Joe Hall, who is one of my favorite poets writing these days, tagged me in this interview series that he described as “spreading like the flu”. The Next Big Thing is a neat, pass-it-on, chain-letter-ish interview series in which you conduct a brief interview with yourself and post it on your blog & at the end of the interview tag 2- 5 poets– thereby passing it on to them– It’s true, Joe Hall, just like influenza! or birdsong!
So here goes Me conducting an interview with Me. (everyone has to answer the same set of questions below)
Me :What is the working title of the book?
Me: The Inventor’s Last Breath.
Me: Where did the idea come from for the book?
Me: The Inventor’s Last Breath gets its name from Thomas Edison’s last breath, which was allegedly captured and saved in a test tube and is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
The Inventor’s Last Breath is the cobbled story of an Inventor character (loosely based on Edison) told from interwoven perspectives. Linguistically, I experimented with modernizing the forms that were relevant to Edison’s time: the rhythms and exuberance of Whitman who was a contemporary of Edison to compose love poems, the tone of Dickinson’s letters (also a contemporary) to compose journal entries, the rhetorical device of Genesis combined with the rhyming styles of light verse to motor longer narrative poems. There are also poems that contain lines in Morse Code, poems that contain lines from archived newspaper and poems that work as film snippets, pulling from movie script format.
The Inventor’s Last Breath is a love story between an Inventor and his wife against the historical backdrop of American history, spanning Edison’s life – from the Cilvil War to the Great Depression– including the invention of the phonograph, the light bulb, the motion picture camera, the talking doll, the stock ticker, the electric chair, the assassination of President McKinley, the electrocution of his killer and Edison’s public electrocution of an elephant.
Me: What genre does your book fall under?
Me: Experimental love song. Historical narrative hopscotch.
Me: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Me: I love casting! It is the ultimate fantasy.
The Inventor: Robert Downey Jr. — Have you seen him in Chaplin? WOW! he’s got to be sexy but he’s got to be a goofball and capable of great physical comedy. (Also Jonathan Rhys Meyers – who skews scary-sexy and Matthew
Broderick who skews silly-sexy.) (Also Paul Rudd who is a devastatingly clownish stage actor as well as box office comedy star. And handsome.)
Mary: The Inventor’s wife. Mary’s got to be soft and earnest and curious. She has a habit of overusing the word “husband” and she is obsessive about the details of nature. For instance, she captures samples of things in test tubes -like her husband’s semen, breath, etc. Young Mariel Hemingway (circa 1979) has a convincing intensity and softness. Ultimately, in my story, she is the person who captures the Inventor’s last breath in the final scene.
The Talking Doll: The Talking Doll is one of Edison’s inventions. Her character has a biblical-like authority combined with a light verse nonsense which she uses to attempt to tell the story of her maker. Nicki Minaj– As heard in her gibberish, story-telling intro to Kanye West’s My Dark Twisted Fantasy would be the perfect balance.
Me: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Me: ”All there is to know about a man is in his breath.”
Well, that’s not exactly a synopsis –it’s a line from the book. (see 2nd question above for more details.)
Me: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Me: About a year before I wrote my first 50-page draft. About 4 years to the most recent draft. or 5? I forget.
Me: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Me: I was inspired by an article I read in an archived newspaper about “Light’s Golden Jubilee” – the celebration in honor of the 50th anniversary of the light bulb. It was a huge party thrown by Henry Ford in 1929 in honor of Thomas Edison – all the luminaries of the day were there- Edison, Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Orville Wright, J. P Morgan, Charles Schwab, Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers, etc. It seemed like an interesting intersection of American history, because 4 days later, the stock market crashed leading into the Great Depression. At the celebration, there was a “let there be light” type of re-enactment of Edison inventing the light bulb. The newspapers wrote about Edison as if he were a magician or a religious figure and that made a lot of sense to me.
Me: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Me: A long poem based on Edison’s public electrocution of an elephant.
Me: My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Me: Joanna Penn Cooper ! Christine Hamm ! Janaka Stucky !
Thanks Me. Me should do this more often…