Goro Takano reading from his BlazeVOX book, Responsibilities of the Obsessed. Also, do check out Goro's novel, With One More Step. This is part of the BlazeVOX BXtraordinary series, Wednesday's Poem. If you would like to see more poetry videos, check out our YouTube Channel or browse our Spring issue of BlazeVOX13.
Here is a BXtraordinary special: Clayton Eschleman discussing his book The Jointure!
Wade Stevenson reading from his BlazeVOX book, A Testament To Love & Other Losses. This is part of the BlazeVOX BXtraordinary series, Wednesday's Poem. If you would like to see more poetry videos, check out our YouTube Channel or browse our Spring issue of BlazeVOX13.
Travis Cebula resides with his wife and trusty dog in Colorado, where he founded Shadow Mountain Press in 2009. His poems, photographs, essays, and stories have appeared internationally in various print and on-line journals.
He has authored six chapbooks of poetry, including Blossoms from Nothing, available in 2014 from E·Ratio Editions, as well as three full-length collections. The most recent of which, One Year in a Paper Cinema, has just been released from BlazeVOX Books.
In 2011, Western Michigan University and Charles University in Prague awarded him the Pavel Srut Fellowship for Poetry. In addition to his other teaching, writing, publishing, and editing duties, he is a member of the creative writing faculty at the Left Bank Writer’s Retreat in Paris, France.
Derek Alger: You’re a true son of Colorado.
Travis Cebula: I was born and raised in Golden, Colorado. A few years ago my wife and I even moved back into the same house that I grew up in — I’m about as close to home as a person can get now. I drive past my old schools every day. My wife works as a physician in the hospital where we were both born. Sometimes, life has a way of circling back around on itself. It’s been rewarding to be back, both creatively and personally. I love it here, the mountains and the broad sky, and I think that building some history with a place allows a writer (or any artist) to develop a sense of scale and time that’s different from what one might create if one is in motion constantly. I know every stick on this property. I broke a lot of them loose myself. I know where there’s an old head of a rake rotting in the weeds. I remember when the trees were planted, and watched them grow grand and tall. There’s a pear tree outside the window right now, slowly dying. It’s been there as long as I can remember. The willows that I used to climb in as a kid are now all dead and gone, casualties of a local ditch company maintaining its right-of-way. I’m not sure I like the feeling of outliving trees.
This landscape is always changing — all of them do—but at a pace slow enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell if you weren’t there watching it for years on end. That level of observation requires some stillness. If you watch, I mean really pay attention, while the seasons roll past, I think you develop a sense for the moments that matter, those moments when courses shift a little, and you can train yourself to apply that skill, that judgment, that critical thinking in any environment. You can learn to pick out the important swerves much more quickly. I find this to be particularly important when traveling and visiting new places. In those instances it’s hard to piece together time for long observation.
I’ve been lucky a lot in life. I’ve gotten to see a fair amount of the world. I’ve known love.
DA: One should never underestimate luck.
TC: I’ve heard people say it’s better to be lucky than good (at least in the context of achievement). My parents worked from home, so I got plenty of attention and informal education when I was little. They both worked really hard to explain natural phenomena and share what they knew of the world with me, in detail — plants, creatures, light, life, art, interactions, etc. My mother is an artist and my father was trained as a wildlife biologist, so you can imagine the range of topics we covered. All of our little conversations reinforced the attentiveness that I mentioned before. Dad would crouch down, rummage through some pine needles, and find a little bug — then explain how it fit in the world around it. What did it eat? What ate it? Why does that matter? It’s good to build a little perspective. And their particular line of work didn’t hurt in that regard, either.
DA: What sort of work did they do?
TC: Not too long before I was born they started to take over the family business from my maternal grandparents who were preparing to retire. To shorten a long and interesting story a bit (one that’s probably going to come out in written form eventually) they converted the garage and basement of our house so they could manufacture glass eyes for taxidermy. The bottom floor of the home was, therefore, completely filled with thousands upon thousands of glass eyes for every animal imaginable, from lions to walruses to owls to fish. Before I was old enough to go to school I spent my days in the workshop with them, either painting, coloring, playing, or building things at a little workbench I inherited from our neighbors when their children got too big to enjoy it. Imagine the ball pit at a Chuck E. Cheese filled with eyes. I immersed myself in those eyes. I continued to do so during summers and holidays as I grew up.
One result of this constant exposure — which, I should be clear, was happening since I was an infant — was that the environment was totally mundane to me. I had no idea how weird it was. It was only when I brought friends over to the house that I was reminded that the situation was a tad odd. I imagine the moment of encountering that tableau of false eyes staring and glistening probably was more profound (and in some cases frightening) for them than it ever was for me. Their facial expressions were unequivocal on that score. I was blasé.
On the other hand, having a mindset wherein a roomful of dead eyes is normal, in no way noteworthy, sets one up for a completely different standard for approaching the strange. I feel like I engage oddities with a more neutral and evaluative stance than I would have otherwise. It’s kind of like meeting an old friend. That’s useful. And, from a content standpoint, I also can’t deny that eyes and sight, with all their attendant perils and potential for error, work their way into my poetry now. It tends to be pretty visual, on the whole.
READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE
Matt Hart reading at the Silo City Poetry Reading Series July 14th 2013.