Ask the Author: CL Bledsoe
[Roxane Gay / November 17th, 2009 / Interviews ]
Writer and editor CL Bledsoe, whose poetry appears in the November issue, gets into matters of craft with J. Bradley.
1. How important are titles in setting the appropriate context in your work?
Titles are extremely important. Titles set the tone for a piece of writing. They point the reader in the right direction without giving too much away. A poor title can obfuscate meaning in unintentional ways, or give too much away. A strong title adds to the impact of a piece of writing. As an editor, if I see a piece that’s untitled, odds are, I’m going to pass–if the writer can’t be bothered to come up with a title, s/he probably hasn’t written a very strong piece. Obvious exceptions include Simon Perchik, who never titles his work, and who we’ve published several times.
2. When you write a poem, do you read it aloud as you create it to craft the rhythm or do you let it sit in silence?
I kind of read them aloud in my head. I read over most of my poems many, many times, and will go back to them several times for a couple days just to re-read them and tweak the rhythm by altering the word choice or line breaks or whatever before I put it down. This is after I’ve actually “finished” the poem, so I’m not really changing meaning, just rhythm.
3. PANK gets you drunk enough at a Karaoke bar to sing a Billy Idol song. Which one would it be and why?
I would sing “I’m Sailing” by Bad Brains instead because come on.
4. I see you write fiction and poetry. Which is easier for you to create? Does fiction and poetry ever blur since you juggle both like knives and kittens?
For me, writing poetry is briefer and more intense, like a quickie. Writing fiction takes more of a time commitment. I don’t have the time, right now, to write as much fiction as I’d like. It’s a shame. I was recently solicited by a journal for some ficton, and I just don’t have very much, right now, that hasn’t been published, and I don’t have the opportunity to write more. I’m working a job where 12–14 hour days are common. I’m lucky to write a poem or two a week.
I always know what a particular piece is, though I’ve had poems published as fiction, fiction published as poetry, and once, I was given a non-fiction award for a flash piece that was clearly fictional. All of this was due to editorial decision; I had nothing to do with it.
5. What are your five favorite poems of all times?
“A Blessing,” by James Wright, “Lovesong for J. Alfred Prufrock,” by TS Eliot, “Me and Her Outside,” by Steven Jessie Bernstein, “somewhere i have never traveled, gladly,” by e.e. cummings, “Aubade,” by Philip Larkin. This isn’t true, of course; these are just the first five that come to mind.
6. Which literary movement do you feel isn’t appreciated enough?
Whichever one I belong to. For several years, I’ve been a fan of the New York School, though I vacilate between that and New Formalism. I dabble in post-language, but I’m firmly grounded in experiential-derived poetry. But all of these are appreciated, except maybe New Formalism. You can tell I’m behind the times.
7. “Differences Between My True face and the Stolen Faces I Encounter Outside” is a great example of an effective list poem. What’s the weirdest list poem you’ve ever written?
Thank you. The weirdest list poem I’ve written would be this one.
I can’t, in good conscience, recommend the list form because it’s very difficult to not put the reader to sleep with a list poem, and yet I’ve written several. ”Types of Fish I Don’t Like” was actually the title poem of my first chapbook, until the publisher refused to publish the poem, so I cut it and changed the title to _____(WANT/NEED).
8. If you could reunite one band, which one would it be and why?
I would reunite my old band, Shizknit, because I never got to rule the world.
*I totally forgot that Roxane Gay interviewed me a long time ago.