Epiphany: William Trevor began his adult life as a sculptor and later described his writing as chipping away at a block of marble. Are you a chipper or a builder? In other words do you chip away at a block of writing, or are you more methodical, building up the block brick by brick?
Daniel Rzicznek: I suppose that I identify with both chipper and builder. When I write prose (and this includes poems in prose) I am a builder, no question about it. Prose requires logical steps between ideas, between sentences. The poems from Live Feeds seek to disrupt those steps or disarm them. I try to forget the current sentence before writing the next. Yet it still feels like building. In contrast, writing lineated poems feels more like sculpting and chipping. I cut, move, shuffle, reorder, rewrite, cross out, and draft and draft and draft until the poem (hopefully) gleams.
What was your first publication?
An elegy for Jerry Garcia in Relix magazine circa 1996 or 1997. I would’ve been 17 or 18. The poem revels in exaggeration and becomes awkwardly patriotic by the end. I sent it on a whim and never received any acknowledgment or letter of acceptance, just the issue in the mail one day.
Five books you are reading or thinking about now?
Ulysses by James Joyce. The deep wellspring. The human condition rendered to the last detail.
Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems for their startling, astounding motion and rhythm, and for their nearly terrifying certainties.
Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku by Gerald Vizenor. An interesting quartet of haiku groupings that breaks the 5-7-5 rule but focuses incisively on the defining feature of the form: connection with the natural world and the movement of the seasons.
The Mercy Seat: Collected and New Poems by Norman Dubie. I find great sustenance in Dubie’s work, particularly the early to mid-period represented in The Mercy Seat. They are unfilmable. They are also impossible to imitate, giving them a strange purity (like the music of Bob Dylan). Dubie’s poems remind me to make the impossible happen in my own stuff.
The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright. I am always thinking in terms of this book, perhaps because of it’s early and deep-running influence on my poetics, but also because of its reliability. After dozens of reads, it still transports, amazes, and rattles me. I own more than one copy.
If you had to inhabit a fictional world, what would it be (i.e., the environment of which novel or short story or poem)?
I’m going to politely object to the question by answering with A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold; in other words, I would choose no world other than the one I live in, the natural systems and processes that move and flow humbly among the stones, bugs, trees, birds, waters—our frankly beautiful world, all the danger inherent here, and the exponentially increasing need for our awareness and attention to it. But, if you forced me to choose, I would elect to pick a Jim Harrison novella at random.
Most interesting day job you've had (from the perspective of a writer)?
None of my “day jobs” were particularly interesting: golf caddy, dishwasher, grocery cashier, pizza cook, receiving department at a Bed Bath & Beyond. I think teaching composition has been more rewarding for my writing and for my intellectual life at large. You can learn a lot from 18 year olds.
Narrative poems? Elegies? Odes? Which do you prefer to write?
The beast makes many noises: a bark, a yelp, a whimper, a growl.
One sentence of advice regarding writing?
If you want to be a writer, cultivate your tenacity, give up your social life, be prepared to disappoint your loved ones, believe in the solidarity of the imagination and the soul, and remember that no one likes a complainer.
Your title: was it your first choice?
Yes. I picked it from a long list of titles I keep around. I think I was reading Ed Dorn Live when I came up with it. That’s an incredibly candid book and it had me thinking about technological culture, shows like Big Brother, the idea of watching someone else negotiate life as “entertainment.” The poems in Live Feeds feel like that to me.
In a nutshell, what are you working on now?
A 365-page prose poem called “Leafmold.” A manuscript of lineated poems that is about ready to make the rounds. Another theoretical manuscript after that. A whole bunch of very new poems. A questionnaire in ten parts. A grocery list.
What's an interview question you've never been asked that you wish had been?
What were the last five records you listened to?
Gordon Lightfoot Did She Mention My Name
Deerhoof La Isla Bonita
Merle Haggard Going Where the Lonely Go
Traffic Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory
Giant Sand Heartbreak Pass
And, what’s for dinner?
Pan-roasted wild American black duck, seared bok choy with bacon vinaigrette, and turnip puree.