by Weston Cutter
That woman there on the left is the author of one of the best books of 2010, and the book is called The Stranger Manual, and it’s out from who other than, and the thing’ll knock you sideways each of the first thirty times you open it.
And, awesomely for us, Ms. Rosemurgy answered questions over email a bit back, and so consider this part of a 1-2 set-up: here’s Ms. Rosemurgy in her own words answering questions, and in a few more days I’ll post a lengthy review of the devastatingly great and fun The Stranger Manual.
1. Just in the hugest and most inclusive way possible: what are some of your influences? De-emphasize or look askance at that word ‘influence,’ too–literally, stretch the whole thing wide. Are you deeply moved by the sound of old Russian church bells and so write always toward some inner brass growl? Do you really, really love the look of 1980′s Chevy trucks, and so part of your aesthetic is influenced in ways you can’t quite described by those beautiful and square-faced vehicles?
I am very influenced by place, by the particular place and small town culture in which I grew up. This place is Upper Michigan, on the lake, and it’s a place where talking about oneself too seriously at length and with obvious relish is discouraged. But that really didn’t take with me.
In the spirit of honesty, I’d have to say that I became interested in aesthetics through listening to music. My parents are great readers and there were always lots of books around, and there was always music playing. I read and loved books, but when I was young, I worried about songs. What made a line or an ending good or bad? Why did a bad, damaged singing voice move me more than a soaring, clear one? I was very concerned, very piqued by the performance of music as well. No matter how much I liked the music, a soulful soul with a guitar seemed disingenuous to me somehow, though I couldn’t say how. An androgynous guy in a dress barking and winking about misogyny, that seemed very right, very unfixed, very aware of itself, though it also broke my heart: the self is an ironic performance, each word a troubled act. That truth, though it’s only one among many, still haunts me. Miss Peach, in all her hyperbole and malleability, is an effort to look at the poses we strike as well as the poses we are helplessly bent into.
1. a. Also: What’s yr here’s-how-I-got-into-poetry story?
I don’t know that I ever got into poetry. I gradually stopped stewing quite so much over rock songs and meanwhile books came to seem less removed and sacred and more immediately relevant. What I was writing changed, what I was reading changed. I’m not sure what I think about the professionalizing of poetry writing, but I’m ridiculously happy to be able to worry about lines and endings for a living.
2. What’s your favorite part of Philadelphia? Have you ever done the Rocky run and ended up at the top of those stairs, arms pumping? Were you bummed at the World Series this past year?
Favorite part of Philly! What a treat to be asked! There’s a lovely block on Green Street with great old trees. My favorite neighborhood is West Philly, around Clark Park. Never done the Rocky run, no. I was bummed about the series, very. Particularly the Yankees angle. That is one extremely distasteful sports team.
3. Talk, in whatever capacity and at whatever length you’re willing, about Miss Peach. Did you know her quickly and start writing poems about her because she’d come to you formed, or were there poems first and then the thunderstrike later that, in fact, this woman was the same woman over and over?
Miss Peach…She came not formed but first. Then she kept reforming and deforming. She is maybe more a concretization of a series of questions than a character, per say? She’s a vehicle. She embodied ideas I didn’t know I was wrestling with.
4. Yr stuff deals just astonishingly awesomely with duplicity of sorts, or not even duplicity but a sort of slipperiness that’s both verbal and experiential (i.e. Miss Peach/Aging British Rock Star/Beautiful Woman saying “I Love You”). I don’t know if there’s really a question about this as much as it’s something I’d be curious to hear you talk at any length about
Yeah, the self is such a grab bag, full of wonderfully gauche swag and old gym socks and gum wrappers. Contemporary poetry’s subject is slipperiness, though really, and it can get predictable. What was so vital and bright in so much great poetry is fading a bit through reproduction? I’m really excited, though, about the relationship between the instability at the level of the word/line/ sentence and at the instability at the level of persona/narrative/community. Miss Peach is like a word I’m saying over and over and over, and her town, Gold River, is the larger grammatical construction.
5. [question redacted because of innapropriate length and stupidity].
Yeah, you know, at base, it’s a book about the relationship between a person and a small American town.