every other day

13 AUG 07

How has your first book changed your life?

85. Logan Ryan Smith

The Singers by Logan Ryan Smith

How did your manuscript happen to be published by Dusie Press Books? Had you sent it out often before that?

Thanks for asking, Kate. I had written the first draft of The Singers in June of '05, and spent about the next 12 or 13 months working on the book. Not that I was working on it every day all of those months, but after those 12 or 13 months I decided I was done with the book. And on that very day I received an email from Susana Gardner of Dusie asking if I had a book-length manuscript she could consider for her new Dusie Press Books, with which I was familiar because Susana had sent me a copy of Elizabeth Treadwell's Cornstarch Figurine and Susana had earlier published my e-chapbook, 2 poems from the bottom of the barrel, in the 1st *dusi/e-chap kollectiv. Of course I was seriously flattered and sent her The Singers. The timing was just so ridiculous, because I was at that point of hating the manuscript, and at the same time feeling pretty good about it because it was the first book of that length I had ever written; and it was a troublesome book, originally over 200 pages, I think, that I had to whittle down to its current 80-whatever pages. So, it was tremendously flattering, but also a huge relief. I had this book that I lived with for a year and was pretty tired of, and now I can let it go. Sort of.

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

Well, Kate, that's not exactly easy to answer, because there is a little bit of thrill stolen from the whole process. I mean, I'm supposed to say that I saw it and was all, like, "Wowza," but that didn't happen. First off, I'd seen a handful of proofing copies, which were bound and done just like the final copy, except that the final version has a different cover. Plus, the whole process took so much time that by the time I saw the final book I was, once again, relieved. Like, "Thank fucking God that's over." Relief, Kate, I think is the key word here in this interview that I'm sure I'll revisit in later answers.

Before that day, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?

I dreamed of relief, Kate. See, we're there already. Didn't take long, did it? I dreamed of amber waves of relief. I dreamed of a day where my book would finally be really for reals "finished." It was a difficult, time-consuming, and tiresome process finally getting The Singers published. There were technical difficulties that required me downloading a trial version of InDesign so that I could get the file Susana was working on and fix the spacing, which had been fucked with throughout the entire book. Somehow my Word doc didn't like mingling with Susana's Mac, further instilling my absolute hatred of Macs. If I could wipe Macs off the face of the earth, I would. (Mac people, don't email me now trying to convince me of Apple's glowing capabilities and superiority. I don't fucking buy it. Macs suck. THEY SUCK!) Anyway, there were lots and lots of "little" things that kept coming up, and it was very tedious. So, Kate, I dreamed of relief. And, relief, Kate, is what I found. Sort of.
How has your life been different since?

People seem to think of me as a really for reals poet now. I guess the hundreds of pages I'd written before The Singers didn't qualify me.

Oh, I'm only kidding. I just love pretending I have a humungous chip on my shoulder. It's funny.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

I was asked at first what I would like the cover to look like, and I wanted something that reflected the influence that New Wave and Post-Punk music had on the book, but in the end none of my input was put into the cover. So, no, I guess.

Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?

What I thought would happen is that no one would read it. Some people are reading it, or have read it. That surprises me. And the response has also been surprisingly positive. I was surprised, Kate, that people didn't hate this book. I mean, look at all that rhyme I used. Nobody likes rhyme anymore, right?

What have you been doing to promote the book and how do you feel about it?

I've forcefully told people thru my blog that they should read my book. I was also recently invited by Mike Young to read with him at Pegasus Books in Berkeley. I had bought a bunch of copies of my book to sell at the reading. I didn't read much from it but a couple people bought it anyway. And I gave a bunch away, too. But, really, I don't know how to promote myself. Some people somehow have successfully used their blogs to become some sort of mini-celebrity, but I'm incapable of that. And not interested, either. Also, thinking about promoting myself is so BORING! So, I just go with the flow, Kate.

What advice would you give now to someone about to have a first book published?

If somebody wants to publish your book, great. Awesome. If not, do it yourself.
What influence has the book's publication (or acceptance) had on your subsequent writing?
I would have to say it's less the book's publication or acceptance, and more its completion, its finalization that could be said to have any influence. And with it stamped with the "I'm done stick a fork in me" stamp, I can move on. I have to sort of carry a book thru all the way to the finish line before I can get to the next one. So, its finalization allowed me to write another book. But what The Singers did for me is show me I can write books of longer length, and still maintain that "bookness" without trailing off into a disparate collection of "poems." Bah.

How do you feel about the response so far and has it had any effect on your writing?

I feel very good about the response so far, Kate. People have been very open to the book and have reached out to me to let me know they've read it and what they thought about it. I really appreciate that. So often you put something out there and it falls off into a bottomless pit--no echo, no nothing. And the responses so far are sort of more like emotional outbursts than critical thinking when people talk of it. And I like that. I like that when you take that little hammer and hit someone below the knee their leg involuntarily twitches.

Do you want your life to change?

Absolutely, Kate. I'm broke and lonely. But I look good doing it.

So, Logan, do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?

No way.


from The Singers by Logan Ryan Smith:

Monks were somewhere in This. Scrolling through the Internet, probably. Cashing in their chips at the chanting tables, ahead by a prayer. Folding now their robes before hard beds. Song outlasts. Sentenced to absolutions. Solitude. A great fear and light. Before the night where one's been down, bedded down, criss-crossed the road and velvet sun. At the back of Hope. On top. In tune...

Battlement days breaking like San Francisco in summertime-
expected-quakes. Swords swinging like tongues and shaking the tops of things.

And I think you understand Song, by now.

You heard it as an unborn in the womb before your ears were made. If not, you're hearing it now, just somewhere else less anchored. A forest. One where leaves are made of honey, and bark is skin good
to fall asleep against.
                               Or bleed.

Granted. I'll take this song for its point. That is the point. I'll stay here, thank you, and talk to you from here. I can listen from here, see? That's the point that I've been dragging. Convincing you through them that I can be Here. Now. And There then. Later. Some other time, I can talk to you with equal matter.

We can sit down, now, you and I. Any time.


. . .

next interview: Collin Kelley

other first-book interviews

. . .