Monday, February 14, 2022

TBR: Subtexts by Dan Brady

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.


We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?


At its core, Subtexts is about what we say and what is contained within what we say, how language reveals and distorts meaning, and what we miss in our communication. It explores a new, modified erasure form that assembles and disassembles the same text to reveal layers of narrative, intention, and new perspectives.


What boundaries did you break in the writing of this book? Where does that sort of courage come from?


I was trying to explore the physical space of a poem on the page. I asked myself how I could create a three dimensional poem. That was the question that got me going. I don’t think it took much courage, just curiosity. I think of these poems as “experimental” in the sense that they’re introducing a new element to an existing equation and seeing how the outcomes are altered.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


I had been submitting an earlier version of this book off and on for awhile and never got anywhere with it. When my first book, Strange Children, came out in 2018 with Publishing Genius, I really enjoyed working with Adam Robinson, who runs the press, and I asked if he’d be interested in taking a look at this other project I’ve been working on. He did and he liked it. That’s how we got here.


In a way, that’s the story of most books, I think—years and years of rejection, but then you find the right person or people to help bring it into the world. It can take a long time and each time is different. It’s kind of mystical in away. Like climbing a mountain.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


There is no secret. Just keep going.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


Once I figured out that I’d be using erasure methods as a starting point, I was surprised by how many variations I was able to come up with: poems that build, poems that decay, poems that come in and out, poems compacted, etc. I still think there’s a lot more to explore here and I hope others will take this up. I’m teaching a few workshops after the book release to show people how I approached things.


Who is your ideal reader?


I tend to think that my ideal reader is someone who is pretty well-versed in contemporary poetry, but I’ve been surprised at readings that it’s people’s non-poetry friends or parents who are like, “Wow, that’s really cool!”


These poems have a strong visual element to them and an intricate repetition that I think gives people new to poetry something to grab onto and they seem to really like where the poems take them from there.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


The poem “Cabin Fever” is based on the February 2010 snowstorm (Snowmageddon!) that shut down the DC area for over a week. I mention how every day we drank mimosas and strong black coffee, which is true! It’s all true. But I also mention a big pot of chili. I like to make a version based on the chili at Clyde’s, which has a certain sweetness to it because there is an unbelievable amount of chili powder in it. Before making this, I never realized that chili powder is sweet!







WATCH A VIDEO EXCERPT, “The Deep and Narrow Night”:




DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.