Joe Milazzo is a wonderful person to know. I don’t say that after the crass fashion of the parvenu, but as someone who is just made happy by knowing him and his incredibly diverse body of work. He is generous, warm, thoughtful, encyclopedic, inquisitive, and a startlingly diligent penpal—you will always be the one to drop the ball in an email exchange with Joe. His new volume of poetry, The Habiliments, was released by Apostrophe Books this summer.
John Trefry: It’s an overcast, unseasonably cool August Sunday morning in Kansas. I felt like this was as good a time as any to start this conversation since The Habiliments seems to open from the cracked egg of Sunday morning breakfast. Immediately after the title page, the next three bits of text are a dedication to (a Milazzo who I presume is) your late father, the opening phrase “THE DREAM IN WHICH YOU RETURN,” and the fragile cluster of Sunday breakfast images. I wasn’t prepared for the level of intimacy braided into this opening. Poetry might seem to be a distillation of sympathies, but my reflexive tendency is to see it more as an abstraction of material relationships. How do you view these very personal overtures and invitations in relation to the rather inescapable objective project of Modernism?
Joe Milazzo: I agree that poetry, no matter how badly it aspires to philosophy (or a systematic secular theology), can never completely unclutter itself. Language, if it is really language, has to be crowded with things. And by “things” I don’t mean phenomena. I mean thing-ly things possessed of mass, and texture, and corners that we can’t help but bump into even as we perceive that bumping into those corners might injure us. However, in the case of The Habiliments, I might actually invoke the objective project of Romanticism more so than that of Modernism, inasmuch as they are different projects. Or maybe what I mean to say is that the poems in this collection are devoted to a concept after the fashion of Modernism, but that they feel in a Romantic tradition? Yes, these poems are concerned with perception-qua-perception: with the hallucinatory clarities of grief; with seeing as the metaphoric basis of comprehension; with language’s propensity to distort perceptions even as it records them; with the well-formed poem as a meticulous arrangement of perceptible virtual objects; with that patterning of images itself being, on some objective, i.e., structural, basis, a haunted experience (what we saw at the beginning returns at the end, transformed somehow yet recognizable still as what it once was).
That these poems are thus “critical,” then, I’d say they owe a great deal to the Modernist project. But grief is madness. Grief resides in us, is as essential a tissue of our being as marrow or nerve. But we experience grief as something that happens to us, assailing us from outside the world, which grief reminds us is first and foremost a cosmos. The Romantic poets were enthusiasts, absolutely. (How else could they have misapprehended what revolution really entails?) But all their animistic fervor, all their audacity, all their invention, could never entirely transport them. History is still carnage. As much as I was copying Creeley, Berryman, Ponge and (I didn’t realize this until later) Montale in composing these self-consciously eerie lyrics, I also wanted The Habiliments to have an element of Romanticism’s “spilt religion” in them, of rampant but directionless, even helpless, spirituality.
To take it back to things and to make these things simple: my father left a great many personal effects behind when he died. His reliquary was of absurd proportions. The Habiliments is me sorting through those things, touching them, admitting all the indifference and revulsion and ambition and solicitude that reaches back through those things and feels, but not blindly, for me.
I want to come back to your primary response to my question, but first the capacity of these things that belonged to your father is important, because I don’t read the book as a catalog in that sense, but as an embodiment, or enduring. I mean their capacity for you as a vessel, a topology, and as a vessel of what, and are certain things more quantitatively qualitative based on your memories? Forgive me, but it’s a fascination of mine, these things (of ours) and those things (of theirs).
No, the book is not a catalog, or perhaps even an index, but certainly the poems revisit certain things over and over again. I think this energy is really what makes these lyrics most domestic. This is the only way I can explain the book’s vocabularies, honestly. That is, these poems try to live (and I mean not so much endure as resist death) by trying to will what is actually… not exactly instinctual, but automatic. I mean, eating breakfast, brushing one’s teeth, walking through doors. This observation is certainly not original (Thanks, Bresson!), but living consists of such banalities. Maybe what The Habiliments represents is an attempt to discover something like redemption in such living. And so anything, no matter how insignificant, belonging to the deceased in the poems (for me, my father; for the reader, any loved one who has died) mingles hope and dread. I should also say that, because of my father’s condition, he was as much thing as person. He was a polio survivor, and spent his life in a wheelchair. What most people never saw were all the other accouterments of that childhood illness. His shoes were attached to metal braces that sat at his hips. He was permanently bound by a corset. And so on. I can’t picture, or remember, or commemorate my father without those things. As an armchair psychologist, I’ve come to believe that things were also a great comfort to my father. He liked to have things within reach, and things were something he could control. Maybe they made him feel less lonely in his physical confinement. So he collected: baseball memorabilia, opera recordings, rare books, even people in a weird way. (My father was one of the great phone callers of all time.)
I see all these things in the poems, but I know they’re veiled as well, and often at best, in how they assume their images (nearly the last word in the book, I might point out). But the thing above all things in The Habiliments, the thing with which they are most concerned, is the house in which all these things accumulated. “Vessel” and “topography” are particularly apt, for the house in the poems is both. The house where I grew up was unquestionably my father’s house, not ours. Just to provide one example of this: the house technically had three bedrooms. The room that was technically the master bedroom, which sat at the back of the house, was never really used as a bedroom, except under the duress of 4 children all hitting puberty within 2 to 3 years of each other. (The image of a Saturn rocket discharging its stages in boost after boost suddenly comes to mind.) Instead, that bedroom was filled with bookshelves, and books, and vacuum-tube stereo equipment we weren’t to touch, etc. I am very thankful my parents chose to live in an urban neighborhood in Dallas and that I got to grow up where I did. And I have happy memories of this house. But that house, in its every dilapidated dimension, is also a tremendous source of pain and even humiliation for me. Vessel of what? Of subjectivity, an old metaphor in poetry, and one that supports the leaning walls of The Habiliments’ haunted house. Topography of what? Of my father’s imagination, his imagination’s coding of his preferences, his preferences and their relationship to his own injured relationship to familial love. If I might quote myself:
ever loved you as much as you
were fascinated by the mum of its
saints, the regiments—all identical, all
the snags of their shrapnel mittened—
with which it advertised the worth
of its patently attentive “What.”
It seems that things comfort most people for reasons they can’t express. From outside the assembler’s mindset it’s quite difficult to connect with constellations of things or arrangements or densities of things that aren’t ours. If we don’t know those things are, or were, other people’s (the antique store comes to mind) they seem to be a source of possibility rather than a psychic burden. I feel similarly when I’m reading. I think you’ve used that to your advantage. The level of abstraction and dislocation of the things in your book, their metaphorical structure rather than narrative implementation, creates something that exists very well as a poem object while at the same time being, as you said, domestic:
a lunchpail patina.
old heart was a cardigan
worn by a hard chair.
I do think of the tour you gave me of your childhood Dallas, though; you showed me this house. Although not explicit in the poem, that experience was a substrate for (at least) my first reading and inflected me toward a sentimentality that wasn’t at work in the book. It made me feel too comfortable, perhaps. Do you think it’s risky to allow people access to the work as being “your” work, rather than having them access it as though it were theirs? Not to suggest that we should erase your above responses! Does this biographical humanity find comfort in the mode of subjectivity you’re invoking?
I believe that poetry, being above all metaphoric (then again, what language isn’t?), has to walk the tightrope of “the universal” that’s stretched over the deadly gulf of “the personal.” I’m much, much indebted to [George] Lakoff and [Mark] Johnson here, and their theory that metaphors are what make language social rather than being what’s most recondite in language. Metaphors allow for private meanings to find some public expression. Moreover, metaphors translate the qualia of abstractions into concrete data. Even if no one reading The Habiliments can see or smell the exact sliver of soap I know to have been my father’s (Cuticura, FWIW), I trust that every reader has at some time paid attention to soap in their lives… the way the surface of a bar of soap mimics the face of the desert if it sits idle for too long, soap’s softness and pliability, what soap traverses, what it slickens itself against, its relationship to intimacy and traces and Prussian cosmologies, etc. Maybe this is the avarice/voracity of the lyric poem: it wants to feel all of its allusions as literally as possible, it wants to belong to itself and what it knows occasioned it, while, simultaneously, it wants everyone reading to recognize their own ontologies in the act of reading what it has to say.
I’m certainly not the only contemporary writer, in English or any other language, who’s concerned with figuring out just what, in this day and age, the lyric is for (and by “for” I don’t just mean “worth”). I’m indeed loathe to ask readers to factor my biography into the interpretation of what I write. This is probably because my primary training is as a novelist, and one of the reasons the novel appealed to me as a lifelong endeavor is that the novel form allows for the exploration of consciousnesses vastly different from one’s own.
I must however acknowledge that we all live and read in an age in which books arrive via a medium that’s been profoundly shaped by celebrity culture. Even poetry books arrive on bookshelves “pre-sold” by the “compelling” personal narratives by which authorship is now performed. Readers want to know—or publishers’ marketing departments assume (and what a chicken-and-egg question that is)—that the work has roots in actual suffering, trauma, triumph, etc. These narratives are not all that different than those that Angelica Jade Bastién, in a recent think piece for The Atlantic, claims has “ruined” the Method acting tradition. How much more challenging this question of authentic subjectivity becomes when one is working in lyric poetry! As much as anything else, readerly expectations are one of the literary artist’s raw materials. In The Habiliments, I am trying to work as imaginatively and as generatively as I can with the structural implications of certain of those readerly expectations. But notice how I rather sneakily used the term “work,” which connotes honesty and earnestness, instead of “manipulate.” The poems in The Habiliments are artifices. We lie to ourselves all the time about artifice. With regard to comfort and the alleviation of psychic pain, maybe the best I could hope for from The Habiliments is that just one of its readers would be moved to admit to themselves, and in a profound way, that artifice isn’t as artificial as Keats or Yeats has it—that artifice loves us back.
This contemporary interlacing of biography with work, or even biography in lieu of work is something I struggle to appreciate. That the congruence, or fidelity, of biography and work that the popular sphere of culture craves has made inroads into more critical culture without significant skepticism is troubling. A seepage of the social media ego perhaps? When the minutiae of emotion and biography are on real time display everywhere you look, I find it odd that people still seek it in art. What of transubstantiation? It seems that we’d be compelled by more assertive retreat to artifice. I think of the uproar around James Frey’s misrepresentation of his biography and subsequent public pillory by his patron Oprah. That was very disconcerting to me regarding the written word. If it was meaningful work to somebody (not me probably!), why would it not continue to stand as such as a hermetic object. People don’t care who wrote the Bible. In fact a lot of folks would rather not know. Perhaps my being an architect, where you’re irrelevant to the experience of the work, or perhaps my self-teaching in literature being much more rooted in abstraction, compels me to filter those universal knowns, as you’ve done, like the inflected context of your father’s soap:
The two shells of soap
and trilobites of rain
hurl their bathing puissance
at me again.
But I still wash
with your soap, I still cinch
your combs in the ornery tickle
laid black by your brush.
You’re not wallowing in the plain English of your biography but revitalizing it in a way that can be ingested again as raw material rather than, like a bird vomiting into its chick’s mouth, an already lived transparency. Of course one has to live. But that’s inherent in having written something, anything at all: that you were alive to do it. The precise filter of your voice through which you abstract it, your irreducible artifice, that seems to me the reason to work, not necessarily to say something but to make something. Isn’t the luminosity of that artifice more of a “presencing” of biography, as a physical thing, than a simple telling of it would be?
The Habiliments of the book’s title absolutely refer the “accoutrements or trappings” of my own grief following my father’s death in 2004, and how I mourned most, I felt, in certain recurring dreams I had starring my father. But The Habiliments, if I have done my job as a poet, must come to belong to the reader. With that title, I mean to assert a connection between reading and habituation. Further, if I might imagine a story for the reader, then why couldn’t it be that my weird little “accoutrements or trappings,” in being picked up and considered, might be of aid to them in their mediating their own grief: between their grieving and non-grieving selves? So your experience as an architect is very relevant in this regard. For I wanted The Habiliments to be a structure through which readers would move.
I think of the layouts specific to The Habiliments as evocative of house plans, the poems as rooms, the titles, so apparently displaced, as portals into and out of the poems, complicating the ways in which these rooms might be connected. Yes, OK, so that structure is a house, and it’s haunted, but any house not our own is haunted. Doubly or even plurally haunted, I would say: by foreign notions of home whose materialization we stumble across as we spend time in the arrangements of someone else’s house; our own notions of home, perhaps unwelcome in those same arrangements; laminations of home, too, laid down by builders, and previous owners, and even the geography contextual to the home. (I’ve always loved how Joseph McElroy described his Women and Men as “a multiple dwelling in motion” and as a “book to dwell in.”)
The Habiliments are poems, and I suppose each can stand alone outside of the project Dorothea Lasky has warned her fellow poets against. But—and here the novelist in me exerts his ambitions—the poems in The Habiliments constitute a book. I always knew they would be a book; I wanted them to be a book. And this then necessitated giving some thought to what a book is—canonically, functionally, phenomenologically. I do love formal experimentation, and I love messing with frames and framing devices. However, I try not to make too much of an indulgence out of that play. Labor follows play, and I do work hard to justify my structural oddities with respect to the content they “contain.” I’m not a pious Oulipian; I can’t accept utter arbitrariness and gamesmanship in either pretext or paratext. Rather, I derive the most satisfaction from those works that, as they gain momentum from the co-creating vitalities the reader (or viewer, or visitor) brings into them (books have surfaces and spaces, inner as well as outer), ultimately arrive at some anagnorisis as to why they are shaped the way they are. In my MFA program (CalArts), this was something of a mantra: “The book teaches you to read it as you read.” Let’s call this a consummated embodiment, even though it’s really an abstract, i.e., critical, insight. But it’s an abstraction so deeply thought it passes into sensation and feeling. Think of the violence with which Oedipus reconciles his perceptions to the truth that had been hidden in plain sight, the mystery of his need to ingest his own hubris. I’d like to think the final lines in The Habiliments, lines I wrote with no original thought as to their being the book’s last words, speak to this idea, and accept both the tragedy and triumph in acknowledging that element of predestination in all endeavor:
traces your smolder in
the silhouettes of
the dump’s wilted
men? What I taste
in the ozone:
images; I know.
But, when I wrote that poem, I didn’t know. I only knew enough to know I wanted to believe that I knew what I was saying. (I didn’t, and I said it anyway.) Sequencing the poems and organizing the book that The Habiliments became, which entailed reading the book like some fictional history-less reader who I am not, is what allowed me to locate some knowledge in the language the poems had assembled. Or heaped? Too much of an Eliot allusion? In the English the poems had translated into another English, if that’s not too Dickinsonian. To perceive in the assembling and reassembling of The Habiliments’ vocabularies the beginnings of a making not confined to me alone. Maybe the better metaphor for poetic book-making is not a shaping, demiurgic one, but a dowsing, sorcering one. Whatever: a book, even a book of poems, erects a facade of knowledge. The book promises that it can be known, and that it offers things worth knowing. The book’s own biography—that is, its conscious relationship to its book-self—therefore displaces mine; its own story, accessible from page to page, is the light left burning inside the house. The ownership of any house, and the connotations of home commonplace to it, can be transferred. All copies of The Habiliments are cookie-cutter… until, of course, they are individually customized by being read. By reading’s deformations, does a neighborhood grow? That’s the true story I most want to pursue, and, thankfully, it’s a story to which I can subscribe and which I don’t have to write.
You’ve set the stage well for people to knock down walls and exorcise you from the premises. You mention the all caps portions, which occur on all but pages 81 and 97 (e.g., THE DREAM IN WHICH THE SKEPTICS BEGAN LEVITATING UNCONTROLLABLY, THE DREAM IN WHICH THE STONES REMAIN ERECT AS IF BY THEIR OWN VOLITION, THE DREAM IN WHICH ALL BILLS ARE PAID, THE DREAM IN WHICH YOU FALL TO EARTH AS A METEOR), as being titles. Strangely, I never read them that way. I saw them as native to the body, as punctuating anaphora within the larger book-length poem. They quickly devolve in their disposition on the page, but not without echoing their initial place at the top of the page, such that when they rove, they become stumbling blocks, sometimes more significant than others. How strategic was the geometry of the poems during their composition?
I always conceived of The Habiliments as an architecture. And I agree with you: what I’m describing as titles could simply be one long poem that, like some abstract representation of the same space the apparent verses shelter with their embodying, insists on being read in parallel. One of my teachers, Steve Erickson, rather brilliantly pulls off something similar in his novel Our Ecstatic Days. I’m sure Steve’s text is one of many (Roubaud’s Great Fire Of London and Ammons’s Tape for the Turn of the Year being others) that exerted a great deal of osmotic pressure on my thinking about the ways in which a book is doomed to be linear. Maybe it’s that these pseudo-titles map the movements through a demolished enclosure that, if visualized, could be used to reconstruct its walls, floors, vaults, etc.?
Then again, I have to cop to a somewhat more crass motive as well. I hate titles. I find them incredibly difficult to devise, and 99% of the time, I’m completely dissatisfied with them. They’re either too expository or lazy and Cartesian (“A poem can’t be a poem without a title, therefore I am.”) The “dream” texts are my acting on a rather infantile impulse to break titling. That said, in my imagination at least, the poems in The Habiliments are also simultaneously a critique (ugh) and celebration of idiomatic expression. Language at its most pre-fabricated, language as crutch, but language, too, at its most bizarre. I mean here how idiomatic expressions, which are essentially metaphoric, position themselves as literal. Perhaps in mourning we feel this most acutely, for, in mourning, we are always in the presence of language’s tendency to euphemize and “fail.” “Passed on,” “your loss,” all of mortality’s stock phrases… from there it became not much of a jump to idiomatic expressions generally, and from there not much of a jump to thinking about poetic titles as idiomatic in the same way. I.e., how is it that titles tell us they are titles? What if a poem’s title were a complete non sequitur? What would that even look like within the context of a form, like poetry, in which parataxis is so constitutive of meaning? Once I accepted the idea that these titles operated according to a different set of rules, one of which being that, as relative non sequiturs, they are effectively interchangeable—and I do hope that there are occasions on which readers think to themselves, “Well, this title doesn’t really work here, but it could totally be the title of the poem I read X number of pages back”—I naturally starting thinking about a non-linguistic syntax to which these titles could adhere and which they could elaborate. I think this is where what you refer to as the poem’s geometries come into play. (And, by the way, vis-a-vis metaphors that become domesticated in the form of idiomatic expression: there’s a lot of pop music in these poems, and The Clientele’s “Since K Got Over Me” is a song looping through The Habiliments: “There’s a hole inside my skull / With warm air blowing in / Standing on the sidewalk, / Where do I begin? / I don’t think I’ll be happy anymore / I guess I closed that door / But every night is strange geometry…”)
The dreams in The Habiliments recur, the rooms the persona speaking the poems are rooms they revisit over and over, there are even poems that are essentially revisions of each other, e.g., THE DREAM IN WHICH YOU RETURN, THE DREAM IN WHICH THE GREEN MAN SITS IN THE SHADE OF A PARASOL, THE DREAM IN WHICH I CAN HOLD ANY NOTE, HIGH OR LOW, INDEFINITELY. Yet in the midst of all this repetition there’s also a straining for endless variety, for newness of expression, even, or especially at the expense of the “common sense” so often transmitted by idiomatic expression. The placement of the poems on the page, then, which includes the disposition of the titles, became a way to suggest lamination and palimpsests. If you could print The Habiliments out on a transparent or translucent medium, you’d find that the poems which most closely say the same things over and over again also line up along the same X-Y coordinates on the page. From simply thinking about those notions of occupation, situation and position, I then was able to make the leap to imagining The Habiliments as a set of ex post facto blueprints, or even as a kind of plat book. Of course, with reference to Peirce’s semiotics, blueprints, patterns, plans, and plats are iconic, whereas language is indexical and/or symbolic. By attempting to be blatantly if idiosyncratically formalist, The Habiliments is thus just another one of those texts rather vainly trying to force language into transcending its excesses. I suppose the theory goes that, with the resisting forces more established and the boundaries more visibly in place, the poems can really bleed and burst. (Within the individual poems in The Habiliments, there are no stanzaic divisions.) These leakages might even join together in a torrent whose force is sufficient to annihilate the engineering lending them some of their subversive power.
MY ACCENT IS NEARLY
What was commemoration? Was it
like rain, the lavish coercions of a faucet?
It was orange food in an orange bowl,
orange as the thumbnails of flowers rhyming
so in a vase that once was a lamp. The next
time I will find again your first act.
The weather will light up, and
with the thousand
colors of some
project. Am I OK that my ambitions bow
to a different cardinal? I swear I cannot set
your table out of these three nails, but you
know I can rattle the knots right out
of the sun. Let’s never hear of the library,
the study, the pantries, those shards of lead
so urgently curating our moans.
The geometry of these poems wasn’t always symbiotic, certainly not in much of my original composing, but, once I saw how symbiotic it was, I did what I could to respect the strategies these interdependencies of poem, title, and form wanted to exploit.
I’m trying not to salivate too much over the architectural potential of these dream portals. Their coordination through the thickness of the book, as I understand you to describe it, evokes the architectural concept of enfilade which, in its porous registration of passage, endeavors to connect, or psychologically collocate, or make concurrent, a bound space (or the page) to other bound spaces. This is very different than the typical conceit of a book, which admires itself for being a labyrinth, an unfolding rather than a coexisting. The novels you mentioned are perhaps not as successful at extricating themselves from the form. I always saw the form of Roubaud’s project as being a shuffling, albeit with the endeavor of a grainless monolith. Erickson’s novel perhaps, with its seepage, its threadlike rivulets escaping the rectangles of paper brings about more of a concurrence. It could be the hamstringing of prose or a vestigial interest in narrative that’s the ultimate roadblock. In The Habiliments you’re “allowed” to get away with more relentless rhetoric, cementitious yet at the same time translucent, because of different, though narrow, expectations of poetry. Still, it seems to me that your work has a fundamental goal of lovingly battling forms. I don’t see it as antagonism. I see it as the necessary project of medium collation for a polymath (or the dilettante (or the possessed)). As someone who does many things, from visual art to music to poetry to criticism to fiction, how much do you have a life project that binds these? What traits in your daily life participate in your cultivation of a lived corpus of work? How rigorous is it?
Wow, I wasn’t familiar with the enfilade before your directing me to it; thank you! I’ve always had an amateur interest in architecture. I even went through a “cathedral phase” a few years back. (That I was tasked with teaching this subject was only a flimsy premise for my obsession.) I’ve always marveled at the architectural lexicon and the placid furiousness with which it names every feature, every ornament, every force. As to any sort of life project: sincerely, I don’t know. And I have trouble seeing myself as rigorous, even though I’ve always been a DIY-er. I don’t portion out my day, or clock it around immovable blocks of studio time. I do walk everyday, and depend upon that mobile meditation to guide me towards a greater receptiveness. I may come home from that walk with ideas, I may just come home satisfied that I noticed something I never noticed before. If I am an artist, I’m one of those artists who needs to frequently relieve themselves of the need to create and to be content with the aesthetics of “pure” experience. I used to have ambitions and expectations; now I try not to be possessed of associations and propitiousness. If I have mantra, maybe it’s “experience above all.” Either that or “try something new.” For example, when I do teach poetry, I almost always begin with the lesson of “perceive first, interpret later.” And, the longer I live, the more I wonder if the interpretation aspect of artistic experience is even all that necessary. Is living itself a life project? Is that a fundamentally religious proposition?
What I do know is that, in terms of aesthetics, I’m very much process-oriented. Drones and arpeggios, improvised tools and media, long cinematic takes, texts that teach you how to read them as you read: my love for all of these forms (things?) had something to do with how they’re consciously engaged with their own ontogeny. (I wanted an organic connotation here, which feels funny given how our conversation has championed things and artifice.) So I like to think of my artistic practice as simultaneously expansive and particular. Even though I make across multiple disciplines and genres, I always endeavor to rely upon my chosen medium to help me figure about exactly what it is my making is working towards. Nevertheless, certain concerns seem never to slip outside my making’s scope. I.e., maximalism and notions of the excessive; the manic porousness of consciousness; the function of the imaginative faculties, and the consequences of their exercise; frames, boundaries, and “set-ups”; the inherent uncanniness of the banal; the wages of attention; culture as both private refuge and public domain. With whatever making to which I commit, I task myself with identifying and nurturing the unique, transient subjectivity through which that endeavor would channel its energies. So my writing practice is one in which I find that I’m often working to disencumber myself of that voice I may be said to have found for myself, and to increase my range of motion so that I might explore that vast and coterminous, if not precisely contiguous, territory of “other” discourses, grammars, and, I hope, realms of experience. Maybe my life project is simply to fashion a future for myself, one that wouldn’t be awaiting me otherwise, and one in which learning is capable of making futurity coherent.
It’s almost as if you were leading me to my last question, which is the first thing I wrote about the book, early on. How much is your future already in your lineage? What do you believe, or what do you fear, is embodied in heredity?
Where do we begin? There are so many interdependencies to name I can’t hope to recognize them all. So maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life catching up to them: Sicilian-American; Dallasite; Catholic; curly-headed (I’m convinced there is such a thing as follicular destiny); child of the 70s and 80s; reformed collector; uncloseted video game nerd; librarian; husband; reader; writer; tinkerer; member of the precariat. But catching up is a form of running backwards, too. What I continue to hope is that if we can imagine alternate pasts, if we can discover possibility in what seems intractably fixed—most obdurate and least transparent—perhaps that’s the first step towards our transforming what’s most lacking, aka ominous, about the present. Otherwise, all of history flattens into a poverty I never want to own again.
Joe Milazzo is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie (Jaded Ibis Press) and The Habiliments (Apostrophe Books), a volume of poetry. His writings have appeared in Black Clock, Black Warrior Review, The Collagist, Drunken Boat, BOMB, Tammy, and elsewhere. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is a contributing editor at Entropy, and is also the proprietor of Imipolex Press. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, and his virtual location is www.joe-milazzo.com.
John Trefry is an architect and the author of the novel Plats and the caprice Thy Decay Thou Seest By Thy Desire (Inside the Castle), and the forthcoming novel Apparitions of the Living. His writing has appeared in The Fanzine, Black Sun Lit, Entropy, Full Stop, and Minor Literature[s]. John lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He is on Twitter @trefryesque.