1. Could you tell us the name of a book that you love, and why?
Curves to the Apple, by Rosmarie Waldrop (New Directions). This book is my favorite travel guide, especially for countries, cities, airports, train stations, monuments, places you go well-dressed (to feel different), languages you speak (enough to seem quiet), a florist working from the trunk of a car, noodle places, waves through sand, allergy season, Panera, saying perfectly what you wanted to say on the radio (then freezing up on the radio), stranger on the bus, person I heard saying “chaos” (saying “cows”), cemetery with cats.
2. Where were you when you first read, or saw, or heard of this book?
I first read this book in 2006, the year it was published, though until today I thought the book must be older, not only because the three volumes it compiles are—one of which, Lawn of Excluded Middle, I knew in a slim green edition in 2004—but because, like certain positions in yoga you can practice by making coffee a peculiar way, it seemed like it always existed, like I must be finding something ancient (that is, wonderfully intact). In fact, I carried this book for several weeks without reading it, opening it from time to time in my wooden room and then writing my own poems, which I imagined were like the poems I would find in the book; this was like the part in an epithalamium when the poet makes sure the decanters have been dusted, not like my preference for what everyone says is an inferior translation of Don Quixote (because that seems more in line with Don Quixote). I have often played “fast and loose” with books as objects and artifacts, giving them away as soon as I like them, losing them, dropping them in water (in nature or a home), tearing out pieces, writing too much in the margins then feeling angry at my notes (so I give the book away), wishing everything was a pdf online, but I carried this book to many cities, countries, bus transfer points, person showing me a picture of her grandmother’s house. I could carry any copy of it and feel the same way. Like with certain author photos, it orients me for looking/writing/thinking differently, in a way I am suspicious of but trust. Before magnetic compasses we had stationary compasses that merely pointed and we would turn to them. We traveled with them.
3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?
Sometimes I think the recent interest (that is, one of the most interesting, to me, parts of the interest) in ekphrasis and ecopoetics has the same source: we do not speak about a subject but as a result of it, coming through a resultant way of speaking/seeing, marked. That result, though a consequence, is not fixed: consequence, as in beginning. Sometimes on the other hand I think I am wrong to want poetry to speak to my soul or to what I understand as a soul when I think about poetry, but then I think that being wrong in that way can lead to understandings that can be right in other ways and help me avoid ones that are only wrong, as thinking about poetry as primarily philosophy or anthropology or form or history has made me feel. Curves to the Apple provided and continues to provide a hub for such thoughts: language as positing, investigatory; language as “soul” (of relation, sensation, ethics, mood-models, etc.)—not in a diluting sense but fiercely. The book has sentence rhythms you can see by. I said it is a travel guide because it orients me (to receptivity, sensitivity to how the overheard composes me unincidentally, to wide distinguishing, precise ardor) to how I like to be in new places, which I suppose is how I am in new places already but many books don’t seem to understand, which is also not about a subject (art, nature, a place, me) but its consequences, perhaps? And perhaps, the real subject of poetry (which we will not realize for many years) is always actually only how exactly I imagine communication, my relationships, gender, intimacy (imagine how Lewis and Clark spoke to each other, not in the journals but on the trail, what short-hand and slidings), which this book addresses. Also, simile is not conceit/embellishment but our mind. It is correct to always read “as” as both comparison and time, our only watch.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
“Then I realized that the world was the part of my body I could change by thinking and projected the ratio of association to sensory cortex onto the surface of the globe, inside out as you might turn a glove.”
Don’t you remember not only where the words were on the page and how far into the book but how the light was on some pavement or water or glass nearby?
5. Who did you send this book to, why?
A friend with whom I have fallen behind in correspondence. In the hope that falling behind is also an unforeseeable way of falling into step again together now yet unprecedented.
Bio: Zach Savich’s first book, Full Catastrophe Living, won the 2008 Iowa Poetry Prize and received a New American Poet honor from the Poetry Society of America. His second book, Annulments, won the 2010 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and a chapbook, The Man Who Lost His Head, will be published by Omnidawn. Zach teaches and studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he helps organize the jubilat/Jones Reading Series.