Adam Deutsch lives in San Diego, teaches college composition and writing, and has work recently or forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Thrush, Spinning Jenny, Ping Pong, and Typo among others. He is the publisher at Cooper Dillon Books, and has a chapbook from H_NGM_N Books called Carry On.
TCR: What was the genesis of “Gestate?”
Adam Deutsch: The idea of forgetting things is really comforting to me, especially when it comes to poems. I guess that if I write it, and forget the sparks, the poem replaces the memory, and becomes a stronger thing if only because it has nothing to be held up against. In this poem, there are all these different relatively minor destructions (most of which happened) while other momentums won’t be stopped, and life grows in the combinations of those things. Maybe that’s why the last words are a modification of what Keats requested be on his stone. Can I say the genesis is Keats?
[Just last night, I found a pain in a fingertip, and my wife dug out a very small splinter that had healed over, and it got me thinking about how sometimes poems can also know the future!]
TCR: If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself as a new writer, what would it be?
AD: I might ask myself to take a political science class, to read bell hooks and Freire and James Baldwin and about Caesar Chavez and all these movements. It took way too damn long for me to get into thinking about equity and social consciousness and justice alongside poetry, and it feels like valuable time got lost. I was pretty lucky to get a lot of good advice early on about how we can’t hide in poems and about putting it all on the table, but I didn’t learn about the complexities of contexts and the complications of systems until it was perhaps almost too late. Younger-me should also have learned living languages, too, but now older-me has a bunch of apps for that.
TCR: Your Twitter bio says you’re an “aspiring homesteader.” What do you mean by that, and how does that experience influence your writing?
AD: I started homebrewing beer in 2010, then working at a brewery in San Diego, and that started me into making cheese, curing olives, fermenting veggies, baking bread, squeezing almond milk from soaked almonds, growing lots of edible plants, and got me off of buying any food packaged in plastic (and there’s a whole lot of privilege in being able to make statements and devote time to things like that). At this point I have guava trees that fruit twice a year, and chickens who will start laying eggs in summer, but I don’t do the baking/gardening/curing/cheesing with the consistency I need to, so I’m stuck at “aspiring,” until I learn more discipline. Each one is a process, and are related to poetry in different ways. Maybe it’s because each process involves doing something, but then letting a natural process take over. Poems work that way, too, right? I mean, we set into something, then something else takes over, and there it is. Also, sometimes the lines don’t work just like the seed doesn’t germinate or a bacteria overtakes a yeast strain, and it all just stinks and molds. I’m also a firm believer that we all need to be involved in activities and action outside of writing.
TCR: Tell us about your favorite strategy for revision.
AD: My favorite strategy goes back to forgetting. If I don’t remember where something came from, I get to read it with whole new eyes, and if no strong memories are triggered, then the power has to be in the poem. So, my favorite thing is to write something, and then leave it to marinate for a year or two before I even go back to the notebook and type it up. When the return to it is entirely new, the best revisions happen because there’s nothing to be true to except for the poem on its own terms. I believe in it for revision, and I also find I like to read my poems even more when I forget about them, too. It’s like “Oh, I wrote that? Cool.” Or, it’s like, “Hmm. I wrote that? I need to fix this thing.” I also like to think about what I’m giving to my reader, and making sure that the work is generous, that readers are taken to a place they’ve never been, but can enjoy, and hopefully return to over and over again.
TCR: What books do you re-read?
AD: Ada Limón’s This Big Fake World, Nicanor Parra’s Antipoems, Mike Topp’s Shorts are Wrong, Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Funny, Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard.
TCR: What is your next project?
AD: The project is always writing more poems, and figuring out how they work together in a manuscript. I guess I’m putting together a 4th or 5th manuscript now. I’m also thinking about replacing my back fence with a wall, and using the fence parts to make planter boxes, maybe start with some peppers and eggplant. I’d also like to seed a bunch of oregano for the chickens to pick at. I hear it’s good for them, and I like what it does to the air when we casually walk through it.