DD: Walter Benjamin tells us that all great literature either dissolves a genre or invents one. Your own poetry, Carrie, and much of the poetry in the Black Ocean catalogue, either dissolves a genre or occurs in the interstices of genre. What draws you to these spaces? What is the value of being aesthetically in-between (prose and poetry, high and low, clinical and colloquial, et cetera)?
COA: I often think I’m a poet by accident, rather than by intention. I’m someone who always wants to be someone else, or at least is very curious about the idea of being someone else. Why not a filmmaker? A diplomat? Spy? Why not be all those things at once? Life’s a lot more compelling when it’s unlimited. And so is poetry, literature, art. The space in between is where all the energy is. The freedom. The play. The frisson. The experimentation. It’s where everything can rub up against each other. Choosing one path or another, immediately negates. But when you start out thinking about a poem, without thinking about how poet or poem should think, it opens the world. No form is off limits. No language is off limits. And then the poem can truly represent life and the life of the mind. It can be a living, organic thing. Isn’t that the most value of all?
DD: Black Ocean Press celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Congratulations on a successful first decade! In the past ten years, you have published 36 poetry collections, including one anthology. Although the authors that you publish cross continents and range from Julie Doxsee to Michael Zapruder, your catalogue presents a remarkably unified poetic vision. What makes a Black Ocean book?
COA: We definitely take pride in the idea that you immediately know a Black Ocean book when you see it. There’s a design sense and style you can’t help but recognize. And I feel the same way about the poems inside those awesome packages. When I’m reading submissions, I know I’ve found a book that will be a Black Ocean book when it changes how I think or how I see the world. It suddenly offers me a vision of something overlooked or something I never knew had a name. The poems give words to sensations or ideas that I’ve always wanted to describe or never realized needed describing. It fondles an itch in the mind. It wakes me up. It has to feel essential and purposeful. Not in a manipulative way, but in that the poems have a reason and now you can’t imagine a world in which you did not have that phrase.
DD: You met Black Ocean’s founder, Janaka Stucky, in a workshop as part of the M.F.A. Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Can you tell us about him and explain how the press came into being?