Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Chapbook by Buck Downs

PG's chapbook series has a new website. Check it out at And to celebrate the new face, we'll be releasing "Another Helping" by Buck Downs first thing tomorrow morning. To harvest your anticipation, here's three questions for Buck about his collection.

1. How do the poems in "Another Helping" interact with your other books and projects?

"Another Helping" is the first third of the second part of a three book sequence. I call the whole thing Pontiac Fever and it comprises the three books black peppermint, You Can't Get Enough of What You Really Don't Need, and always materialized. Each book has three sections of 23 poems each. So "Another Helping" is one of nine 23-page subsections of the whole work.

The 23-page section has been a useful building block I decided to use on this project. It seems like a congenial interval; a good place to pause, check out what's happened, and reset. It seemed like it would be just as useful an ordering principle for the size of a book as it is for the writing of the poems, but I don't think that's absolutely the case, and I'm tinkering with it in the book I'm writing now.

2. "Proximo Exito" is written in Spanish. How's that work?

I keep a long, multi-volume open file of source material for the poems, collectively called the Hopper. You can find out more about that on A couple weeks after writing the poem "little sucker one hit", I was reading through a volume of the Hopper and I found the phrase "proximo exito", and it led me to a thought experiment that went something like, if "little sucker one hit" had been written in Spanish instead of English, it would have been called "proximo exito". Not entirely to translate it but to use the function of translation to reconvert the finished poem into the kind of emergent hubbub of thought that it was before it got finished, and then to refinish it in an alternate language.

"proximo exito" then is the product of working through the experiment, via my two years of high school/college Spanish and phrase-testing through an online translator. I thought that there was just enough actual overlap in the two poems, like the word 'memphis', that reading them on consecutive pages would cause a double-take kind of reread, which would be cool: to get you linger.

3. Your poems are funny in the way they warp familiar expressions, or if not expressions, expectations of language (like, "lost to thought-/killing time," and "you shave it,/I'll suck it" to name the first examples I see as I pick a poem at random). What comes first for you, the language, the idea, the sounds?

I want to say it all three comes in a clump, but I suspect that being serious about that could itself be a departure. It seems like everybody eventually has to come down on one side or another; how shall ye be counted?

In the jargon I got schooled in, it's the triad of logopoeia, phanopoeia, melopoeia, or what it means, how it looks, and how it sounds [my translation]. I visualize these three priorities as a largish, triangle-shaped tablecloth. It has three corners, and I have two hands, so one corner is always not going to be in my hand. By habit I tend to keep the how it looks and how it sounds corners in my grasp and let the what it means corner flap in the wind. I think maybe once every ten or twelve poems, I'll start with an idea, a line, or an image that I want to get in or get to, and get my hand on the idea part.

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