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Interview with postcard poet Buck Downs!

Lisa AgerBy Lisa Ager on Nov 15, 2011 | Add a Comment Add a Comment (186)

Interview with postcard poet Buck Downs!

*black peppermint* cover, created by Washington's own James Huckenpahler

Buck Downs brings you *black peppermint* and we bring you an interview with Buck Downs!
If you've been getting the Buck Downs postcard treatment, then you've already got a book salted away as bookmarks, refrigerator-door material, and otherwise literary dust sifted through your rooms.  Now's the time to get it all together, in a shiny, portable, collected format: *BLACK PEPPERMINT*
Sixty-nine poems, including "pontiac fever" "ladies love outlaws", and many, many more.
Buck Downs shared his thoughts on *black peppermint* with us at Pink Line Project!
What inspired you to work on this project?
Sometimes a mistake can be more valuable than the truth. I had a large mass of unedited notes, from which I was cutting parts to form a book called EXTRATUTIONALIZED, literally cutting them with a scissors from a printout some 150+ pages long. A few days after finishing that process, I was looking through the cut-up body of what was left over, and the first six poems in the “Pontiac Fever” section appeared, verbatim, amid the rubble of what I had wrecked.

I say wrecked in part because EXTRATUTIONALIZED turned out to be a big failure, a mess, unreadable and useless -- except for the fact that getting it out of the way showed me the first germ of what has grown up to be *black peppermint*.

When did you first come up the concept for *black peppermint*? How long did it take you to complete the series?

Another part of the process that developed over a year or so was the question of how long to make a section; the number 23 has come to have a usefully appropriate feel to it -- a prime number & thus resistant to subdivision, one-third of 69 & thus in tune with my adolescent sense of humor, etc. “Pontiac Fever” came to an organic pause point at 23, and three 23-page sections would do for the stereotypical slender volume of verse. And three sets of three sections would be another level of completion, which is what has happened. *black peppermint* is the first of three volumes in a trilogy.

The name *black peppermint* was more randomly recombining words one day,  hitting that combination, and being certain that somewhere, sometime, somebody before me had to have named a band or an album or something “black peppermint”, it’s just too cool a name. According to our friend Google, though, nobody had; although there is such a thing as black peppermint (Mentha x piperita vulgaris). I took it as a sign.

So, more accident gets involved. Accident can do some of the same cognitive work that method seems to have done for poets of previous ages -- focusing the mind toward an unintended result, and achieving works previously unimaginable.

What was your experience like working on *black peppermint*?

I am thinking about how I didn’t work on *black peppermint* at all! What I had was a problem: I was (at the time) an employed person with a demanding job and a commute and all the social obligations of a normal person, and I did not want to give up any of that, but I didn’t want to quit writing poetry, either. That problem is what I was working on, and what I put my conscious effort into was creating a workflow where I could capture everything I could think of putting into a poem, get that captured data into a readable and editable form, and then work within that data. So I built a system for creating poems, and then system created the poems for me, whenever I could invest a spare five minutes while riding the train or waiting at the doctor’s office.

You have worked with many talented artists, which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration?

I lead a charmed life; part of it is living in a community of poets and not-poets who regularly feed me inspiration and sustenance without me having to exert myself much at all. In that environment, it would be mean of me not to demand good work from myself.

What have been your greatest challenges and opportunities working on this project?

The challenge is to blend patience and diligence, and to keep the blend moving forward through the work. Having created a distributed workflow for poetry production, if I find I am feeling blocked or irritable or going sideways, I can look at the workflow and ask, what part of this workflow have I not stirred up lately? The answer to that question always indicates an action, and that action always improves how I feel about the situation.

In my business life, I spend more than a little time as an evangelist for self-publishing, talking about how various online platforms and services can be used so that writers and artists can publish and distribute work, without agents, publicists, and the rest of the traditional publishing team. *black peppermint* is another demonstration to my clients of the ways self-publishing can work for them.

Excited about *black peppermint*?!  Pick up your own copy:
Of course, you can also order a copy by mail: Send a check for $16.95 to:
Buck Downs
1813 Burke St., S.E.
Washington, DC 20003

Lisa Ager Add a Comment (186) | Like this Item Like   | Tags: Buck Downs, poetry


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