Elisabeth is a third-year poet in our MFA program who has authored several chapbooks and is soon to make a splash with her first upcoming full-length book of poems, ULTRAMEGAPRAIRIELAND (Bloof Books, 2014).
While a year away, it's never too early to start the hype. Here we take a sneak peek at what to expect from her work and get some insight into the publication process.
Nicky Tiso: First off, congratulations on the book deal. How does it feel?
Elisabeth Workman: Ecstatic relief. (I've been holding it for so long and now can finally let it go.) And the ecstacy is that it's been embraced/accepted by my first choice (or hope, rather, as if the choice was mine!) for a home for the manuscript--the superlative Bloof Books.
N: I see you've published a chapbook Megaprairieland. Is Ultramegaprairieland conceived of as a sequel? What can we expect from it?
E: It's an expansion of it, an ultra-izing of the mega-ness, with more spectacle and parades and rabid revisionist histories.
N: Did you submit any other places or what advice have you for people looking to get published?
E: Thanks to grant funding, I was able to submit to more than several book contests, which made me feel slightly dubious. The manuscript was short-listed with several presses, which was reassuring, I suppose, but I would encourage people to pursue the presses that are feeding their hunger. What are the books that land their tentacles all over and through you and won't let go? Which books make you a crazy writing zombie? Who publishes them? For me, that was Bloof.
N: Did the previous grants/fellowships you've received help enable you to write this book?
E: YES. Funding from the Jerome Foundation allowed me to pursue a mentorship with Sharon Mesmer and travel to NYC to meet her and do a reading at Zinc Bar with the women of Flarf; support from the Minnesota State Arts Board afforded me the means to isolate and hide out in a cabin for two weeks when I was thirty weeks pregnant and finish poems for the manuscript; and the McKnight Fellowship meant I could finalize the manuscript, send it out, work on new projects, and not have to return to work full-time after I had my baby.
N: Were your chapbooks self-published or did you have a publisher for them?
E: Grey Book Press published MEGAPRAIRIELAND; it was selected through their first open reading period/chapbook "contest," judged by Sandra Simonds and GBP editor Scott Sweeney. My other three chapbooks were published through the Dusie Kollektiv at the invitation of Susana Gardner, which proved to be, not only an exciting alternative to rote publishing patriarchies, but more--an exciting and generative international poetry community.
N: Does Bloof have any relation to Flarf?
E: They both end in F, and are full of wild-eyed pirate poets.
N: Can you describe your writing in three words?
E: No, I can't. Okay, I'll try. MUTANT APORIA VEIL? STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKEHOLE BULIMIA? IGGYPOP MARZIPAN PUDENDA? (that one's for Maria Damon)
N: Can I describe your writing as "hot gore"?
E: As long as you don't capitalize the G.
N: Books that have really influenced your writing?
E: There are so many. For this project, in particular:
Disobedience, by Alice Notley
The Golden Age of Paraphernalia, Kevin Davies
Warsaw Bikini, Sandra Simonds
Deed, Rod Smith
The Romance of Happy Workers, Anne Boyer
I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (Or, Social Romanticism), Bruce Andrews
the work, in general, of Sharon Mesmer and Nada Gordon and Elizabeth Bachinsky and K. Silem Mohammad and Christian Bök
and lodged willy-nilly in my psyche, Titus Andronicus; Helen Adam; Keats; the Wife of Bath (she was gap-toothed, too); Tristan Tzara; and not least Lewis Carroll
N: Shout outs?
E: SHANNA COMPTON, Bloof Boss and beautiful poet
SHARON MESMER, mentor, sister, birthday twin, atomic bitch poet
SANDRA SIMONDS & SCOTT SWEENEY, fierce poets, editors, supporters
EL CONEJO & LIL' B
& ALL THE AMAZING CONSPIRATORS & FRIENDS I'VE MET HERE
Maybe Malibu, Maybe Beowulf
Then, there was toil,
as toiled the slaves of Rome
in flowy frocks and torpedo tubes
abnormally polite to the love hostage
who realized quite unexpectedly
the "U" in U-boat
is for "venereal."
According to ancient science
after every explosive climax comes
"What then?" Then, entire families,
sitting in the middle of craters
chomping down corndogs. Then,
a little bit of syphilis.
Then, Comic Sans.
Year after year the toil
and the coitus. This would be
the real story told to earth people
in a voice more trusted
than the situation warranted.
What then? Maybe Malibu.
Then, when the hills break out
ablaze, people will reach for their
joy sticks and try to transubstantiate
into the infernal wisdom of electricity
using Western techniques and trends.
Hi-fi clap-on, clap-off firelight,
then another high noon
in which staring at the same dot
transfixed for hours could
in hot gore.
Elisabeth's chapbooks include a city_a cloud; Opolis; Megaprairieland; and Maybe Malibu, Maybe Beowulf. Ultramegaprairieland will be her first collection and is forthcoming from Bloof Books in 2014. In 2010, Elisabeth received the McKnight Fellowship for Writers/Loft Award for Poetry, selected by Marilyn Nelson. In 2009, she was a recipient of the SASE/Jerome Award from Intermedia Arts. Her poems have appeared in Abraham Lincoln, Dusie, Boo Journal, Diode, Alice Blue, and lots of other places. She lives in Minneapolis, MN, with the designer Erik Brandt and their daughter Beatrix. For more information, please visit Geotypografika.com.