My favorite job during last spring’s Asymmetrical Press WordTasting Tour was interrupting Skye Steele’s violin with shouts of, “You have to talk louder!” from the back of the room. It’s a guilty pleasure introducing a little chaos into a space and soaking up the brief awkward moments of concern and confusion. Fears that I might be a heckler or intruder would start to subside as the next words took up their familiar poetic rhythm, “–or your voice will not cary over the next fifty years…”
This poem, called Voice, is intensely personal to me. I wrote it in a frenzy, almost as a magical ritual or an attack against the emotional barriers that had been crippling me over the previous several years. This was me daring myself to push through a phase of paralytic silence in my relationships, useless anxieties about writing, and even a 10+ year long fear of flying. Voice was probably the first time I ever wrote myself into dramatic and lasting life changes.
On December 1st Voice will finally be available in print from Asymmetrical Press. The book, Nothing in Mind, is a collection of short fiction, poetry, photography, theatre, and essays (including I Need to Take this Thing that I Love and get Rid of it Immediately, which also featured at several WordTasting events). It contains work ranging as far back as one of my earliest published stories and as recent as a photo of an old film projector I took last week. It is a Smörgåsbord not only of format, but of genre and style: from the romantic to the whimsical, from the horrific to the cerebral. There’s a little of everything, which perhaps amounts to nothing. When choosing what to include I let the four classical elements be my guide. Each piece (sometimes brazenly) correlates to either earth, air, water, or fire… or else to the void, that heart of nothingness around which the elements anchor and materialize.
Photography introduces an extra dimension to the language. Sometimes the images and the writing connect in obvious ways, other times more subtly. They all come from the last four years of long walks in settings as varied as Montana, New York City, Barcelona, and Morocco. The most recent photo, mentioned earlier, was taken just a few days ago and slipped into the book at the last minute. Setting it on the facing page to a short poem called Flicker gave the words a completely unintended and yet perfectly comprehensible new layer of meaning that I’d never considered before. Art just keeps on evolving, with or without our permission.
I’ve collaborated with some brilliant visual artists over years, and this book is no exception. The hypnotic cover art, originally a part of Joshua Hagler’s retina-smashing 2014 exhibition, Romancing the West, harmonizes in all the right ways with my obsession over elemental patchwork that concocted this collection.
Two small and exquisite paintings by “mother of phantoms” Maja Ruznic also appear in the book, along with the short vignettes they inspired.