Rochford Street Review asked Anna how she came to start writing the Ideas for Novel series – how was the first one written qnd how did the subsequent poems arrive? And as they are poems about the possibility of novels is there a discussion about the relationship between poetry and prose going on?
Anna replied: The idea for the first Ideas for Novels poems (although I didn’t think of it as number 1 at that time) started when I was sitting at my computer looking at some old photographs that had come from my father’s place after he died. The photos had a lot of background to them if you wanted to think about it like that, stories. My father’s life and my relationship with him were complex. But there are two formal aspects to it. One is that every small thing can have many associations, every image, every word. The other is that I often think, when I start out writing something, that the idea I have could be novel length if it were to be explored and expanded. But most of my work ends up being a poem or a short prose piece, it will suddenly contract or some synthesis will suddenly occur. I started thinking about ideas for/from/about/in novels, all those things that can lead somewhere or start from somewhere.
Once I got this idea of writing poems that could be suggestive of a larger work, it intrigued me. A friend of mine said that because of the title, she started imagining scenarios that could be novels herself, ones that she might start concocting. I find that satisfying, to connect to a reader in that way, that the reader participates. Reading is always participatory but this can push that condition further. I started thinking of the poems as a series because it seems like quite an inexhaustible idea.
I don’t know whether the series of poems as a whole will cohere in some way, I know that I’m doing something different in each one so far. It would be nice to review a future collection of the poems and find connections, see them as part of a larger whole.
I write both poetry and prose and see the two forms as almost interchangeable, with a bit of tweaking. I started out writing poetry as a young person and always connected more with other people who are poets rather than with people who are novelists or journalists. I have sometimes rewritten my poems as prose and vice versa. The problem with rewriting poems as prose is that they can lose that sense of visual space and the oral quality of line breaks. Also being prosaic in a poem seems more interesting to me than being poetic in prose.
It’s odd that whilst experimental poetry and prose, the kind of writing that I’m interested in, and for that matter some text-based conceptual art seemed to be converging and overlapping several decades ago, the prose/poetry distinction seems to be persisting, is possibly even more prevalent these days. On the other hand, some aspects of experimental writing have been subsumed into the mainstream now.
– Anna Couani