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Sarah Suzor is The Next Big Thing


A huge thank you to Travis Cebula for including me in his The Next Big Thing invitation. This is an amazing project for writers and readers of contemporary literature. While I was sending out my own invitations for participation, I was shocked to discover how many of the fantastic writers I know and work with have already sent out their versions of this interview, which signifies one of two things:


1.) I’m late to the party. Or,
2.) This really is The Next Big Thing.


I’m going to assume the latter is the case. The Next Big Thing is an opportunity the writing community is seizing. Poets and writers seem to be taking matters (marketing) and means (the Internet) into their own hands by representing themselves and their projects freely, and as direct reflections of their control. It’s the antithesis of mainstream advertising, and, boy oh boy, it makes me so happy to be a small part of such things. Bravo and onward, always.


What is/was the working title of the book?

The Important Questions or The Prettiest Girl in the World.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

Reading “The Miranda Agreement,” listening to country music, the character Florentino Ariza in Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, Bruce Springsteen, and a fantastic man who plays his saxophone to the ocean everyday.


What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Serial, serial poetry. Serial, serial storytelling.


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

The narrator remains genderless throughout the book; however I see the “I” as a man: an old gun-slinging cowboy, who’s possibly from Texas, or my home state, Wyoming. He says things like, “If you’re not the hunter, that makes you one thing, one thing I wouldn’t want to be.” Implying… well… implying a lot of things. So, I’d choose Chuck Connors from the TV show “Rifleman.” His persona was smart, but not traditionally smart, just street smart. Plus, he was a looker.


The character of the prettiest girl in the world is completely immune to the concept of responsibility. She’s spoiled, intentionally ignorant, and says things like, “If I wanted to tell you the truth, I would have already done it.”


She’s also impossible to please. So in my mind she looks like Jane Fonda in “Barbarella,” but acts like the Holly GoLightly character from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”


What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m going to use an excerpt from the book (that’s more than one sentence):


“In fact, I’m only here to ask the important questions:

Snack box, does anyone want a snack box?
Does anyone want a sunset, the kind that never runs out?


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

This book came together quickly. Maybe 8 months.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Instant gratification.
Passive/aggressive tendencies.
Law enforcement (“Real-deal criminals”).
Marketing/Advertising (the idea one can strive for a canned image).
And every over-used, quick-fix “reasonable saying” in the world (“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise”).


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

The book will haunt anyone who’s ever had an intentional end-game, or anyone who’s lost sight of the details while seeking the big picture, the “win.” Both the “Questions” and the “Girl” are relative ideologies, relative, of course, to the reader and the reader’s prior life experiences. Cautious of that awareness, the book attempts to remain vague enough to mimic our subconscious inclinations. For example, “Desperation, however, is relative to one’s circumstance. One’s circumstances are relative to the number of unfortunate coincidences one encounters.”


I also juxtapose constructs like forgiveness, religion, and basic survival with the trivial “Important Questions” (see above: “Snack box, does anyone want a snack box?”) and the superficial “Prettiest Girl,” which subverts the more­­–– dare I say­­–– “political” messages. At times, it’s pretty damn funny, but it’s also pretty damn realistic. The narrator says: “She asked me again: Will the meek really inherit the Earth?” Implying… well, again… implying a lot of things.


My hope is that the reader will finish the book and wonder whether they should laugh or cry.


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

My last book The Principle Agent (2011), and my next book After the Fox (2014) have been picked up by Black Lawrence Press. Black Lawrence read and passed on this manuscript. It’ll find a home, though. No doubt. I don’t self-publish any of my books, so I’m still sending this manuscript to small presses, looking for just the right place to rest these pretty, pretty, important pages.


A huge thanks to In Stereo Press, who published some of the work from The Important Questions or The Prettiest Girl in the World. Here’s a link:


And here’s a link to my 2011 collection The Principle Agent:



Who are the Next Big Things?

Chris Caruso
Kit Frick
Gillian Hammel

Previous and Noteworthy Big Things, or Big Things Already

athena from zeus head


With the upcoming posting (tomorrow, if I’m not mistaken) of my tag-ees Next Big Things, I thought I might take just a moment to mention some of their Last Big Things, as they have been creating pretty Big Things for some time now, and spectacularly, and are not, in fact, just now, leaping fully-formed into the world like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. So, before we get too excited about what the Next Big Thing is, I think it is worth while to note what has come before:

For example, Sarah Suzor is the author of The Principle Agent, which was the winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2010 Hudson Prize. It’s still one of my all-time favorite books of poetry. You should also look up her chapbooks, it wouldn’t be a waste of your time.

For example, Sarah Suzor is also the founding editor of Highway 101 Press.

For example, Sara Nolan spent a year traveling around the world as a teacher of young people, and wrote very eloquently about her experiences on her blog. It’s a Massive Missive. It’s much more erudite and entertaining than I’ve come up with so far for my own blog.

For example, JenMarie Macdonald (Davis), Travis Macdonald and Daniel Dissinger all published brilliant chapbooks—Sometime Soon Ago, Title Bout, and Tracing the Shape, respectively—with my press, Shadow Mountain.

For example, Daniel Dissinger is not only the founder of In-Stereo Press, an online press/journal specializing in audio presentations of poetry, but he’s also the co-founder of a new poetry school in New York, Poetry Teachers NYC.

For example, JenMarie and Travis Macdonald operate Fact-Simile. Their book creations are nothing short of awe-inspiring, and are made exclusively from recycled, reclaimed, and repurposed materials.

For example, Travis Macdonald is the author of two previous collections of poetry, N7ostradamus and The O Mission Repo Vol. 1.

For example, they are all wonderful people and I hope you have the privilege of interacting with them someday.


How does it feel after?



What will be left when the structures collapse?


The Next Big Thing

I’m grateful to Jennifer K. Dick for inviting me to participate in this ongoing blog chain that’s connecting writers all over the world. I’m grateful she felt my new book was worth talking about, and I’m grateful she encouraged me to speak about it a bit here.

I’d also like to officially recognize James Belflower, Maxine Chernoff, and Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, who took the time and put forth a significant amount of effort to say kind, thoughtful things about my book. Thank you; I am in your debt.

Since I’m a bit detail-oriented, and the theme of my blog happens to be questions, I found myself sending her an ever-lengthening thread of emails with different questions about how I should approach the project (when I should post, how many people to tag, what my own blog space needed to be like, etc.). I assumed two things:  first, that the project was something new that had just started sometime this year and, second, that she was therefore closer to the source of this project in a very concrete way. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Where did all this start?

One of the fun aspects of a project like this is that it takes shape on the internet. Thus, it can (at least theoretically) be researched in much the same way as any other genealogy. Jen Dick is my mother as far as The Next Big Thing is concerned. Who was her mother, and mother before that? All one need do is follow the links.

A google search of “the next big thing blog” yielded 359,000,000 results.

I traced my own lineage back to the beginning of October, whereupon the trail went a little cold, I got a little overwhelmed, or a little bored, or all of the above. But I rallied a bit do some relatively simple math. Assuming that The Next Big Thing started at the beginning of October, 2012 and also assuming that each participant successfully tagged three “children” to represent the next generation, which I think is a conservative estimate, then the numbers look something like this:

Number of new participants this week:  5,373,459

Total participants thus far:  8,060,183

Number of participants next week:  16,120,377

How many poets are there in the world?




What is/was the working title of the book?

The book has always been titled Ithaca, after the main character, out of respect for James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s The Odyssey, which represent a fair portion of the lineage of this book. Ithaca seemed like a good choice to emphasize the layers of signification I’m working with, or trying to—a little more ambiguous than Milly, which would have been my second choice. A few people have asked, and I didn’t intend for a reference to Ithaca, NY intentionally, but I’m content with it coming along for the ride.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

While reading Ulysses I was overcome by a desire to excavate a tiny fraction of the incomprehensibly massive aggregation of poetry that’s embedded in that book; and then to sequence that excavation in a coherent way such that it forms a semblance of a fresh, contemporary narrative. Reading Borges around the same time provided me with a conceptual framework from which to start.

What genre does your book fall under?


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

That’s a fairly complicated question, since, in my mind, there would need to be four performers for the part of Ithaca alone… I wouldn’t want to just pick one and CGI her through life. So, that said, I think the film would most likely start with ultrasound footage of someone with natural ability and presence. The good news in that instance is that a fetus any gender or race would be usable as long as they are active, charismatic, not camera shy, and shot from the right angle. The first fragment of the book would most likely be filmed in the style of Terrence Malick, with strong imagery and a lyrical voiceover of the father figure, probably Werner Herzog because I can’t get enough of listening to him talk.

In the second fragment Ithaca could be played by a relative unknown or up-and-comer. Ideally, the choice would be capable of a lot of depth and feeling, such as Ivana Baquero in Pan’s Labyrinth.

The third fragment, Courtship, would be fun to cast. The two characters would need to have some chemistry, with the male lead being simultaneously sympathetic and a bit of a sociopath. I see Jessica Chastain (The Debt) and John Cusack (High Fidelity) doing good work here.

The last part of the book would be a slam-dunk:  Maggie Smith all the way to the finish.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

What if a writer dreamed a daughter, a country, or a religion into existence, until night by night a life circled, and the writer gave that peculiar life a spine, the curves of whose vertebrae were carved from the language of Ulysses?

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

It took me approximately three months to create the original draft of the manuscript. That’s a bit misleading, however, insofar as the rewriting/editing process continued for another three and a half years after that before the book actually headed for publication.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was fascinated by the two stories that I quote in the book’s epigram, Ulysses and The Circular Ruins. I’ve always loved that Joyce created an epic novel from a single day, and that it became a classic. I wondered if the language therein might also hold the thread of an entire life, as well—a life in a day, if you will—and took my cues from Borges to follow that thread and dream that life into existence, piece by piece. Borges’ larger body of work also inspired me to consider the layers and parallels that manifest between different worlds… in this case between personal, political, and religious narratives.

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

I also designed the cover for the book, basing it around a photograph I took while studying in Prague.

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

It’s clear that this interview project, wherever it started, began with writers who were primarily working in prose. As far as I can tell, poets rarely get to/have to deal with agents. So, the answer is neither—my publisher, BlazeVOX as embodied by Geoffrey Gatza (who very kindly published my first book, Under the Sky They Lit Cities, as well), is handling the publishing, marketing, and details directly. The book is available from BlazeVOX directly as well as SPD, amazon, and various local bookstores.

Or you could contact me about securing a copy for review…

Who is(are) the NEXT Next Big Thing(s)?

Sarah Suzor

Sara Nolan

JenMarie Macdonald

Travis Macdonald

Dan Dissinger




How long have we spent gaping?



What do you see when you try to sleep?



Is it tied firmly to your wrist?



Someone nudged a rheostat and the lights came up. The bar thinned like the graffiti artist’s own hair as he ran his fingers through it. He put down his empty champagne flute, gently, and leaned over the remnants of a candle.

Are you sure?



Where does light collect?



What mechanisms allow the propagation of light?



What structures underlay the light?



What structure allows the growth of light?



How would we treat each other if we actually knew we were going to die?





And so I ask again.

How long has this been going on?


Not all questions are created equal.


Selecting the right question to ask makes all the difference in conversation—want to have an interesting conversation? Ask interesting questions. In teaching—want to get a class, of any age, involved in the discussion? Ask interesting questions. In an interview—if you actually want to get to know your subject, you damn well better ask interesting questions.


I met the man who invented graffiti art in February, 2012. He claimed to have been responsible for the first of it anyone had ever seen, way back in the year of my birth. He told me between sips of champagne that he was consulting on a Hollywood movie based on the story of his life. He asked me if I was interested in going to a party in a basement on the Lower East Side. He followed this up with the statement that he would try to keep me safe there, and that a trip to the ER with a knife wound might do as much for my street cred as a poet as a cocaine overdose would. I asked him…




No. It’s not who you think.


I share this story with you because I know it will spawn some questions of varying degrees of quality.

For example, “am I telling the truth now?” is less interesting than, “am I lying?” despite both questions ostensibly seeking the same factual outcome. The focus, the motivation, and the nuance are quite different between them.


However, both of these are positively dull compared to


Do I hear voices?


How long has this been happening?


Since I’m committed to carving out this particular informational niche of the digital universe and calling it my own, I might as well do something with it.

If you haven’t already guessed from the titles and brief posts I’ve made so far, I’ve envisioned this space as a space for questions. Why? Because “why” is never as frivolous as it sounds, even when coming in groups of fives and twenties from a toddler. “Why” is, ultimately, how we decipher our world.

About midway through Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we learn that a group of hyper-intelligent beings (mice) has spent the last 7.5 million years waiting for a computer named Deep Thought to come up with “the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” The Answer, as it turns out, is 42. The Question remains unknown. So, the hyper intelligent (and somewhat frustrated) beings commission the construction of another, grander, supercomputer at great expense. Why? To come up with The Question. The computer was named Earth, it was gorgeous, and populated, and eventually ran its program for billions of years until it was subsequently demolished to make way for a superhighway. Just short of producing The Question that everyone was waiting for.

The moral of the story is, as anyone who watched the entire broadcast series of The X-Files or Lost can tell you—


Nobody is getting those hours back. We’re here to produce questions.


And was that the first time?