1. Could you tell us the name of a book that you love, and why?
Safety in numbers? It’s clusters of books that rescue me, never one. This as distinct from “There are many…” which, yes, naturally. A book for me is a library, I sort and sift, get up three pages on for a trip to the stacks, knowing that the time it takes to walk or drive (32 minutes or 7), search and select, means less (or no) time to read, but more essentially aware that one book read is an end, three books found a beginning. So rescue comes when I need rescue. Which moment is, as every moment is, a moment of several books. What and why. Not an attention disorder, not an indecision. I think a non-belief. To think one thing is also to think its opposite and several corollaries, dismissing them all if they don’t somehow balance. And influence being so strong. So to read just George Oppen, just Gaston Bachelard, just Laura Walker, each is an imbalance, and to balance out the love I feel for each I discover everything I might potentially hate in each, or do hate, or mistrust, or can’t bear up under the influence of, and then it is better to go to sleep than to continue reading. So I read all three, and the balance is natural, and I am rescued. The books, then, (the book: except I don’t mean in Mallarme’s sense, or any other but a multiplicity which I take in singular) are George Oppen’s “Selected Prose, Daybooks, and Papers,” Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space,” and Laura Walker’s “rimertown: an atlas.”
2. Where were you when you first read, or saw, or heard of this book?
All three arrived (on separate trips to the library) in September of 2009, and I sorted through them and many other books, returned swaths and re-gathered fragments of swaths and new swaths. And none of them got me. I had a hard winter, was having. Felt the failure of poetry, the failure of friends, the failure of family, the failure of myself most of all. Of place, of a city. This was the start of a seventh year, the end of a cycle. It was around this time that Melissa declared I had no spiritual center. It had never worried me, but suddenly seemed worth attention. Separately, on January 21, 2010, I picked these three books up at once after talking with John Craun and after his truck would not start, leaving our house, and something shifted. I knew it had. It was five weeks before I articulated to myself that I had found some sort of center (not spiritual), but I knew it that night. One doesn’t trust such things anymore around this age, so many starts having faltered. But this held. And those three books are still to me a cluster, constantly in my backpack, on my desk, in the three nearest placings on my shelf, in my hands, stacked on the record player, available. Nothing profound about it. Only my life is different. I feel calm.
3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?
Yes. These things being inextricable from one another, and from the initial understanding of developing difference. There is more room in me now. From them: the sense of space both present and past; the terms of thought to enter those spaces; the necessary forms or shapes to trace them; a syntax for memory; an imperative to change; a manuscript I don’t despair to re-read. Undoubtedly the influence was (and remains) too strong, of each. But it is me who has altered.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
“An entire past comes to dwell in a new house…And the daydream opens up for the dreamer of a home beyond man’s earliest memory. The house, like fire and water, will permit me, later in this work, to recall flashes of daydreams that illuminate the synthesis of immemorial and recollected. In this remote region, memory and imagination remain associated, each one working for their mutual deepening.”
We (Melissa, Esme and I) had recently been forced to move from one house, poisonous, to another, presumably not poisonous, and that fact served to foreground in me the sense of no-home I’ve felt for years now, the sense that while I have memories, I have no space to situate them in; and while I have words, I have no shape to house them. Place is again at the forefront of my thoughts, it is not a solved problem. However, my thoughts at least have trace, have shape, have various homes. Some combination of daydream as Bachelard situates it, fragment as Walker does, or notation as Oppen does. That is, a hodgepodge, a shambles, a grace-falling-down, as I’ve always imagined my home would be.
5. Who did you send this book to, why?
To John Craun, because it was his conversation in combination that spurred things; and because postage is expensive.
Bio: Andy Stallings lives in New Orleans with Melissa Dickey, and Esme, their daughter. He is presently pleased more than anything that Esme, who is two, has learned to recite Tom Waits’ song, “Time,” (which she calls “Shadow Boys”) almost entirely, albeit in chunks and not on command. He helps to edit and publish Thermos, a journal some folks like to read. He has always enjoyed baseball.