haiti, but too many of them, it seemed to us, interpreted life in “the poorest country in the western hemisphere” through the lens of an outsider. We wanted to create a book that, so much as possible, might give a reader an unmitigated view of the struggle to survive–and endure–in, yes, one of the poorest but also, one of the most vibrant cities in our hemisphere.