Anthony Madrid – First Book Interview
How did you come up with the title for your first full-length book I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say?
The title of the book was something I said to a friend in an e-mail. I forget why. But I liked it so much I started re-gifting it, left and right, to all kinds of people. Then it wound up in that poem, page 28. Then I saw it was a key theme of the book.
How long did it take you to create your manuscript?
10 years, more or less.
So where were you when you started writing it? And where were you when you finished it?
It was started in a coffeehouse on 57th street, in Hyde Park, Chicago, 20 January 2001. The finishing touches were installed right here at the table I’m sitting at now, Logan Square, Chicago, January 2012. (The title was one of the very last finishing touches.)
How long did it take for your book to get picked up once you started sending it out?
Ah. Three years. Two and some change.
B O D Y Literature referred to the voice in your poems as over-the-top. If you had to categorize the voice in your poems, what would you call it?
It is a form that completely/completely/completely answers my requirements. My first exposure to ghazals was a love-at-first-sight type of experience. Lots of people have this with sonnets; I had it with ghazals. Put it a different way—ghazals play to what I think are my strengths.
Do you think you will continue writing with ghazals or will your next book utilize a different form?
Both. The next book will have no ghazals, but I shall continue writing them, probably all the rest of my life. I have a plan actually. I want my second book of ghazals to come out, like, forty years from now. It will have all the ghazals I wrote in the meantime. Then people can see if I got any better over the years.
That’s genius! What are some things that you did to market your first book?
Ummm, pretty much nothing. I gave readings. Lots and lots and lots of readings.
Did Canarium help with the marketing and readings or did you set everything up yourself?
Mostly me, I think. But they set things up too. The Ann Arbor reading was all them. The AWP stuff. Oh! They also entered me into contests. But for some reason they won’t tell me anything about that.
You mean, they may have entered you into contests, or they did, but won’t tell you which ones? So are you telling us that the world of publishing really is as foreign and mysterious as we previously imagined?
They tend to tell me after the fact. That is, after I’ve lost. I don’t know about foreign and mysterious. Canarium is a small, independent press. The people who run it are all crack-brain geniuses. There’s all this weird shadowy stuff attending every little movement.
So did your life change at all due to your first book coming out?
Yes. Except not really. It was mainly in my head.
What do you mean by that?
The fantasy of Being Somebody came into sharper focus.
So, in a way, publishing your first book validated you as a writer. Is that what you mean?
No, no. I already thought I was valid. Here, I’ll put it this way—For twenty years I had these images in my head of putting a book into the world, and it serving as some kind of message in a bottle. Somebody would see the book and come rescue me in a ship. I wanted to go to a literary function in a different city and have somebody come up to me and say they had read me. I wanted people to friend my ass on Facebook. I wanted to be flirted with.
And has all that stuff happened?
Yes. But there’s the psychological component—It doesn’t take much, see. It happens just a little dab, and your imagination takes it from there. One person runs up to you and treats you like the Beatles and suddenly you think you’re the Beatles.
Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Get outta here!
How about the last poem you wrote? Can you tell us a little bit about what you are currently working on?
That I can do. Right now I’m all obsessed with these medieval Welsh nature poems. Sounds awful, right? Except they’re not. There’s like nine or ten of them in this old, old manuscript. It would take too long to describe them. They’re full of cold wisdom blobs amid a buncha natural description. It’s like:
I want to write shit like that. I *am* writing shit like that.