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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview: Katie Berger, poet of Time Travel: Theory and Practice, Part 2: The Present

This is the second-part of a two-part interview with poet Katie Berger, who recently graduated from the MFA program in Alabama and published the chapbook, Time Travel: Theory and Practice--reviewed here. The first part, "Past", will appear here tomorrow on 9/12/2014.

How has your poetry changed since you started? 
Right now, I'm really interested in how consciousness renders itself on the page, how the "I," however unreliable, is shaping and being shaped by his/her world, and how this shaping/shaped dynamic appears in words, how it drives a narrative forward, how it destroys a narrative or renders it inert, how it questions narrative. Before, I felt pretty set in my "I"-ness, as if that was a fixed point in all my poetry that couldn't change.

I suspect your Time Travel chapbook is, in essence, a long poem. Would you agree? What inspired or prompted the work and how did you shape it as (or after) you created it?

Interesting you should ask that. I'm really not sure if "long poem" or simply "chapbook" or "piece of writing" or even "story" is more apt. Call it what you like--I'm not picky. The initial idea actually came to me in my undergraduate years, when I had a recurring dream about a time machine and was also reading and writing a lot of memoir--using words to unearth memory. It was tough work, and I often felt physically exhausted at the end of a writing session, so I began to wonder: what if I was building a time machine to go back and explore memory, not just sitting around trying to do the same thing with Microsoft Word? So the Time Travel chapbook spun off from there.

Structurally, I wrote it as a prose-only science fiction story first for a fiction writing class. The next semester, I was taking a class on hybrid forms, so I began to wonder how this story might work as a blend of fiction and  poetry (and maybe even memoir, as that was the milieu of its birth). Looking at the text, I knew I had a tendency to "list" to build a reality, so that's where I began breaking up the lines, creating literal lists on the page as the narrator, who remembers things best in a list as many of us do, narrates the situation. From there, I added full-blown poems full of lists of objects and ideas, and it just sort of morphed and warped from there.

There certainly seems more to explore here in the time-traveling vein. Any thoughts on revisiting this and mining it further?
At one point, I was considering expanding Time Travel into a full-length manuscript. I've certainly made notes toward that, but they're only notes at this point. I think I've largely moved beyond using a time machine as a concept in my new projects, although I still work very much with disrupting time, memory, things like that.

What poets trip your trigger now? magazines (online or off)?
I can't think of any one journal--so many are so good. I do like practically anything Dancing Girl Press publishes (and not just because they published my chapbook). The writing's gutsy, often strange, and the poems are often linked together in fresh ways.

What are you cooking up now? Any forthcoming works or links to stuff online so people can look up more of your work?
I recently finished a chapbook called Swans, in which I use the rhetoric and trappings of a detective novel to write some prose poems and verse. It's not been published yet, but it was a quarter-finalist in two separate contests. One of the poems is forthcoming from Rufous City Review, and another is currently at Dressing Room Poetry here.

Where do you see poetry heading in the near future? 
Well, in the fiction realm, there's been an explosion of genre--science fiction, fantasy, mystery are now, in some circles at least, being viewed as possible lenses or mechanisms to explore and shape a narrative. I'd love to see a similar explosion in poetry, but perhaps more an explosion of form. Poetry, for me, has always been more fluid and diverse than fiction in general, but I'd love to see more hybridization of fiction and poetry, nonfiction and poetry, verse and prose of all kinds. I work often in the gray area between forms, and I find it so productive for my creativity.

So you see yourself experimenting in these borderlands? 
Yeah, I love the idea of inventing a form along with a product--it almost feels like trying to build a house without blueprints. Messy, yes, but certainly fertile ground for stretching each little language tool we as writers use to its limit. What if I made a fiction of repeated imagery? A narrative out of product descriptions? Stuff like that.

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