18 12 / 2012

The Next Big Thing – Dec. 19th

Sophie Mayer tagged me in this ongoing project, The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Someone tags you and then you tag five more writers with the same questions. Here’s a link to Sophie’s kick-ass contribution.

My next big thing is a wee chapbook called Naturally Speaking.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain and makes it difficult for me to type or write. One way I reduce my pain is to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-activated software. Dragon studies your voice, your vocabulary and your writing style. It scans your emails and documents, and creates a virtual you. I came up with the idea because of the mistakes Dragon was making, and because I was interested in its preprogrammed (often right-wing and corporate) dictionary.

For my chapbook, Naturally Speaking, I dictated some poems I had written, and composed new poems at the microphone. When the software made mistakes, I did not always correct them. Instead I let Dragon have its say as my writing partner.

For some poems, I went a step further: I cried or laughed into the microphone, or I read poems in Spanish or French. The excitement and experiment of this was to see what Dragon would type based on who it thinks I am, with the added element of its strange dictionary. Many of my usual poetic concerns around language, race, class, sexuality, ability and gender came through, but in often funny and sometimes striking ways.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry (plus a short essay). Also the genre of ‘collaboration with artificial intelligence’.

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

Poetry rarely gets made into movies, but if a miracle should occur – the ‘character’ of the poet and the ‘character’ of Frida Kahlo should both be played by robots. Sexy, geeky, transfeminist robots.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

In Naturally Speaking, Sandra Alland composes at the bizarre intersection of disability poetics, computer software, queer feminism and translation – creating poems that mostly do what poems usually do.

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

A couple of years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It kinda just happened over time, like a lucky accident. I didn’t know it was a book until Rebecca Comay from espresso asked me for a manuscript and I realised it was done.

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

In the case of dictating in Spanish or French, I sometimes dictated poems by other writers. The idea there was to see if a residue of the original could remain, if poetry could emerge despite or beyond language. In most cases, this did not happen (though in a few cases it did!). But this mostly failed part of the experiment resulted in some of my favourite lines. For example, Nicanor Parra’s title “Esto tiene que ser un cementerio” (“This Must Be a Cemetery”) became “Instability in a Gay Theatre and Feminine Debut”.

Also, I used some of Frida Kahlo’s diary, and I feel an echo of her comes through pretty strongly.

Oh – and it’s a limited-edition, numbered, hand-bound gorgeous hunk of a chapbook. With French flaps. Uh-huh.

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

Neither. It’s published by a small press called espresso, out of Toronto. Small presses are the best thing ever. Buy their stuff. More info or order: http://www.paperplates.org/naturally_speaking.html


Next up on Dec. 26:

Melannie Gayle

Trish Salah

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Jacq Applebee

Sarah Pinder