(by franciszka voeltz, interviewing franciszka voeltz)
the situation: once upon a time (at least several months ago, which means this post is long long overdue) Adrienne Dodt (fabulous human, bionic human, badass teacher, writer kicking it in chicago) tagged me in her own Next Big Thing interview. and you know what happens when one gets tagged in a next big thing interview? one has to provide their own next big thing interview. Adrienne and i wrote together (and met through this writing together) at the naropa university’s summer writing program in 2008.
Q: What is/was the working title of the book?
A: the title needs to wait until the whole has been formed. titles seem to come last… i often need to see the entire scope/picture before i can call it by name.
Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?
A: at this point, it feels more apt to call this thing a project rather than a book. I think it will conform to book format eventually, but for now, the term ‘project’ allows me more space for more possibility while ‘book’ can narrow it down too much while psyching me out at the same time.
There are some beginning points though. They include how, after reading ‘parable of the sower’ by Octavia butler, I haven’t been able to think of water in the same way again. She treats the issue of water privatization in a stark way. This image from the book has stuck with me ever since: folks migrating (on foot, in 2023 or sometimearound then) from the l.a. area up to the more water-plentiful pacific northwest along the i-5. During this on-foot migrtion, it becomes necessary to step off the road (and find a place where one will be unseen) to drink water because, if one is seen drinking water, they run the risk of being injured or murdered for it by other humans.
Another beginning point is the clear/cold shock of jumping into the Washougal and Clackamas rivers (two pristine-seeming rivers I fell in love with while living in the Pacific Northwest).
Even another is reading about migrants who die of thirst while walking across the desert to cross the border into the u.s. (and of the activists who place water at different points in the desert and of the vigilantes who slash open the water containers left by the activists).
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: I wish for the project to fall under something like documentary poetry, but because I’m also interested in including other peoples’ stories and accounts, perhaps also something like collective storytelling.
Q: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
A: the project doesn’t really have any characters, per-se. but I’d like everyday people to be part of transforming it into another medium. I want real bodies and real faces and real places (not airbrushed or falsely lit… though I would probably prefer to shoot at times of day when the light makes everything gold) and real clothes and real thirst and real reveling.
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: there was never a time that life occurred separate from water.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
A: there is no clear point of when this project began (I’m a water sign. I was born in 1975. Perhaps it began then? I read that Octavia butler book somtime around 2006, perhaps it began then?) and im not sure there will be a clear point when it ends (when the ogallala freshwater aquifer is completely drained? when i no longer have thirst? )
Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: see question 2.
Other writers that have made documentary poetry work that continues to guide me include: Juliana Spahr, Charles Reznikoff, and Mark Nowak.
Q: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
A: I love when text and image (or texture or other elements) get to work side by side. So, this project certainly includes slideshows and videos when it is being presented to a live audience. I’m hoping to find meaningful ways to include image alongside the text.
Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: do poets have agency? I think the best we can do is believe in our work enough (and have access to a considerable amount of dollars) to be able to submit and resubmit our work to any and every contest that seems a decent fit for our work. so, the answer is probably neither. Instead, if it wins one of the aforementioned contests, it will be published by a small (perhaps university-based) press. I am also interested in performing/reading/touring it…. and that, I imagine, to be more of a do-it-yourself approach.
Q: Who are the NEXT Next Big Things?
A: taylor mardis katz, who is my most favorite poet/farm stand hustler in the world (i know you always had a job to do, those sunday mornings taylor, but all i wanted to do is kick it with you and laugh and laugh and admire your suspenders and laugh some more). she says my poems seem much more individual dudes walking around, chatting at birds, than a BOOK right now. but she is still pumped to take on the next big thing interview challenge.