It's National Poetry Month! A time for poets, publishers, and fans to read, share, and talk about their favourite poems and authors. The Canadian poetry community produces a wide variety of fearless, boundary-pushing creators, and our April Writer-In-Residence Dani Spinosa is no exception. A digital and print media poet, Spinosa's work uses both mediums to dismantle old poetic standards and re-imagine what poetry can do. The author of four published chapbooks (Glosas for Tired Eyes Vols. 1 & 2, Chaunt Uhm, and Incessantly), she also co-founded the small publisher Gap Riot Press and runs the website Generic Pronoun, a blog for the discussion and appreciation of experimental poetry.
Spinosa's newest offering, OO: Typewriter Poems (Invisible Publishing) takes aim at the male-centered history of visual poetics, using the Spanish tradition of glosas to re-purpose lines from some of the genre's most respected male icons and underappreciated female poets. Employing a typewriter as well as digital alteration, the visual poems in this collection look to the past with new eyes, seeking to understand how old ideals still inform current work.
We're incredibly excited to have Dani on board as our writer-in-residence for April. Head over to our WIR page to read her thoughts and insights over the course of the month.
Learn more about Dani by reading our interview below as part of our Entitled series, where authors discuss the titles of their own work as well as others they've enjoyed.
She tells us how there's no right way to pronounce the title of her newest book, the magic of leaving things open to interpretation, and why she's a sucker for anything gross, swear-y, and silly.
Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.
The book is called OO: Typewriter Poems. That second half is pretty self-explanatory, I suppose. Though, it is a bit of a lie that these poems are “typewriter poems.” They start as typewriter poems—that is, I first type them out on a typewriter—but I digitally edit them (and sometimes physically alter the paper as well) so they are typewriter poems, but they are also digitally produced art.
The first part, I imagine, has been giving people some trouble. For example, my friend and former dissertation supervisor Andy Weaver keeps calling the book “Double Zero.” Incidentally, my ear piercings are stretched to size “00,” so that would be a fitting autobiographical title. But, to Andy’s frustration, those are not zeroes; they’re capital Os. The book is called OO because, first and foremost, I like the cheeky way that early typewriter poets often played with the letter “o” in their work, especially when poets used periods to make the “o”s look like eyes. To me, that playful humour encapsulates a lot of what I’m trying to do with this book.
How to you pronounce the title? I don’t know for sure, actually. That’s largely up to the reader. I sometimes say “uh oh,” and sometimes “oooooohhhh,” and sometimes “oh oh.” The letters are essentially meaningless. I just like the way they look together.
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What, in your opinion, is most important function of a title?
To me, a title is like a doorbell, not a doorway. It’s the thing you touch on the way in, but it does not have to necessarily frame the way a reader engages with the work. So, part of the reason why I like the useless, meaningless fun of a title like OO is that it’s going to sound and mean and be different depending on who is reading the text and how.
What is your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?
Gary Barwin, who edited OO, is a master of playful titles for visual and experimental poetry. I often think of his The Smith Coronamancy (a chapbook of typewriter poems he published with derek beaulieu’s no press a few years ago) as the kind of ridiculous, playful, formalist title I aspire to. OO is not there; it’s not nearly punny enough. But it’s approaching that fine line between ridiculous and profound that Barwin has really mastered.
What usually comes first for you: a title or a finished piece of writing?
In OO, all the poems in the first four sections were titled before they began because their titles are citations. The titles for the final section were added after; I always title quickly and go with my gut, and almost never change the titles.
What quality in a title will consistently make you pick up an unfamiliar book?
Swearing, vulgarity, obscenity, silliness. I like a title that seems gross, ridiculous, or strange. That’s why I picked up Rachel Rabbit White’s Porn Carnival (Wonder, 2019), and I am thoroughly enjoying it.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a series of poems about women in Greek mythology who are stuck or static, and I’m writing using a typewriter again, but this time I cover each poem using a clipping mask of a pornographic image from the 1990 issue of Playboy magazine with Donald Trump on the cover. You can see some of them online at Train: a poetry journal. They are all titled with one word: the name of the woman from the myths. I wanted to keep that woman front and centre. And, I wanted my work to continue its conversational, citational titling practice.
Dani Spinosa is a poet of digital and print media, an on-again-off-again precarious professor, the managing editor of the Electronic Literature Directory, and a co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press, a feminist experimental micro-press. She has published three poetry chapbooks with No Press (Glosas for Tired Eyes, Chant Uhm, and Incessantly) and one with above/ground press (Glosas for Tired Eyes Vol. 2) and her first scholarly manuscript, Anarchists in the Academy: Machines and Free Readers in Experimental Poetry was published by the University of Alberta Press (Spring 2018). She can be found online at www.genericpronoun.com and in person in Toronto.