House Party with the Phoenicians is the Next Big Thing?

This is some sort of forthcoming book meme I was tagged in by the homie Jacob Victorine. Let’s begin!

What is the working title of the book?

The title of my book is House Party with the Phoenicians.

 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In the last semester of my senior year studying poetry at Columbia College Chicago, a classmate mentioned during class discussion in a seminar on 19th century American poetry that our alphabet can be traced back to Ancient Phoenicia. The characters of our alphabet come from these Phoenician symbols, which represent important objects or ideas in their culture. My favorite is the letter Aleph, or A, which represents an Ox.

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I was simultaneously working on a thesis of poetry to complete my degree, and this one off-handed comment inspired countless poems for the assignment.

I later found out, after doing some obsessive research on the Phoenicians, that the idea that they created the modern day alphabet is the equivalent to ancient myth. While the Phoenicians–a trading civilization–are credited with spreading the alphabet to the Western world, their own language died out long before their civilization’s fall. The true origins of our 26 character alphabet are debated. I got a tattoo of the above characters despite it.

Two years later, my thesis has been fully transformed from a school project to a (hopefully) cohesive book that explores the relationship between language and storytelling, love and correspondence, identity and surroundings.

 

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a book of poetry, with poems that thoroughly explore both lyric and narrative through language, storytelling, structure, and free verse.

 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There’s a lot of poems that are directed to or written in response to the work of other artists. I’d like to reanimate the corpses of Walt Whitman, Edward Hopper, and Gertrude Stein, and have them pair off with Anne Waldman, Patti Smith, and Eileen Myles. But instead of coffee & cigarettes, they’re all hanging out at a West Side School for the Desperate house show together. At no point does James Franco appear in the film. He couldn’t make it out because he was busy trying to free his arm from under a boulder, using only his willpower and a dull pocketknife.

 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

“Voice is not a pattern of speech; it is a pattern of thought.” -Louise Glück

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first full-length draft was completed in May 2011 at approximately 60 pages. Currently I’m on draft six, and I plan on doing one more after I hear back from my gracious peer editors.

 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve already discussed at length the inspiration the Phoenician alphabet contributed to the book. However, it would have never existed if not for my thesis professor, Lisa Fishman. Some of the other amazing poets I was lucky enough to study under while writing this book include David Trindad and Brian Mornar. Their influences were the biggest inspiration for the inception of this book.

 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I started this book in spring 2011, at a very weird transition moment in my life, and not just because I was graduating from college. I had an incredible amount of heartbreak I was processing from the previous year–my parents were getting a divorce, a relationship I thought was going to last the rest of my life ended, I was sexually assaulted by a close friend and collaborator and subsequently betrayed by many other close friends, as it often goes in those situations. However, I also felt I had a tremendous thing going for me; I started working full-time as a writer, which felt incredibly empowering. I started an art collective with my closest friends, which has continued to grow to this day. I was doing activist work and felt I could change the world. It was a strange juxtaposition.

While these things appear in the book, either overtly or through theme, the book is not about these things. It’s not a book of confessional poetry. Lisa told me she felt the book was about “a poet finding her voice.”  I would say that in the two years since I’ve graduated, I’ve learned that this search, this attempt at entrapment, is what makes poetry exciting. And the entrapment is impossible, because a person cannot be summed up in moments; a person is a movement. I believe that, at heart, the book reflects this intangibility.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book is currently a finalist in the Write Bloody book competition, which is incredibly exciting to me. It is not guaranteed publication but my fingers (and toes, and guts) are crossed.

 

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are…

Zachary Green — an East Coast poet, founding editor of Ghost Proposal, and a highly influential former classmate of mine.

Megan Burbank — a Writing MFA student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago whose work fuses influences of verse, essay, and visual art. She’s also the co-founder of Projecttile Lit.

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