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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Geoffry Gatza on his book KENMORE

Geoffrey Gatza is perhaps best known as the indefatigable publisher behind BlazeVox Books, which puts out a couple dozen titles of innovative literature each year. However, he also writes. He has a number of adult and children's titles under his name. This interview concerns one book, Kenmore: Poem Unlimited. (In the interests of full disclosure, BlazeVox published a novel by me, ...And Beefheart Saved Craig.)

1. Before we get to Kenmore, you're created an amazing press with BlazeVox.
How many books do you put out in a year? What is your guiding philosophy? Do
your books stay in print? What else should we know about BlazeVox?

Our mission, after ten years is still very hard to pin down. We represent
neither a group of writers nor one mode of writing. We enjoy innovative
works of literature in whatever format that it chooses to find itself. We
wish to promote new style, emerging voices and provide an outlet for these
artists to express their artistic visions. This sounds good, and in turn we
will try to live up to these standards and will do whatever is humanly

BlazeVOX Books has published over 190 volumes, mostly poetry, and will
publish approximately 50 to 75 more each year during 2010 and 2011. Our
latest book authors include Anne Waldman with illustrations by George
Scheenman, Ted Greenwald, Celia Gilbert, Raymond Federman and Craig
Paulenich. A detailed list of all of our titles is located in our online
catalog .
Also just out is the latest issue of BlazeVOX2k9 and online journal of
voice. But wait, there¹s more; our Wilde Reading Room has 75 ebooks
available for free download. As you can see, BlazeVOX [books] presents some
of the most original voices writing today. Check out our new catalog here:

Outlets of publications:

Online Journal:
Coming into our tenth year BlazeVOX 2kX Spring 2010 will be out on May 1,
2009. We publish about 50 writers from around the world in each issue. We
publish in HTML and PDF and enhanced PDF, Podcasts, and now including movies
of original performances.

Online Free Ebook Library: Wilde Reading Room
Each issue of BlazeVOX had an update to our ebook section. Named for Oscar
Wilde, our Wilde Reading room is one of our most popular section on our
site. Each of our titles have around 6 to 7 thousand unique downloads on
each of our titles. This is astounding when most of our POD books sell
rather infrequently on or through SPD. It seems that people do
want full-length collections of contemporary writers but are reluctant to
purchase a book. This is wonderful for us, as it costs next to nothing to
make an ebook. We use the same method to produce an ebook as we do to make a
POD book, only we do not have use the materials to make the thing so it this
is an area we plan to focus in on in the future.

POD Book Catalog:
We have been making print on demand books since 2004. Since then we have
published 200 titles and have plans to continue on for a great long while. A
book is the primary object of the writer. A painter can take her painting
and place it in any venue she sees fit and her goal is accomplished. But an
author without a tangible means of publication is stifled. Even with the
appeal, popularity and cost of the ebook, a writer still wants to have a
book in hand, if only to show Mom, hey I have done something. We have found
a small bit of success in our business model. Books do not sell well, so we
cannot rely on one title to make a splash. Instead we publish many titles of
very deserving authors to make things even out. With this kind of model we
are able to be more accommodating to writers who may not be able to publish
their works in other venues.

2. I am intrigued by the subtitle of Kenmore, "Poem Unlimited." What's the
story behind it?

The phrase comes from Hamlet, in scene two when the actors are coming into
Elsinore. This is part of the description of the works that they can

The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited:

LORD POLONIUS, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Act 2, Scene 2

I loved the idea of this as a work and I tried to accomplish a poem without
limits. The whole of the Kenmore project takes place in four volumes of
works. This is not what I thought would happen when I started. I thought
this would be an epic poem with memories and photos and whatnots of found
items to capture the conscious of a community. Over years I gathered up
materials and this slowly became untenable as one volume as a poem cannot
contain all these items into one, but slowly these ideas fell into separate
entities and so became several items. I published the first volume as it is
a traditional book. Volume two is a photopoem book of Kenmore, NY. It is
five years of photos looking at a wonderful village through springtime, a
devastating October ice storm and the destruction and rebuilding of the
elementary school I attended, Jane Addams. The third is craft elements and
very anti computer. Comprising hand written memories, scraps, found objects
to create a moving experiment of scrapbook and hysterical diary. Taking the
idea of non-computer generated memories in a one sitting purge of ideas;
this becomes a moving portrait of a town through touch.

The fourth volume is a mirror image of the first volume. Set in one-word
poems this is the ghost image of the first book, and the setting of private
memories using street names as titles with one-word as the poem. This
evocative display of one-word poems takes the reader on a side street of
what a poem should be and what a single word can provoke and provide. The
one-word poem depends on two elements to work. In this case the title is the
street title and it corresponds to a memory. There is also the element of
mirroring to the first volume the published book. So Tremaine Ave. Volume
One will has a direct connection to the Tremaine Ave. in Volume Four

3. The book is organized around events that happen in two tales, one about
Gwion and the Wisdom Potion and the other from The Book of Enoch. What is
your personal relationship to tales and, perhaps, fairy tales? I know that
you have written some children's books.

I do write for children, it's very fun and it comes more naturally to me
than say, detective fiction. I think all of my work has some element of the
fairy tale in them, for better or worse. I am intrigued by the small stories
we tell one another and how they turn and develop into other stories. In one
sense, we are nothing more than the stories we tell each other. And in this
I wanted to understand who I was by delving into the base stories that make
up a formulation of myself by the texts that moved me. I choose core ideas
such as religion and the hero-myth. The ballad of Taliesin and the Mabinogi
is a root story of the King Arthur legend and the book of Enoch is still
used today in many forms of Christianity.

Both stories are myths about great poets and so making the poet into a
lively hero, taking him from life to death to rebirth then in the second
half have the poet hero ascend to heaven as receives a tour, of sorts. So
the blending of the two make for a unique story perfect for poetry.

4. Could you tell us a little about The Book of Enoch? about Taliesin? You
have biblical and old welsh references here.

Taliesin was a master poet of the 6th century and is believed to be the
court poet to three Celtic British kings. He became the basis for the
literary figure Merlin the wizard. I chose to use the myth about his
becoming the poet. He ate a magic fish, which was meant for another. There
is an ensuing wizard battle in which he looses by being eaten. However,
instead of dying he becomes a child in the womb of the witch he was

The second half is based on the Book of Enoch, the man who walked with god.
This is an apocryphal apocalyptic text from the Old Testament of the Bible.
This backbone of a story tells of how the angles fell from heaven when they
fell in love with human women. They marries them and had children who were
giants. God kills the children and buries the bones and sends all 200 devils
into hell. Enoch gets to witness this from God's vantage point. From there
Enoch is guide through the heavens by several angles.

5. You tend to write long lines. Is that typical of your work? What do you
see as the long lines' contribution to this work?

There is a combination of writing styles in this book. Long lines help with
the narrative functions in this poem. I think this helps to tell the story
and move it along. The more abstract ideas are woven into shorter poems and
using shorter lines. There are also differing uses of tone for each part.
The first is lively and has a verve to the story telling, while the second
part becomes tedious in it's use of the religious / biblical language.

6. If we can speak of the religion and tales loosely as myths, would you
agree that the book mythologizes the present and offers contemporary
examples of the myths?

Yes indeed. I took both of these as myth, being careful with the Book of
Enoch, as it is still in use today with certain branches of Christianity,
especially in Ethiopia. This story does take place in the present time and
is a new vision for the originals. Both sections are from myths that are
quite still popular today, so in a sense it is going back to the roots to
find something fresh.

7. What about Kenmore, the contemporary city, is worthy of myth?

Well no of course not :-) It is no different than any other suburban area
and part of the reason for the myth. After Olsen and William Carlos Williams
how can one address place in poetry? I am not suggesting that this is on par
with their work, but it was the only way I could find to adequately admire
the place I grew up and lived in at the time of writing the pieces. I
dreamed many fine dreams walking those streets and those dreams all had a
foot in one or both of these myths. So it was tremendous fun to put all

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