Interview with Douglas Cole who was Published in Solo Novo Press!

When were you first introduced to Solo Novo? 

I found out about Solo Novo through the Poets and Writers website and its list of literary journals.  I liked their website.  The staff seemed enthusiastic about what they were doing.  The books looked like they were well made, and the poetry looked good, so I sent them some of my stuff.

What do you plan to bring to the table the night of Breadline? 

Some poetry.

Is this your usual way of presenting your work, yourself? 

Do you mean, at the Breadline reading?  I’ve been doing a few readings, lately.  I’ve sent a lot of stuff out to journals.  I’ve published in quite a few journals and magazines, now.  But about a year ago, I felt like actually facing an audience and reading.  I was curious what that would do to my concept of writing.  Although, over the years, I’ve read a number of times, I never really sought it out.  Most readings bore me, and I suppose I was afraid I’d be boring, or pretentious.  But I decided to let that go and write some pieces that I thought would be entertaining.  So, I talked to a friend of mine at work, Rick Clark, and I knew he did a lot of reading and had published a couple of books.  He immediately got me in at this art gallery up on Beacon Hill, last winter.  They were producing something called The Book of the Dead, which was a mix of art and writing, and they wanted work on the theme of death.  I thought, I can do that. And I thought, I want to do that and make it entertaining, you know, not dreary cocktail talk.  And then I did another reading at Soulfood Books up in Redmond, and some other smaller events, and now this one that you folks are doing.  I don’t know.  I might be completely out of touch.  I’m not a slam guy, really.  But I’m not up there breathing over every syllable as though I were giving the English language a blow job.

What needs to happen to poetry for its relevance as we continue into the 21st century and how are you championing support for those needs? 

Um, I guess I’d say it’s got to be both sacred and profane.  It’s got to be part of something more than history, but it’s also got to be part of our lives and not some abstract mess.  I don’t know.  I think poetry will always have relevance.  It’s never gone away.  It’s in cheep advertising jingles; it’s in sappy pop songs; it’s in graffiti on subway walls.  I think people will always create poetry.  Its the soul’s code.

Anything else that can help the Breadline crowd know you better?

I’m a Sagittarius. I’ve had work in The Connecticut River ReviewLouisiana LiteratureCumberland Poetry Review, and Midwest Quarterly.  I have work available online as well in The Adirondack Review, Salt River Review, and Avatar Review, among others, and I recorded a story for Bound Off.  I have a novella chapbook published by the Overtime series of Workers Write Journal. I won the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry for a selection called, “The Open Ward,” a Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House and First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” poetry contest by Tattoo Highway.  I live in Seattle, Washington and I teach writing and literature at Seattle Central College, where I am also the adviser for the literary journal, Corridors.

Note: You can read “After Hours” in the City Writers Review 2004 here.

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Interview with Paula C. Lowe of Solo Novo Press

How did Solo Novo come to be a poetry journal?

Solo Novo launched in 2010.  I served as editor and managing editor for the Southern California press, Solo Press.  Solo Novo time-themed journals, Wall Scrawls and 122 Days, drew over 800 submissions from as far away as Kabul, Afghanistan.  Each journal offered war, peace, last moments, first kisses, struggle and recovery, personal and global.

Solo Press has been publishing for 45 years.  Different editors have championed different collections of poetry.  I wanted Solo Novo to publish remarkable, courageous work!

You have collaborated with Jack Remick, Seattle poet and novelist.  How did Jack influence the editorial process at Solo Novo?

I have learned from and written with Jack for many years.  He is a warrior for action-image writing and well-honed craft.  Jack served Solo Novo on the editorial team. He is not afraid to hunt for what is strong-backed and interesting to read.

Which Northwest poets have appeared in Solo Novo?

Kathleen Flenniken’s “IF You Can Read This” was published in Volume 1: Wall Scrawls and nominated for a Pushcart Award.  Northwest poets Douglas Cole, Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Carlos Reyes, Benjamin Schmitt, Bill Yake and Changming Yuan published in Volume 2: 122 Days.  Northwest poets bring diverse and dynamic poems to the mix.  My favorites!

What’s happening with Solo Novo now?

I am now a publisher with BIG YES PRESS. We will be releasing 10 books this year.  Christopher Buckley is guest editor of the next issue of Solo Novo to be released in late 2013.  You can learn more about Solo Press at www.solopress.org.  Look for BIG YES PRESS on facebook/social media as well as www.bigyespress.org.

How does Solo Novo, which brings together such diverse talent, manage to capture a single coordinated aesthetic? In other words, what makes the art of Solo Novo cohesive and aligned between individual members/contributors? If there is no single aesthetic, or if cohesion isn’t a principle, why not?

Themed poetry journals can be tiring unless the theme brings moment and memory into focus for poets.  For each Solo Novo, taunt themes were intentionally confining.  Wall Scrawls put poets next to a cave wall, asked them to write a last letter to the world before the end of everything. Consider James Cushing’s “The Prickly Camel” with its opening line, “The hour’s grown smoky and the/surface of the earth beneath/my bed makes coarse and awkward demands….” Or Rina Ferrarelli who takes us into the kitchen of her youth, asks us to remember “The Bread We Ate.”   122 Days, poems written in the last four months of 2011, forced poets to not only produce new work before it was overworked, but poems open to the random acts of living on the planet at a certain time.  In his poem, “song of a sweat shop worker,” Benjamin Schmitt wrote “I have seen girls piss themselves/on the knitting room floor…” Christine Reilly wrote of the day she became a bird and rued, “When I stopped being human/we could have done it together.”

To accomplish a coordinated aesthetic, the editor and editorial team must have a rare ear for what matters, what needs to be said and what needs to be heard.  I would not say cohesion is a principle. Rather, a memorable themed journal must have a certain flow of story telling that leaves the reader feeling as if he or she has just been around a big fire for the night and out of the darkness came poems and the voices and these have entered the reader, fortified the myth of living, the facts of living, the moments of living.

How does Solo Novo see itself within the confines of the West Coast poetic identity? What about major regions such as PNW/Cascadia and micro regions such as Seattle?

Place and region do inform daily writing for poets.  And West Coast writers are wonderfully cut off from the east.  Between our hiking boots and flip flops, we get out of our cubbies.  Rain and wind and earthquakes and mountains and oceans are familiar.  Coffee and beer and bills and traffic are familiar.  We have often come from somewhere else and chosen to stay “gone.”   For those on the West Coast, place is as important as story in our poems.

The Northwest is a magnificent and moody world of water, mountain, blackberry and traffic.  Seattle is a big quilt with all of its toes in water.  And certainly Northwest poems can include this grand platform or seek the insulation of looking out a window, an isolate frame of reference.  But this very much depends on the poet’s outdoor and indoor life.  During my decades in the Northwest, I lived in San Juan Islands, was stranded in the Goat Rock Wilderness, had an office in the Smith Tower, and moved eight times.

Is there a definite vision Solo Novo ascribes to? Would you say this has changed over the years? Talk about forty five years. Solo Novo must have experienced some dramatic changes.

Small independent presses cannot live by word alone. They have to have a reliable funding source.  In the case of Solo Press, publisher Glenna Luschei, has funded the publications.   Ms. Luschei also endows the University of Nebraska and Prairie Schooner, the university’s literary journal.  Original publications were saddle-stitched and featured photographs of poets and friends.  The journal progressed in the past twenty years to publish many acclaimed poets.  The names of journals reflected the editorial leadership: Café Solo to Solo to Solo Café to Solo Novo.

How would you say, Paula, that your own poetry has impacted the direction of Solo Novo?

I am a story telling poet and often write in voices.   I am informed by voices when I edit.  What a pleasure.  Has this impacted my work?  Yes.  My imagination widens.  Here is a poem of mine just released in vol. 13, Askew.  Is it post WWII or set in Afghanistan or India?  Ruthie’s unraveling breathless voice speaks at the grave…

oh be cursed and dead in war

oh ruthie’s got a dani got a dani got a dani in her belly got a dani oh a dani boy you’ll see

oh ruthie she’s a fireman she’s a fireman oh she climbs them in the hot house she’s an ice cube

and she puts out and she puts out and oh ruthie got a baby in her arms and on her fanny she’s a dandy

and she’s handy and she lets us hold the baby on the doorstep if you want him and you want him so you buy him

and she spends your gold on candy and she spends your gold in graveyards where she sleeps next to her laddie

and her uncle and her daddy and her tears fall on her wet breast and she’s crying for her dani and she’s crying

for her hot house and she’s crying for the licorice that she left atop the blanket where the babies they

were nursing and the mothers they were nursed and the fathers they were dead in war,

oh be cursed and dead in war, oh dani boy, oh dani.

© Paula C. Lowe

Askew, vol. 13, Fall/Winter 2013

Paula C Lowe

Paula C. Lowe is a Midwest, Northwest, Central Coast poet and fiction writer. Her poems appear in Askew, The Iowa Review , Dogwood,Sow’s Ear, Solo Cafe, Bird as Black as the Sun, New Times, and her collaborative book, Poems For Endangered Places. Her non-fictionbooks include CarePooling, Parenting For Education® and several others. She has presented at many, many conferences and trained thousands of people. She was the managing editor of Solo Press and its literary journal, Solo Novo. In 2012, Paula left Solo to launch BIG YES Press with Dian Sousa and Sylvia Alcon. www.bigyespress.org will announce first books in March with our beach launch, “donuts, beer and photo-op” on March 10th. Join us at Morro Rock Beach at 11 after the surfers dry off.

January ’13 Breadline Vids

* Note: unfortunately during Imani’s set the lights were pretty dim, and the camera was not in a very good angle to capture the center of the room where she performed. The audio, however, is worth the listen alone!

* Note 2: Audio recordings of the night will be available in March.

Google+ Hangout for January

Hey everyone, Greg Bem will be hosting a Google+ hangout for January (again). We’re not sure what it’s going to look like, but this time it’s going to be PUBLIC, which means you won’t need a link, but it also means it’s not going to be recorded like December’s was. Is this a good thing? We’re not sure! But it will be less chaotic! We think! Tonight, please do a search in Google+ for “Breadline January 2013 Google Hangout” and see if you can find us. We have yet to test the searching process, but don’t think it will be that difficult.

If you are still having issues, email Greg Bem at gregbem [at] gmail [dot] com and he’ll try and get back to you. Thanks, and cheers to innovation!

Edit: it will probably display an announcement on Greg Bem’s Google+ page when he starts the hangout. Head to his profile here tonight at 715pm.

Chatting with Wilson Shook, a January ’13 Breadline Feature

Greg: Wilson, thanks for taking some time to chat with me in anticipation for your upcoming performance at the Breadline. Can you take a moment and describe yourself as a musician, artist, and performer? How did you get involved in music, specifically the style you’re currently interested in?

Wilson: i play the alto saxophone, in a style that might be called ‘free improvisation’. the words are tricky. i’ve recently grown more comfortable describing my musical practice as avant garde, not because i am or aspire to be in the vanguard of anything, but because that phrase tends to communicate a sort of crusty utopian eccentricity that i identify with, and which might provide some very general coordinates for someone who hasn’t heard what i do.

i tend to perform a lot as a soloist, both because i find it consistently challenging and expressive, and also because it’s terribly convenient. i usually have a few too many commitments, and solo practice and performance keeps me engaged with that part of myself without having to negotiate different schedules and whatnot.

for me, the music is not so much about creating a thing or expressing/triggering a particular emotion. it’s more a means of achieving a heightened and very direct awareness of my mental and physical self, and my relationship with the world around me. and i don’t mean just awareness, but a state of mutual inspiration and provocation, not just observing reality but doing something radically different with it. i like to think that it’s possible to achieve that state in everyday life, regardless of what one is doing, but the music is a handy little shortcut that also happens to be incredibly enjoyable and inspiring in lots of other ways, as well. as for my musical history, i’ve played a number of instruments in various styles over the years, and only arrived at the saxophone about 10 years ago (though it took a few years for that to become my main axe). i think i started listening to music with pretty mundane tastes, but was always interested in what the people i was listening to were listening to, and what the real heads were listening to, and that curiosity tended to take me toward the roots and the further out reaches of various styles and movements, as well as the interesting places where different trajectories have informed each other. i spent a lot of time in libraries and used

record stores, and going to lots of shows. for a time i was fascinated with virtuosity, which is not such an interesting notion to me now, but if you’re looking for virtuosos, free improv, free jazz, and 20th century avant garde stuff are pretty good places to look.

Greg: What has your relationship been like with Seattle arts communities? Did you always identify with specific communities in the Northwest? What’s your personal connection to Seattle when it comes to being a creator?

Wilson: i moved to seattle in 2003 and was pretty hermetic for a couple years. aside from school and work, music was one of the main things that brought me into contact with people. later i got involved in some radical organizing stuff and got involved in collective living, and most of my friendships here originate in either one or the other of these communities. as far as music goes, i more or less knew what i was looking for when i came here, and it was only a matter of time before i found folks with a similar artistic and social affinity. though, like i said, i’ve been mainly playing solo for a while now, and my community of direct collaborators would probably fit in a station wagon (sans instruments). i’ve had the opportunity to work with a much broader range of local and traveling artists through my work as a presenter and an organizer than i would have as a musician alone, though i often try to use this other work as a means of finding more settings for my own music and more ways to challenge and adapt my practice.

also, i think my aesthetics and the ways i deploy them have a lot to do with my experience in seattle. this sort of connection is harder to name, but even though my music at times feels fairly specialized and even antisocial, it is profoundly social and profoundly connected to place in that i’m striving for a really immediate experience in and of the world, and i’m reflecting that experience in the music in all kinds of intentional and unintentional ways. just because no one understands it doesn’t mean it’s not pop music.

Greg: I know that you’ve gained some prominence as a local community advocate. I’ve seen you at Gallery 1412 both as a performer and host, if I can use that term. Can you talk a little bit about Gallery 1412 and your role within it, and other spaces?

Wilson: i came to seattle hoping to find a thriving music scene, especially more experimental stuff, and one of the things i found which resonated the most with me was the Polestar Music Gallery. the music was very high quality but presented in a modest way, and the physical space was great – well put together, but still really funky and independent, like some of the spots i really liked in chicago growing up. Polestar soon changed hands and became a collective as Gallery 1412. i was sort of in the fan club there – coming to lots of shows and workshops and trying to meet people and get more serious about my playing – and eventually i became part of the collective. i was invited in mainly to take on a bunch of responsibilities that (violinist) Tom Swafford was holding down before he moved to New York. in exchange i got the use of the space, got named ‘director’, and for about five minutes i even had a monthly salary until we realized that we really couldn’t afford that. those roles have been passed off, split up and recombined a few times, so i’m not taking care of quite as much stuff right now, but i’m still one of the ‘core’ folks holding it down. the Gallery has been a great project for me, combining artistic concerns with my geekiness for collectives and my interest in the strategy of undermining and replacing the status quo by building autonomous alternative and counter-institutions. also i’ve learned a lot of skills, made friends, and supported a lot of awesome creativity and community activity.

Greg: How do you feel about bringing different disciplines of artistry together? When it comes to your interests and the art you create, do you feel like you’re part of a larger conversation of art, and if so, what is it? If not, how do you see art currently confined, and potentially isolated?

Wilson: multidisciplinary shows are my favorites. i like breaking up the uniformity of a reading or a gig or a screening or whatever, and in my experience the audiences tend to be larger, more diverse and less jaded. most of the folks who come out will be more familiar with one or two of the contributors and less familiar with the others, and i think this keeps people engaged, as long as the show is thoughtfully put together. also, mixed shows are more likely to engage the space in creative ways, and i like that. you can say that there’s a conversation there, though i identify more with the metaphor of resonance – something vibrating over there might get something vibrating over here, and we can all use that energy or inspiration for whatever we want. there’s a communication there, but it’s not necessarily as linear as calling it conversation – the exchange or debate that this implies, and the necessity of agreeing on a subject to converse over. also, going in another direction, i’m curious about the ways that engaging with disparate disciplines at the same time or in succession shakes up the brain and encourages it to make new connections and in doing so expands and invigorates its creative and critical capacities. whether or not there is a larger conversation of art or artists, art (and life! for crying out loud) will always be isolated as long as we think of it and engage with it in isolated ways. so i think creative curation is important, and much more broadly and emphatically, creative living, without which interdisciplinarity in the arts isn’t much use anyway.

Greg: What are your thoughts on Seattle as a city representing its own and broader realms of culture?

Wilson: it’s crucial that we support each other. no matter what we’re talking about, arts or otherwise. support can take so many different forms, but the heart of it is building genuine relationships of trust, respect and accountability. i see this in a lot of ways here in seattle, and i also see individuals and communities within seattle linking up in meaningful ways with folks in other places to build those relationships across distance. i think both of these are key, though without the local, there’s not much sense in being global, so that comes first.

and i think it bears mentioning that ways we choose to support each other have their own politics and repercussions, as well, and can be empowering and/or disempowering. like, supporting an artist by ‘liking’ them on facebook, contributing to their kickstarter campaign, and buying their album on i-tunes are all pretty cool, but i’m always in favor of support that builds actual complex human relationships and, as much as possible, leaves the corporations and the state out of the mix. and the more physical and symbolic distance there is to surmount, the more we end up relying on intermediate and parasitic entities. maybe that makes it all the more important that we attempt to work across distance to resolve those contradictions, but in any case i think the crucial piece is to always bear in mind what kind of relationships we’re building and are those going to get us closer to the kind of world we want to live in? that was a bit of a tangent, but i hope it caught a little of what you were trying to get at.

Greg: Can you speak a little to your own projects, what has worked and what has failed, and what was accomplished in 2012? What are your plans for 2013?

Wilson: 2012 was a good year, and it bodes well for the future, though i won’t say i reached any major milestones that would mean much to someone who doesn’t know me well. i developed my playing quite a bit, realized a new composition (which is different for me), played some interesting shows (including a few new venues, new collaborations, and a few different cities), and made a lot of good connections with other artists. i guess i’m emphasizing a lot of newnesses, but it was also a good year for maintaining and deepening existing relationships and commitments. also, Gallery 1412 is still alive and thriving, despite a habit of nearly going under every six months or so. we’ve made some improvements to the space, found some solid new members, and will soon have a new website up. some stuff i wanted to accomplish and didn’t include a new recording, a west coast tour, and making any updates at all to my webpage [http://gallery1412.org/wilsonshook.html], but i’ll get around to those eventually. this year i’m going to be super busy with a few non-musical commitments, so if i can keep up a regular practice and play a few shows, that will be success enough for me. thanks so much for the opportunity to sit down and think about this stuff! see you at the Breadline!

DSC_0405

Wilson Shook is an improvising saxophonist living in Seattle, Washington. Wilson’s music emphasizes focus, texture, chance and exploration. It is ‘new music’ in that it explores each new moment and seeks to develop a critical awareness of the present. Sonically, Wilson’s music is informed by lower case and minimalist aesthetics, while embracing the full range of his instrument. He is especially interested in incidental or ‘between’ sounds: material that exists on the edges and in the cracks of the conventional sonic palate. Politically, Wilson’s work attempts a practical approach to feminist, libertarian and surrealist conceptions of freedom on a situational scale.