Steven Karl keeps a blog, writes for Coldfront and is an associate director and teacher for The Borough Writing Workshops in NYC.
A.) What's the first poem you remember writing?
When I was a teenager, I thought I'd be a musician so I would spend countless hours writing undoubtedly atrocious lyrics. My art teacher suggested that I consider editing & rewriting the lyrics with a more "precise" aim towards poetry. So I guess it was 12th grade that I began actively attempting to write poetry. Luckily none of it remains or else I'm sure it would still read like bad song lyrics which attempted to eschew end rhymes-haha.
B.) What are three songs you've listened to on repeat lately?
The three songs that have been heavily repeated as of late are Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying," Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play," and My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow."
C.) Do you carry music around with you throughout the day? If so, what are you listening to and when are you listening to it?
Since I spend so much time away from the apartment and riding trains or waiting around for trains I tend to give my ipod a serious workout. I've recently added new albums to it, so as of now Asobi Seksu's Fluorescence, Family Band's Miller Path and Summer Fiction's Summer Fiction are in heavy rotation. At home I've been listening to a lot of Galaxie 500, Nick Drake, and Beach Boys while impatiently waiting for winter to go away.
D.) Do you carry poetry around with you throughout the day? Whose books are you carrying?
Strangely enough, I carry A LOT of books around with me unnecessarily since I tend to get easily distracted on trains and wind up just listening to music, but with that said I just finished Jeremy Schmall's Jeremy Schmall & the Cult of Comfort and Jennifer Denrow's From California, On. This morning I replaced those books with Sommer Browning's Either Way I'm Celebrating, the latest Forklift, Ohio & Taiga.
E.) In Issue A, your excerpted work is centered on the characters "he" and "she." Is the work autobiographical? If so, what is the advantage to writing in that outsider-voice, and what do you think is the advantage to the reader? What are the plans for the larger piece from which this was excerpted?
The "he" & "she" from the excerpted poem are not autobiographical. In fact, this poem was written after I had completed a first manuscript that has become the primary material for the chapbooks, State(s) of Flux and emissions/ of and I was so tired of writing "I" centric poems so I saw this as a challenge to write non-"I"-driven work. (Most of the poems in (Ir)Rational Animals were written after this poem & are another way of not writing "I" poems). I'm definitely not against "I" poems but I like to challenge myself so that I'm not writing the same way all the time. I like variety and like to write in a variety of "modes."
Also, there was a time when I would talk (or email) at length with Prageeta Sharma, Sawako Nakasayu, and Sueyeun Juliette Lee about what a poem would look like using the aesthetic sensibility of the film maker, Wong Kar-wai. So in my poem, the "he" & "she" shifts to many "hes" & "shes" although often they mirror each other. The poem also follows a non-linear use of time so that there's a cumulative logic, as opposed to, a clear narrative. I also wanted to write short "unchatty" poems. The result is that this poem became (of course) a long poem in three subtle sections or as I like to think of it three prolonged pauses in between scenes.