Monday, June 7, 2010

Interview on Bookslut

The lovely and inquisitive Elizabeth Hildreth interviewed me for Bookslut. We talked about The French Exit, of course, and "why [my] poems are like Zoe Saldana, how to give 'robots' extra weight in a poem, how good poetry is like good perfume, how writing a poem is like finding the area of a curve, why, in the case that you find your face crashing through a glass door, you may want to stick out your chin, and why you should not read Wikipedia if you want to have fun at slumber parties." Is she my ideal reader? I don't know. She's pretty close. Here's an excerpt:
What’s up with the cover of your book? I didn’t see the art attributed to anybody. I’m terrible at processing images, so for all the books I get, I ask my husband who’s a painter what’s happening with the cover art. He said it looks Victorian. Like a Victorian portrait pixelized by IBM in 1982. Did you choose the art? If so, why? And does it tie to the content and the title The French Exit in any way?

The cover was designed by Joshua Elliot, who is mega-talented. (He also designed the cover for my chapbook, Thanks for Sending the Engine.) When we were brainstorming about cover designs, we knew we didn't want it to be too literal. "The French exit" has a double (at least!) meaning. Slangwise, it means leaving (e.g., a party) without saying goodbye. In the context of the book, it also refers obliquely to French doors. Many of the poems reference an incident in which I passed out and stumbled unconscious into a French door, breaking one of the glass panes with my face. (I have a bitching scar on my chin to show for it.) It was something of a French exit in itself because it happened without warning and no one saw it (not even me, since I wasn't really there). So we didn't want the cover image to be French doors or something, which would be too punny and potentially limit the metaphorical applications of the phrase within the book.

Dan Boehl (one of the Birds) has a particular fondness for the line "serious face while gaming" from the last poem, and I have a particular fondness for the aesthetics of classic video games (Atari, NES). We were batting around the idea of using a screenshot from Pong for the cover (they naturally look like book covers, with the "net" in the center as the spine), since it would be kind of abstract on that scale and not totally obvious at first. (It took me a while to see the cover of The Anger Scale by Katie Degentesh for what it is, a scantron.) Josh ended up going in a different direction, but riffing on the 8-bit theme. He'd always wanted to do something with a clip art image like that. We love how the X in "EXIT" looks in the 8-bit font, and how it marks the spot on the woman's forehead.
Thanks to Liz and to Bookslut!


  1. That's a terrific interview, but she really needs to sit down and watch Center Stage. Or at least the last thirty minutes, which are pure balletic insanity.

    I like the cover of The French Exit because it reminds me of 80s nail salon art. You know, black-white-and-pink ladies with fangs of hair coming all down over their faces, wearin' sweatbands, lookin' so good.

  2. Thanks, Tricia! And you're so right about the nail salon angle. How did I not pick up on that?

  3. Congrats on the Bookslut interview.
    I especially appreciated your delicate approach to "robot." In fact, I am working on a manuscript that is barely anything except the word "robot." It's a tough word, you've got to embrace the humor and weirdness of it.