The Next Big Thing Interview: Malachi Black

February 27, 2013

In the last week, I’ve been very happy to be “tagged” in a rolling self-interview series called “The Next Big Thing” by two unrelated but equally estimable poets:  Kent Shaw and Luke Hankins.  As a recent 32 Poems contributor, it’s my pleasure both to participate in the series here and to “tag” four other 32 Poems poets for next week.


1. What is the working title of the book?

Storm Toward Morning.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’m still fiddling with the contents, but the poems in the present iteration of the manuscript were written (and rewritten) over the span of approximately eight years.  Thus I feel somewhat uneasy in assigning one central idea to the book, although I’ll say that the poems (if those may be considered “ideas”) emerged from the same fundamental sense of precarious strangeness.  Each of the poems in its own way contends with the burden of being, or, more precisely, of being in possession of faculties whose reflex is to make sense of themselves and their surroundings—surely that is one definition of consciousness—on the only planet known to sponsor any form of sentience.  And in a vast, expanding universe, I might add, that seems essentially unconcerned with us.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry (lyric).

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Yikes, I don’t know.  Paul Dano?  And certainly my dear friend John Boyd, to whom I send a continuous stream of hearty, heartfelt congratulations for his role in the Oscar-winning Argo.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

There is nothing more truly peculiar, confusing, and surprising than being entirely alive.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m still working on it!  But the very first draft took me roughly six years.

7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Eek!  In typical verbose fashion, I seem to have answered this already.

8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

That several of the poems first appeared in 32 Poems!  Also, that much of the work is invested in making “old” forms “new.”

9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Copper Canyon Press next year (2014).

10. My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:

In alphabetical order:

Rebecca Gayle Howell
Rebecca Lindenberg
Jessica Piazza
Caki Wilkinson

Malachi Black is the author of Storm Toward Morning, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press, and two limited edition chapbooks:  Quarantine (Argos Books, 2012) and Echolocation (Float Press, 2010).  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Boston Review, Narrative, The Iowa Review, Harvard Review, and Verse Daily, among other journals, and in several recent and forthcoming anthologies, including The Yale Anthology of the Devotional Lyric, Poems of Devotion:  An Anthology of Recent Poets, and Discoveries:  New Writing from The Iowa Review.  The recipient of a 2009 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Black has also received recent fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers, where he earned his MFA.  A current Vice Presidential Fellow at the University of Utah, he was the subject of an Emerging Poet profile by Mark Jarman in the Fall 2011 issue of the Academy of American Poets’ American Poet magazine.

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