Thursday, March 19, 2009

NOÖ Loves Everyone #5: Bryan Coffelt

Bryan Coffelt is a mystery to me. This interview made him a little less mysterious, but not too much less mysterious. I know that Bryan Coffelt has had work appear in NOÖ, among other places, though that was before my time. Bryan Coffelt is part of a contingent of people from/in the Northwest making written word art; this is exciting to me because of manifest destiny. I associate Bryan Coffelt with Alex Burford, and sometimes I confuse them to be the other. Bryan Coffelt runs a blog called Lunchtime For Bears, and he also coedits Rain Fade, an online literary journal.

1) Can you talk about your history with poetry? How did you get started?

I guess I really started writing poetry about 5 years ago. I got lucky and ended up living in Ashland, OR with a shit load of other really good poets/friends. Some of these include: Mike Young, Alex Burford, K. Silem Mohammad, Willie Ziebell and Jess Rowan. There are a shit load more, too. Being around these gifted people and sharing theories and poetics has had a huge impact on my poetry and perception of language in general.

2) Your poem "But What Happened to We the Astronauts?" in NOÖ [one] struck me with its odd pairings of things: "clean socks, dirty pockets" and "pepper and iron filings" are two that stand out when I read it. Both of these twist something from the first of the pair: the 'ah' sound in socks gets another syllable, and the rather standard combination of salt and pepper is given a new flavor; both are effects that I really enjoyed. Can you talk a little bit about how some of those pairings came about?

Yeah, that was the first poem I ever published anywhere. I remember being really depressed or something and driving home from work one day feeling like I was looking out the visor of an astronaut's helmet, even though I didn't have an astronaut's helmet on. It was kind of scary. I was like 19 and experimenting with what I thought were "surreal images." I didn't have an inkling of a poetics at that point in my life (and now, maybe I have an "inkling"). As far as the pairings go, I guess they were just kind of a result of trying to pair things in a "surreal" way to create some kind of weird dissonance.

3) Recommend for us some recent faves: poems, books, literary magazines, poets, etc.

I'm pretty fond of all the people who come to our ad hoc poetry readings in Ashland. Willie Ziebell, Jess Rowan, Tara Crist, Lacey Hunter, Jennifer Garcia, Alex Burford, K. Silem Mohammad -- all great poets and friends. Alex and Jess have a new issue of Barnaby Jones that I'm dying to get my hands on. The cover is a dolphin with the head of a bear.

4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.

I'm currently co-editing an online journal of fiction, poetry, and visual art called Rain Fade with my friend and roommate Willie Ziebell. It's still in its infancy, though we've had a pretty good response so far. Anyone interested should send us good writing.

I've been writing pretty frequently but not submitting. I don't really know why.

5) Where do you see your writing in five years? It's okay if you don't think like this. Be as fantastical as you'd like.

Ideally I'd like to have a book published. Maybe a novella or book of poetry. I'd love to be approached by a small press to publish some stuff. I guess I need to submit more things in order to get famous enough for that to happen. Or "network" more. Whatever.

6) Mike Young taught twelve year olds last summer. How would you explain poetry to someone half that age, a six year old?

I would tell them to make a list of all the different ways they could say giraffe without saying giraffe and play homophonic word games with them -- I think that would be a great way to get a 6 year old excited about language. I think stuff like that really helps young people develop an "ear" for language.

7) What are your interests beyond poetry?

I love pretentious films and I'm a music snob. I also can't stop reading gadget/tech blogs. Programming languages fascinate me, though I'll probably never devote any real time to them. I also like making lots of feedback come out of my guitar amp. And lately, playing drums.

8) Word association game with words from the textbook that I'm currently using in my freshman composition class, Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings by Ramage, Bean, and Johnson. Say whatever comes to mind:

Rudimentary = Condom
Issued = Meal
Promise = Keepsies
Subscription = Bathtub
Lightbulb = Carry on
Core = Motor

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