Veronica Golos – “Next Big Thing” Interview
Well, this manuscript will be my third book of poetry. My first book, A Bell Buried Deep (Story Line Press) was co-winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, and is set to be re-issued by Tupelo Press. Those poems explore, through persona, the Biblical Sarah and Hagar, continued into slavery in the US, and ending in the mythic present. My intent was to examine how these two women could come to love each other; exploring class, power, race, womanhood, and more.
My second, Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011) was the winner of the New Mexico Book Award. This book is written from the point of view of a witness-from-afar to the continued U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the poems have now been translated into Arabic by the poet and translator Nizar Sartawi, and appear in over 24 journals and newspapers throughout the Arab world.
My new manuscript is tentatively titled, Root.Work. (Or, the Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown). The majority of the poems so far are epistolary poems in the voices of John Brown and Mary Day Brown, his wife. Other poems include those of Runaways, and what I call Ghost Code poems. There will be a second section, titled The Finder.
TNBT: Where did the idea come from for the book?
The first poem of Root.Work.,The Lost Letter of John Brown to Mary Day Brown, 1857, came about because last September, just before the elections, poet Patricia Spears Jones asked 30 poets to pick a day in September, and write a poem relating to that date. In my research I came across an actual letter by John Brown on my date, Sept. 16. The letter was referring to the upcoming 1857 vote in Kansas to determine whether the state would be a “free” state or a slave state. I had the original letter, and then wrote a kind of love letter from Brown to his wife, Mary Day Brown. It is published in the most recent issue of the Taos Journal of Poetry & Art(www.Taosjournalofpoetry.com), as well as in the blog of the Black Earth Institute, and in the Split This Rock as a finalist in their poetry contest.
TNBT: What genre does your book fall under?
TNBT: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a move rendition?
I have no idea.
TNBT: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Lost Writings of abolitionists John Brown and Mary Day Brown.
TNBT: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m still working on this new book. I started in September (see above) and hope to finish by July. However, I do a ton of research for everything I write. For A Bell Buried Deep, I did a year’s worth of study on Genesis, and another year on slavery in the U.S. For Vocabulary of Silence, I read Arab poets in translation, books by Arab women on the Veil, and a host of history, including all of Edward Said’s work. ForRoot.Work. I am reading a slew of books on John Brown and the period in which they lived – pre Civil War, as well as the Collected Works of Francis Harper, a free Black woman poet and writer and activist of the era, suggested to me by Dr. Howard Rambsy.
There is also much time spent on craft, on diction, on beauty. Above all, there must be poetry.
TNBT: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, the election this past November. I was wondering about what the vote really meant, what it could mean. And of course, Patricia Spears Jones’ incentive fit right in. I think that we are not nearly finished with the history of this country, especially as it relates to slavery and racism.
I was also inspired by Kevin Young’s Ardency, and his non fiction book, The Gray Album,Tyehimba Jess’s leadbelly, the writings of Evie Shockley, and all those poets who combine beautiful poetry with thoughtful social analysis, and a kind of passion. I love the “documentary” poets, the persona poets like Patricia Smith, and of course, all the poetry I read for my previous books.
TNBT: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I am trying to bring to life, fictionallly through poetry, one of this country’s major historical figures, John Brown, and, even more so, Mary Day Brown, about whom so little is written. How did they live as white people in a country that held millions of African people in bondage? Did their religion help or hinder them? How far did they go to end slavery? Why?
In addition, I want to also write poems in “the speaker’s” modern voice in the section, The Finder. What is it that I might find in myself having “discovered” these letters? What do I see today that is a continuation, or elaboration of the past? As Faulkner famously said, “The past is not dead, its not even past.” In some ways this book will be an excavation through time and back again. There are so many questions: questions of racism, of armed struggle, of what freedom is, of the way this country sees itself. And of course, the question of what poetry can do.
TNBT: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have a secret wish for a certain publisher to publish Root.Work.
It is with great pleasure and admiration that I introduce the following tagged poets:
Have yet to hear from: