Self-Interview with Arianne Zwartjes
What is the working title of the book?
Detailing Trauma: A Poetic Anatomy
Where did the idea come from for the book?
When I took my EMT training I realized there is amazing language used to label & map the body. The cardiac skeleton, the Purkinje trees, the carina. I knew I wanted to start a project using that language-set. What fills in around that language set is what I was grappling with at the time (and---let's be honest---still am...not sure this one ever goes away): how do we live---and love---in the face of so much uncertainty. Bodies age, fall apart, rupture; our worlds rupture all around us, constantly. It's a difficult, often harsh, always-unpredictable world we live in. Lately I have been particularly loving the quote---of somewhat debated origins---that says be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
What genre does your book fall under?
Depends who you ask. The press labeled it "Essays/Medicine." At various points in its early incarnations, and in the process of finding a publisher, I submitted it to both poetry presses and non-fiction presses. I'm a poet by training. When asked if his gorgeous, baffling, and always-challenging Memory for Forgetfulness is a work of poetry or prose, Mahmoud Darwish replied that "the poet is always a poet."
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Who knows? But I'm pretty sure I would ask Wim Wenders or Antonioni to direct it.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Learning to live with fracture. No, strike that. Grappling with living with fracture.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
There were so many incarnations. It started as a collection of prose poems that I wrote early in the morning while teaching five different classes at two different colleges. Later they got stitched together into essays. Later I did more research, and wrote more essays. Later I sent it to lots of presses, and then sent it to U of Iowa, and they got an outside reader, who said it didn't cohere, and I agreed. Later I broke up with my partner at the time, and started meditating a lot, and rewrote whole parts and reshaped others, and the point of the book changed, and I sent it back to U of Iowa and they were happy. And so was I.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My community of writing peeps in Tucson. Without them around me it would have been easy to be less disciplined about making time to write, every week, for several years in a row. They were also the amazing writers & readers I could call for help, or send drafts to for feedback...Boyer Rickel, in particular, gave me a really close read early on.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It's about bodies. We all got one.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I owe a huge thanks to U of Iowa press, and to Joe Parsons in particular, for hanging in there with me through the revision process and for seeing the potential in the earlier manuscripts, which were a bit choppy and structurally unformed. U Iowa released the book in September, and the marketing department there has been so amazing---the book was mentioned in Poets & Writers "New & Noteworthy," and I was also invited to do an hour-long interview on Iowa Public Radio. I'm immensely grateful to everybody at the press.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: