Interview with Cara Benson


72 pages | 5.5×8.5 inches | paperback | ISBN 189738856X | 9781897388563

1) (made) seems to follow a journey of some sort, a journey cross-country perhaps. Each poem creates an impression, almost like a snapshot. Can you elaborate on how the idea of a journey, if at all, figures into the book?

I like that, the snapshot idea. Or maybe postcards. Someone recently said epigrammatic in the way they are tombstones, possibly. All of these are interesting to me. Yes, travel. Literally and metaphorically. Through time, space, our (floric/faunic) evolution. I think the highway trope calls to me for many reasons, not least of which, more than an odyssian lens to experience, is the fact that we are car dependent and restless. Maybe the restlessness is historical. Combustion engine, not so old. Also, the earth is in its own travel, of course, so we are moving on a moving ship, so to speak.

Temporality is an important component of travel. I don’t think that I’m necessarily foregrounding transience, ephemerality. No. Something more material than that. Time as matter? Or matter inverting itself in/through/over time? And yet, the work ultimately moves/makes a move beyond.

2) How did you come to name the collection?

I don’t mean to be cheeky but I really don’t remember. Suddenly there it was, yes lower case and parenthetical, and it stuck.

3) There is a string of larger print black text – usually words or phrases – that floats through the book. Can you elaborate on this?

If you are mentioning words and phrases you must mean the print that exists on the same pages as text. There are also pages that have single floating words. The ones that accompany text are so-called titles. (ha) I like the statement that they make on the page, so bold and declarative, occasionally italicized or interrogative, but what are they telling you to do? They are so not obvious in their direction. I like that they might send one back into the poem. It seems some do try to consider them together.

The single floating words serve a different purpose. They are connected to a specific part of the text. Again, these connections may or may not come together for any given reader. I’m not trying to be coy with the reader. Rather, offering of an opportunity. It’s an invitation.

4) The poems evoke striking images that are often grounded in nature – fields, feathers, flowers etc. What sorts of images did you intend to create in this collection and why?

I really didn’t intend anything. As Bhanu says that the writing appears in the reader, in reading, I swear this writing appeared for me. That sounds so transcendental or metaphysical or orphic, maybe. I don’t mean to.

Until I did have intention! When did that come in to play….hmmmm. Once there seemed to be an accumulation of these prose-cards, I think I began to realize that they were connected, for me. Then I wanted to draw forward certain language, elements, to glue the work. Which I did.

To speak to the images, grounded images. I do think the book is in some ways a pre-elegiac poem for the earth, so naturally.

5) What inspired you/ motivated you to write (made)?

I imagine there exists in me, as in us all, perhaps, an urge to utter. (made) is a result. My particular concerns at that time motivated or shaped it. What are those concerns. Well, survival. Trauma. Pre-apocalypse. Planet. Us. Love. Land. Plant. Ice. Animal. Thinking walking talking. Mothering. Machine. Economies. Acceptance.

6) The poems play with language in a very interesting way. Can you elaborate on your use of language throughout (made)?

7) How important is narrative to you when you write poetry?

Oh, I always think there’s story. Even when it’s tripped-up syntac lip stuff. You know, non-narrative poetry. That’s story, too. We put our stories on everything. That’s a lie (story).

Muriel Rukeyser says the universe is composed of stories.

I just finished reading the reissue of Bruce Boone’s CENTURY OF CLOUDS, a seminal New Narrative work from 1980. Bruce wants his stories to affect the reader. Fair enough!

I like a narrativity that is complicated by considerations of the site(s) of the narration. Multiplicities housed in (a)(ny)body. Or one that is conscious of its act. Also I like to get tucked in at night with ghastly tales of death in the Death Zone (8000 meters upwards).

8) How did it feel to release your first collection of poetry?

Feel. That is interesting. My emotions are variable. I mean to feel from moment to moment and often simultaneously. So at what moment? I think that is an interesting avenue to explore. What is the “event” that says one’s book is “released”? There’s the initial correspondence with the publisher. In this case Jay emailed. That felt warm and fuzzy. Happy I guess I’d call it.

Then holding the thing in hand is a trip. (I just can’t get away from material moments moving in time!) But trip in the hippy sense. Long strange. So there’s this box of books and I cut it open. Hold this flip of a fan of (my) language. What to do with it now? So then I suppose I had some fear.

Over the bumpy road to grandma’s house and now it’s been a lot of fun. A tangible reason to be out in the world as poet. Talking and hooting with other poets in other parts of the land.

Re: its materiality: I seem to be using the book as a score for performance. Firguring how to enter, re-anima-te the writing. What fidelity does one owe to the artifact? How does authorial performance of the work alter a subsequent reading?

9) Do you have any new projects that you are currently working on or anything new in the horizon?

I’m making a long poem called Protean Parade which I’ve been describing as a book length meditation on historical, biological, and cosmological evolution.

10) Why is BookThug a good home for your work?

Jay has such an eclectic eye/sense within the “innovative” writing world. I dig that. And now he’s got Jenny, who’s so excited by the performativity of work, it’s hard to think of a better place for this book. Also, Jay took on my chap “Quantum Chaos and Poems: A Manifest(o)ation” a few years back. It’s this enacted creatical proem on poems. Who else was going to put that out? I ask you.