10 Questions for Chad Parmenter
- By Catherine Fox
Photo by Stacie Pottinger of Rogue Studios
There are so many ways
of burning things, but
not many of containing
the flames they become
that last. —From “When I Discovered Sacrifice by Fire,” Volume 60, issue 3 (Fall 2019)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
"Detour, Missouri" was really a goodbye to a place rather than to a particular person, and that focus made the drafting process an exploration of some of the towns around St. Louis where I'd briefly been. And it went through maybe a few dozen drafts as a meditation on place, then one day, I was sitting with it, and it shifted into metanarrative, about how experience can become a poem.
What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
In Southern Illinois University-Carbondale's MFA program, I was helped by the poets who taught me to let the music of a poem's form translate what the Muse, or subconscious, or whatever it is, has to say. So, Rodney Jones, Allison Joseph, Judy Jordan, and dear Jon Tribble who just left us¾they all had a fundamental impact.
What other professions have you worked in?
Other than teaching, I briefly worked at a couple of nonprofits—a homeless shelter and a treatment center—and a (supposedly haunted) bookstore.
What did you want to be when you were young?
What inspired you to write this piece?
It's fiction drawn from an actual site, so maybe an ekphrastic poem if the work of art is the barrel transformed by fire after fire. It was a way of disposing of things on the farm, and the Homeric valence (the town being Troy, in my opinion, and the sacrifice to the moody deity) maybe came quite a bit from Pope's "Iliad" being on my PhD comps list.
Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
Maybe a kind of place—the ecotone, where different environments merge. That kind of geographic focus has helped lead to explorations of how genres can be mixed, how historical and fictional narratives can be woven together, and how being meets becoming.
Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
Maybe different kinds of silence¾working in public places, working in a campus office, or working in an apartment all mean different background sounds that fade out as the writing fades in.
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
Selective reading¾sometimes logically related to what I'm working on, like reading Edward Weston's daybooks when I was working on the Weston poems, and lots of comics for the Batmanuscript (the book based on the Batman poetry project). Other times not¾how Larry Levis connects with "Vivienne's Recovery" I don't know, but it/he did, enough that I stole a line of his for the project.
If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Maybe photography¾it's often been a delight for me to try over the last few years, and Deanna Dikeman helped me start looking at other photographers' work for ways of seeing, ways of doing it.
What are you working on currently?
Well, I have drafts of seven full-length plays that I've started submitting, "Batmanticism: Poems" and "Vivienne's Recovery" that I've been continuing to submit, new Weston poems that could combine with "Weston's Unsent Letters to Modotti" to make a complete book, and the Ashbery erasure project that's coming out in/on Diagram soon, I believe. And about a decade ago, unplanned, this ten thousand-plus line heroic couplet epic, tentatively titled "Rose Wilder" (to point back to Rose Wilder Lane) started to come out. And lately I've been rereading it, out loud, not yet with a revising eye but to try to see what it has to say to me, and to go from there.
CHAD PARMENTER'S poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, and Harvard Review, and are forthcoming in Plume and the Birmingham Poetry Review. One of his chapbooks, Weston’s Unsent Letters to Modotti, was published by Tupelo after winning their Snowbound Chapbook Award. The other, Bat & Man: A Sonnet Comic Book, was published by Finishing Line.