Wednesday, September 12, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Sheila E. Murphy

Sheila E. Murphy's most recent book publications are The Case of the Lost Objective Case, Otoliths Press 2007, Continuations (with Douglas Barbour), The University of Alberta Press 2006 and Incessant Seeds, Pavement Saw Press 2005. She reads with Douglas Barbour with Edmonton poet and fiction writer Jonathan Meakin at Hulbert's Cafe, 7601-115 Street, Edmonton on Thursday, September 22, 2007 at 7:30pm (come early; seating is limited).

1 - How did your first book change your life?

With House Silence, my first “full-length” book, from Stride in the UK (Rupert Loydell, Publisher) functioned as a confirmation for me. First of all, it was an invited book. Rupert had published my work in his magazine on multiple occasions. He suggested that I send him a book manuscript. I was only too happy to do that. The book that emerged consisted exclusively of the term I was to coin several years hence: American haibun. The response to this volume was very positive. My now deceased friend Gerald Burns called this my “best book” many years later. I have always felt very good about this book, because of its natural feeling, its relative freshness. I love the way Rupert put it together. Everything seemed to complement the writing.

2 - How long have you lived in Phoenix, and how does geography, if at all,impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

I have lived in Phoenix all of my adult life. It was my chosen home, and early on represented freedom. It’s a wide-open place, the fifth largest city in the United States, growing and beautiful. The red rocks one sees in Sedona, the mountains that define this city as “the Valley of the Sun,” mean something very profound to me. The Desert Botanical Garden, the drive from here in every direction, are natural wonders that I love being part of, both physically and psychically. Geography does influence my work, I am certain. I used to be a daily climber of a little mountain near where I am sitting now (1.2 miles to the top). I would see glorious, tiny owls as I climbed. I know that race and gender are inspiring when I see the wide range of what I’m part of.

3 - Where does a poem/piece of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I work in many different ways. Some of the pieces begin as part of a larger entity (as in the yet-unpublished Omnia, deliberately written in segments using a particular format). Using listservs and group blogs, I love to write shortish pieces that I post immediately as they are created.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

I love to speak or read publicly. It is a major part of who I am in all spheres of my life. I have a background in musical performance, and have done a good deal of performing in my life. I have taught either as a primary profession or as a subset of other professions throughout my life’s work. And I’m still at it, “going strong.” The short answer is part of, yes.

5 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I love working with an outside editor. I have one person who has worked with me for a long period of time, and she is so very good that I look forward to the tilt that she places on something, the opportunity to improve a work that she (uniquely) appears to perceive. I always learn from being edited.
6 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?
Certainly very natural, and probably therefore easier than previous projects. I like to look outside myself and not focus too much on being troubled or (artificially, it would seem) concerned over how something with at least some life of its own is being propelled into a shapely existence, one that I would not have been able to predict precisely.

7 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

About two weeks ago I had a marvelous Bartlett pear sliced moderately thinly. Lovely with white cheese.

8 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Find every possible reason you can to love other people. And then love them.

9 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to prose)? What do you see as the appeal?

It is not too difficult. My preference is for poetry, as that is how my mind works. Plot and I are not exactly chums. But I like reading others’ plots.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I write something every day. It is easier than not to do so. I look for excuses (something to enter into a blog, something called for, for a particular occasion, something that is a part of a larger work I’m building gradually).

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I look at something (art, nature) or I listen to something (nature, music) or I meditate, or I walk, or I read, or simply write.

12 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

The Case of the Lost Objective (Case), just out from Otoliths Press (Mark Young, Publisher) includes 12 plates that are visual poetry or word art, and therefore have an entirely different entity from textual poems. The textual work in that new book includes some very personal things, notably a particular piece called “Embrace” about my mother and me. The first poem in the book relates to my still rather new relationship with visual art.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are thereany other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, scienceor visual art?

Music has been instilled in me from the time I was 10 years old. I played flute very seriously through the time I was about 23. Music is always an influence. I think musically. I hear as though I’m listening to music. I think in sound. Nature is important. People’s voices are important.

14 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I would like to make it possible for someone with natural creative gifts, who has not had any support to speak of, to be given an opportunity for exposure to what he or she needs to learn and explore in the art of that person’s choice.

15 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Had women been allowed to be priests, I would have been a priest. Alternatively, I would have enjoyed being an actor or a financial consultant.

16 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

The teaching I had in high school made me instantly identify with poets. I couldn’t help that. When I saw how these poets perceived, I recognized some of the patterns as kin to my own. I also liked the way these individuals seemed to be perceived. I love how I feel when I am writing or have written something.

17 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I have a real weakness for humor. I listened to a book (one of many) by Alexander McCall Smith: Portuguese Irregular Verbs. It’s beyond hysterically funny when heard on tape. The narrator is gifted. I would place a caveat that one listen rather than simply eyeball the book.

The Talent Given Us is an incredibly brave film by Andrew Wagner. Priceless and brilliant and filled with surprise.

18 - What are you currently working on?

I am privileged to be working on the book Continuations, a collaboration with Douglas Barbour since November 2000. That project is very important to me. I am always writing individual poems, too, as well as creating visual work, both textual-visual and pictures/drawings sans words.

12 or 20 questions archive

No comments: