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An Interview With Shya Scanlon by Timmy Waldron | Word Riot

March 15, 2010      

An Interview With Shya Scanlon by Timmy Waldron

Timmy: Hi Shya, Do you feel like talking some about In this alone impulse,?

Shya: I certainly do!

Timmy: The writing is very lively throughout the book. Is this because you wrote standing up?

Shya: It has everything to do with standing up. I was not only standing up while composing those poems, I was rocking back and forth and listening alternately to loud music and the traffic noises of cars pouring off of and onto the Williamsburg Bridge. I was in constant movement, my blood was flowing, I was high on adrenaline and fear.

Timmy: Was this book always such a manic process? The verbal gymnastics and unusual syntax seems to lend themselves to a bit more focus.

Shya: The book was by turns manic and painfully slow. Some poems came out all wrapped up. Others sat around for days wearing just a few words. Then they were adjusted along the way, over the course of a few years. Massively weeded out. I began with 100 of them.

Timmy: What kind of things are you doing to sell the book and bring attention to its existence?

Shya: Well, I’m hoping to do a number of interviews like this, and pushing for reviews, etc. But I’m also video-recording the poems and posting them to YouTube here:

I’m hoping by appealing to different ways in which people like to consume poetry, I’ll reach some folks who might not have been able to favorably “hear” the work in their heads. As you said–no, it was someone else, sorry–as someone not you recently said, my delivery may in some cases “open up” the work in new ways.

And as an extension of that, I’m trying to have friends and fellow writers record their own versions of and post them, too. This way, I can collect a real variety of voices–much, I think, like the work itself–and maybe also reach new readers. My girlfriend was the first to contribute. Author Paula Bomer was the second. And a few more are coming down the pipes. For anyone interested in adding one, I’ll send them a free PDF of the book.

Finally, I’m having a book launch party in NYC at KGB Bar on March 24th, where in between 15 and 20 writers will read from the book. All this is in keeping, as I said above, with the poems’ polyvocal spirit, but it’s also a nicely ironic juxtaposition to the title and interiority of the book.

Timmy: I saw the video where you were hanging in front of the camera. What are the pros and cons to reading a poem while you’re upside down?

Shya: Reading upside down brings more blood to your head. But you tend to lose your erection.

Timmy: Have you ever sent work to the Shya Scanlon 7-Line Story Contest held by Opium Magazine? Seems like a quick way for you to make a grand, no?

Shya: I’ve thought about entering under a pseudonym, but in the end have decided that whether I won or lost, I’d feel terrible. But it’s really great that Todd did that, and has kept the project going. I think it’s fair to say that more people know about the contest than about the work that inspired it. Hopefully my collection, now out in the world, will change that.

Timmy: After reading In this alone impulse, I couldn’t claim to understand everything I read, but even when I was lost there was still something interesting and compelling in the reading. Do you have expectations for your readers or care much about their experience with the book?

Shya: I can’t claim to understand half of what I like to read. At least not completely. But something in it, some life force, compels me to return. And hopefully I can reward anyone who feels so compelled about these poems with new meanings, new music each time they pick up the book. I very much care about my readers’ experience. What I really like about In This Alone Impulse is that it uses a variety of registers to reach out in different ways to readers. Different people are drawn to different poems, and different sections of the book, but it’s my hope that, whatever the entry point, the work will keep surprising the reader with “deep tracks.” I love my readers. And I want them to feel loved.

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