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Chapbook Q & A with Ryan Bollenbach // In the House on the Cusp of Light

Read In the House on the Cusp of Light


What is poetry?  Part 2: why do you write it?

Poetry is a making. Reading is a making too. A poem is a dynamic thing. I write and read poetry to perform that making over and over again. For me, the making happens between what’s in the poem, my expectations about the poem (and/or poetry in general), others’ expectation about the poem (and/or poetry in general), and what’s around and in me in my life at the time (bodily, locally, globally). I try to write from where all these things meet. When I start writing, I put those things in then I turn them around until I don’t understand them anymore, until they become a question. Then the poem happens and puts those questions into action. My favorite place in a poem is the place where the question reaches its logical limit (where I’ve exhausted the turning motion), because, then, the question collapses into itself and becomes something new, other than/mirror to the starting point. I have trouble committing to end to a poem because the questions never actually stop. The only reason I do end the poem is because the end of the poem is just as artificial as the poem itself. In that way, the poem is always an incompletion, a failure, and I like that, because then I can start from where I left off. I can keep working and investing my energy into keeping that making failing. Keeping that failing making.     

What makes this a chapbook & not just a pile of poems?

I think this poem is a chapbook because it asks similar questions of all the characters that appear in the book: the speaker, the mother, the sun, the various animals, the pets and near pets, the “pests,” the house etc.To be honest, I’d love be able to make the poem even longer, to write a book-length poem, because, the longer a poem gets, the more ideas are in the air, and the more ideas are in the air the more mixed up things get. I like things being mixed up.

Are there any particular pronounced influences / guiding lights for the poems in this chapbook, or is it just the usual jumble & tangle (also, if so: what IS your usual jumble & tangle)?




I think jumble and tangle is just the word for it! I’m always reading many books at once because I love the tangle. At the time I drafted this poem, I was reading The Necropastoral by Joyelle McSweeney, The To Sound by Eric Baus, So You Know It’s Me by Brian Oliu, Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake by Heidi Lynn Staples. I was also struck by a handful of epistolary and nearly-autobiographical pieces that my peers had published. Those readings were making me want to use the epistolary to compound (explode?) the relationship between autobiography, time, and artifice. Thinking about my reading habits brings me back to the genre question: I tend to be a quick reader and I generally don’t underline or write down quotes unless I’m writing a review or a paper. I only remember what really intrigues me at the moment, which, of course, means I forget a lot. That forgetting facilitates a new reading experience every time I open up a book, which is why I love re-reading so much. That tendency also speaks to why I enjoy the brevity of the chapbook form.   

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