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A Mini-Q&A with Kate Greene

DOCK CONTRIBUTOR KATE GREENE EXPLAINS complicity in an age of mass-media

KJB: In Pierogies from the Old Country, the speaker seems to torn by their complicity in the creation of disaster. Yet, the exit from the poem pushes the idea that our voyeuristic tendencies can both highlight a problem while making it seem distant/other. Do you find this happening more and more in an age of what some pundits term “slack-tivisim”? 

KG: Something I've been feeling lately is that so many actions and consequences seem decoupled, almost to the point of absurdity. There's no tracing backwards; the pathways are too complex. This sentiment, which I don't think I'm alone in feeling, leads to the a kind of abstraction, and in particular, the abstraction of accountability. This, in turn, gives rise of stories we tell ourselves about how we got to wherever we are: rich, poor, healthy, sick, smart, dumb, etc. We'd like to think we have more control than we do--railing against "systems" just seems so futile--then along comes the omnipresent camera, culture at large, the watchers, or whatever. It seems like this should be helping with  accountability, but the picture is flat. It's limited yet we give it so much power. 

read "pierogies from the old country"

A Mini-Q&A with Muriel Nelson

DOCK Contributor Muriel Nelson shares the secret behind the delicious final stanza in her poem, "On Silent Haunches" 

KJB:   The line from Psalm 19:2  seems to be a perfect companion for the way in which you respond/pay homage to Sandburg’s, “Fog”. Did you find any of the rest of the Psalm informing the poem, or did the line just spring out to you organically?

MN:   If this poem hangs together on anything other than i sounds, it’s the wish to write with light (natural light, not neon or other man-made lighting). I recently discovered that for me, silence heightens the effects of what I see, so Carl Sandburg’s fog came on little cat feet, along with the peaceful diapered cloud bottoms, shushed wind, and silenced radio. No, I don’t have psalms memorized ready to spring out as needed, but I had been working with Psalm 19 for another poem. Unlike psalms full of cries, shouts, storms, and loud musical instruments, this psalm is quiet after day utters. Most important, it has that amazing turn in verse 4, in which God sets a tabernacle for the sun in the words of day and knowledge of night.

Read "On Silent Haunches" 

Interview & Original Film by Our Newest Dock Contributor: Dinika Amaral

This interview was conducted by our wonderful intern Rebecca Wood. Make sure watch Dinika's video that accompanies her newest piece, "Symphony of Breakfast Things", fresh on The Dock

RW: The story focuses on food and household items rather than people, is there a specific value you are trying to place on objects in household routines, maybe more so than the actual people?

DA: I was trying to prioritize objects over people, but couldn’t manage it. After the idea for SoBT was born I stuck with revising it for a couple years because I wanted to write a story without people that was still interesting for the reader.

RW: Do these objects have “personalities” in our own lives, reasons we are so attracted to them?

DA: It’s impossible to write about objects without personification. Or animals, for that matter. So I ended up writing about people anyhow. But there was some innovation because I was slightly removed. I was writing about people slightly from the outside. In a way it is the ultimate narcissism because here objects and animals can live outside us, independently, but only have consciousness, from our perspective, through us. This reality has interesting implications for language because we can never know theirs. If they did have a language though . . . What if your carrot objected to being eaten? I think whether or not you still ate it would be a fascinating way to explore your character. But what would be more compelling is how the carrot would object.

RW:You also mention diets and other modern fads when describing peoples’ approach to breakfast. How does modern culture clash or work with the traditions of a household meal?

DA: To me, company is the main ingredient of a traditional household meal. Given this, dinner is the better candidate. In the morning, it’s usually go go go. This makes me sad though, because I really love breakfast.

When I was single and living in New York City, I’d get lonely and go to diners all the time and eat breakfast at the counter with people. Diners are a great place to meet characters. They’re quieter than bars and there’s no pressure to drink, which works for me since I can’t hold my liquor. I’ve since relocated to Dublin, California where -- as I finish up my story collection and novel -- I live with my parents, and am no longer single, and we all eat breakfast together all the time. It’s lovely. (Of course I now miss the Waverly Diner on 6th Ave.)

With regard to dieting fads, in this story I kept trying to rail against the human dominance over objects’ consciousness. Atkins examined from a toast’s point of view was what came out of this struggle. But the fear of the toast can be universally felt. How afraid would you get if your purpose of being was eroded by a fad? 

RW:Have modern ideals subverted older traditions, and is this for better or worse?

DA: When you say “modern” the first thing that comes to mind is technology. I use fiction to teach writing to business students, and you should see how hi-tech their classrooms are. If I high-five myself because of a “Yay!” moment in a Saunders story, it affects the lights. If I touch the podium in the wrong place, the blinds descend, screens drop from the ceiling.

RW:The story features a balance between two different tones; the scientific approach to the consciousness of the breakfast things with the more personable, sometimes humorous, voices each of the things. How does this use of tone affect the story?

DA: Humor is the ultimate lubricant, beard, distraction. I tried to juxtapose humor with the shared world of consciousness I’ve imagined for objects. The humor, the music, allows me to take risks. It also provides relief from the boring act of reading about breakfast things on a table. And from the dastardly dull task of exploring the consciousness of breakfast things on a table. And from the dastardly boring task of being breakfast on a table.


This months featured poet is Meghan E. Giles, a comrade in arms from The McNeese Review. Make sure you go check it out over on The Dock, then feel free to keep browsing (or maybe even buy a subscription...!)

Enjoy the interview with the poet below:

Q: This poem complicates the issue of domestic violence in a way we’d never seen before. When I first read this poem, the ease with which the speaker ‘receives’ such a violent moment with such a soft-spoken voice was heartbreakingly beautiful. With that in mind, what was it you hoped to accomplish by conflating the domestic, horrible experience with pastoral, natural beauty of native wildflowers?

A: I wasn't intending to conflate this experience, but rather to explore a situation that has happened to me that this poem is closely based off of. I was hoping to explore the complication of being in a relationship with someone you deeply care about although he/she is violent and the relationship is dangerous. Although there is a natural beauty to wildflowers, plants are aggressive beneath the surface, and what we see above ground is a result of that violence.