Interview with Kristy Bowen
Author of the shared properties of water and stars
Interview by Kristina Marie Darling
Tell us about your recent Noctuary Press book, the shared properties of water and stars. What would you like potential readers to know about the collection?
It’s a strange little book, and at the point I was writing it, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to come of it. I had in my head that I wanted to do a project that included story problems as an aspect of the language, but also a loose plotline in my head that involved this sort of suburban boredom and unrest. The characters sort of existed in my head before the actual form manifested itself. I was also working on another short prose project, called beautiful, sinister that I was experimenting with in terms of overlapping and circuitous narrative and it wasn’t going so well at that point, so I decided to work on what became …shared properties sort of on the side to work some things out and get away and into a different sort of story. The further I got into it though, the more obsessed with it I became.
The collection very artfully blends prose and poetic language, but also different types of language and rhetoric. What attracts you to hybrid forms? What do hybrid forms make possible for you as a writer?
Since I started in college as someone who mostly wanted to write short fiction, prose has always been something I gravitate back to. My attraction to hybridity also may have something to do with always seeming to have feet in two different worlds, be they prose/verse, art/writing, etc. I also find certain things fascinating in terms of linguistic structures, sort of like bones you build around—story problems, indices, footnotes. Sort of the frame you hang the narrative on. I’ve started working recently on some pieces that look, for all intensive purposes like high school English class sentence diagrams, which are turning out to be fun. Another chapbook is taking the form of ransom notes and missed connections ads. As a writer, I feel like it gives me that structure and starting point.
As a longtime reader and admirer of your work, I know that many of your books deal with the female experience, particularly the artifacts and objects associated with femininity. Your work also undermines and questions the reader's expectations of the genre in which you're working. To what extent do you see the notion of genre as gendered? Along these lines, is writing across genres a political act?
About 10 years ago I was working on a project, errata, that set out specifically to sort of deal with those questions of genre expectations, and it was sort of the first things I ever did using these sort of hybrid forms. Basically I started with the dichotomy, historically between so-called male and female forms things like scientific writing vs. novels (which during the Victorian era were seen more as “womanly”) Dictionaries vs. etiquette books. Indexes vs. fashion writing. Love letters vs. instruction manuals. That projects sort of set the stage for a lot of things I worked on down the line.
You edit an amazing, and very well-regarded, chapbook press, Dancing Girl Press. How does your practice as an editor inform and influence your own writing?
I get the awesome opportunity to spend a lot of time steeped in other people’s writing, which definitely is both humbling and inspiring. I’ve also been, through the aesthetic of the press and the choices I make about what we publish, been more fully able to articulate my own vision and the things I find important and want to be accomplishing in my own work. Sometimes I feel like the breadth of manuscripts I am drawn to is rather is fluid and varies greatly from book to book, but really, some of the core things I’m drawn to—willingness to take risks, a certain authority, humor—are the things I want most for my own work.
Who are you reading right now? What poems do you want to borrow and steal from?
I am a total word stealer. When I get stuck, I start paging through other books, all sorts of texts, just plundering words and phrases and then trying to piece them together into something. I’ve been tending toward this collage process with language a lot more. I recently finished Kiki Petrosino’s, Hymn of the Black Terrific, that I totally want to steal the whole of it was so awesome (I didn’t..lol..but I probably stole more than a few words.)
What are you currently working on? What do readers have to look forward to?
I’ve just finished a longer manuscript called salvage, which brings together a few different shorter projects & series, all themed around landscapes and the Midwest (and mermaids, of all things.) I’m also very close to finishing up an apocalypse-themed book called The Good Girls Guide to the End of the World. There’s also the afore-mentioned grammarish project that might become something and a couple of other little things brewing, including a series of creepy roadside hotel poems.
Print book or ebook?
Jack Black or Jack White?
Where is paradise?
That place where every writing and editing projects is finished and done. I’m convinced it doesn’t really exist, but I still hope it’s out there.