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On the 40th (!!!) episode of Against Everyone with Conner Habib, I met with poet Zachary Schomburg in an old bakery* in Portland to talk all about poetry.
Zach's poetry is profound, frightening, eerie, and absurd. His book Scary, No Scary, which he reads a bit from on this episode, is a masterpiece, and a great bridge into poetry if you've never really gotten into it.
In this episode, we talk about:
Not-knowing and writing; the identity of a writer; what style is; ghosts, deer, and hummingbirds; the way certain words arouse us and why; how poetry is like a computer trying to come to life; poetry and Lacanian psychoanalysis; the index as your analyst; how writing is violence; light and death; how the poem on the page is not the poem; recreating reality, and more.
Zach also reads poems from Hear Oars, and Scary, No Scary.
• Zach's books are all pretty great. My two favorites so far are Scary, No Scary and ˆFjords, Vol 1. His absurdist novel, Mammother, just came out from Featherproof Books, and his most recent book of poems is Hear Oars. For more on his work, go to his excellent website. Finally, his publishing company is Octopus Books, and they put out a lot of poetry which we have all read or should all be reading or reading again.
• I used to work at Amherst Books, which is still one of the best bookstores ever. Their website is nothing special, but I do recommend you check it out and buy lots of books there when you pass through Western MA.
• If you'd like to learn more about James Tate (and you should like to learn more about James Tate), you can check out this profile on the Poetry Foundation's site. And you can also read more of his poem's on Dennis Cooper's site.
• Zach and I met through our mutual friend, the great poet, Andrew Michael Roberts. Here's one of his poems, "The World Wakes Up":
The World Wakes Up
So we stop at the side of the road, and there is the
largest tree and a long kiss with the hazard lights flashing.
Everything is the beginning of something. A sycamore
seed, a windshield fogging up. The first fist of rain pounding
Come closer. Let's get our arms around each other and
count all the bones we can. Between us, we have rungs for a
ladder leading into the leaves and fingers left over for climbing.
Two tongues to perch there and sing while the world wakes up.
What will we miss of our skin and gristle? Our
When you're finally no one, what else do you do but
call out your name?
He has a few books out, but the easiest one to get ahold of is Something Has To Happen Next, which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.
• Ikkyu: Crow With No Mouth: 15th Century Zen Master is by...well, Ikkyu! The poems are sparse and great.
• I wrote a little bit about the entrancing effect of saying the word "dick" here.
• Here's the episode of Rune Soup with the AI chat, featuring Kenric McDowell.
• Here's a poem by one of the poets - (SUCH a good poet) Mary Ruefle - who Zach mentions.
The last time I saw father alive he was using
a black umbrella, closed, to beat off some pigeons
hanging outside the marble portals of a museum.
We were visitors, walking very slowly, so father
could stoop and examine everything. We had not been
in the museum, but were resting on its steps.
We saw it all—the fountains, the statues, the parks
and the post office. Cities are made of such things.
Once we encountered a wedding coming out of the cathedral
and were caught in a shower of rice; as the bride
flicked her veiled head father licked his little finger
and in this way saved a grain. On the next block
he announced he was going to heaven. But first let’s
go back to the hotel and rest, he said: I want my mint.
Those were practically his last words. And what did I want
more than anything in the world? Probably the ancient Polish
recipe for blood soup, which was finally told to me
in an empty deli in a deserted mill town in western Massachusetts
by the owner’s mother, who was alone one day when I burst
in and demanded a bowl. But, she said, lacing her fingers
around a jar of morello cherries, it requires one cup of
new blood drawn from the goose whose neck you’ve just wrung
to put in the pot, and where in these days can I find
anything as fresh as that? I had lost track of my life
before, but nothing prepared me for the onslaught of
wayfarer’s bliss when she continued to list, one
by one, the impossible ingredients I needed to live.
We sat at the greasy table far into the night, while
snow fell on the locked doors of the church next door,
dedicated to St. Stanislas, which was rumored to be
beautiful inside, and contain the remains of his beloved head.
Mary Ruefle also has a great book about poetry, Madness, Rack, and Honey.
• Some of what I mention about Lacanian psychoanalysis is found in Annie Rogers's excellent book, The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma.
• Tim Kinsella read The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby and wrote about it in All Over and Over. So there's a string of rabbit holes for you.
• Zach's essay, "Poetry As Violence" is one of my favorite essays about poems ever. It's stunning. Read it. Okay? Read it.
• If you're ready for it, check out The Light by Massimo Scaligero.
• Here's a schemata for Zach's novel, Mammother:
*Sorry for the weird-sounding sound! We were in a giant former bakery. There were no baked goods there anymore, but it sure did echo. I did my best to tidy it up.
**I'm back to posting show notes for the general public, since so many people asked for them.