Friends, I’m thrilled to share this marvelous post by poet, Rebecca Kinzie-Bastian, who has taken The Next Big Thing torch and shared beautiful insight into her new book of poems, Charms for Finding. Read and enjoy!
Thanks to Sarah Yaw, author of The Vanity Chair, for inviting me to participate in The Next Big Thing—a blog chain that has been circulating in which participating writers answer ten questions about their books. Be sure to check Sarah’s post from January 7th.
Here are the questions and my answers:
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
The title of my book is Charms for Finding.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The first poems in the book started as a way to work through an idea or awakening, hopefully away from the idea and into something more instinctual and essential. I wanted this book to hold the tension between what we think or believe and what is – the mores of ugliness and beauty, what is venerable and what is ignored or thrown away.
I also began reading where the looking seemed to take me – some Joseph Campbell, some Matthew Fox, lots of Neruda and Whitman, a little Jung again…. The Iraq war had just started and I felt involved politically for the first time since moving from Sweden, and so tender toward our miserable species, trying to figure out how we can love and hate and be repulsed by the very things we embrace in a different form.
What finally happened, I think, is a kind of slanted enactment of a via negativa, not in the theological sense that Thomas Aquinas taught (that we can only understand deity by what it is not), but more in the sense of the via negativa. A way to acknowledge that we are afraid of the dark, of no-light, of silence – and still see its gorgeous embroideries and learn its lessons. I hope that it is an exploration of the unknowable, a stitching through darkness toward light.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Since the poetry is more lyric than narrative, this question probably doesn’t apply, but I wouldn’t mind if Johnny Depp played any part – from a dead chipmunk to a baby in a jar at the Mütter Museum. He could pull it off, couldn’t he?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I keep a lark
in the freezer, field still bright
when I open the door.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Italian-American poet, Alfredo De Palchi, arranged to have the manuscript translated into Italian by Elisa Biagini, and it was taken by Italian publisher, Hebenon. I’m still looking for an American publisher.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took about two years for the poems to finally come together in a cohesive enough way to form a manuscript. It took many more years of trimming and shaping for the collection to become what it is now. I have completed another manuscript but I still go back and poke at it now and again.
What other books would you compare this to within your genre?
This is a really difficult question for me. I don’t think I can really compare it to any other book. I could say what inspired me, instead. The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell, Swallow, by Miranda Field, Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Vesper Sparrows by Deborah Digges, the Ghosts of Eden by Chase Twichell, and many more but lists get boring when they are too long.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Road kill. Yep. Most people are a bit surprised that a book of poetry started with something so ugly, but it’s true. My family and I had moved to the country and I had a long drive to work. Every day there seemed to be some newly hit animal on the road or in a ditch and I began to think that instead of turning my head away, or squinting, or whatever we do at 55mph to avoid seeing something horrible, I ought to start looking at it, honoring it as much as I could. The more I looked, the more the dead animals became emblematic for a lot of questions and ideas that had been twisting around in my head.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In 2008, Holland Cotter wrote an article in New York Times about the Frida Kahlo centennial retrospective exhibit, “… Kahlo enters your system, fast, with a jolt, an effect as unnerving, even repellent, as it is pleasurable… revolutionizing the concept of ‘beautiful…’” While I am certainly no Frida Kahlo, this is what I hoped the book would be: A jolt that jerks vision and sense in a different direction. A direction that points to grace.