Barry Grahams Comments
To create the collages, I used every last line from all the individual pieces in a published collection of flash fiction/prose poems and I reshaped them into a new text entirely. I used the lines exactly as written, which is extremely limiting. No substitutions, deletions, tense shifts. It gets tricky.
I got the idea by accident, really. I remember reading Christopher Kennedy’s collection of flash fiction Trouble with the Machine in grad school and I felt part of my head blowing apart and it really forced me to reconsider the ideas I had about my own writing. Up until that point I was only writing poetry, I called myself a poet and everything I wrote I squeezed into that genre. My education and exposure to literature was very traditional. I studied William Carlos Williams and Dr. Seuss and Robert Lowell and other great poets, but there was no flash fiction. I remember reading TWTM and rereading it and rereading it until I forced myself to write fiction and think fiction, albeit very very short fiction.
So I was sitting around watching reruns of Law and Order: SVU a couple months ago, waiting for something inspiring to happen, because I couldn’t get shit for writing done, so I pulled out TWTM and started typing out the first lines of all the individual flashes, just to sort of serve as a prompt, then I did the same thing with the last sentences. But by accident I deleted a few of my sentences in between Kennedy’s sentences and I was only left with his words on the page and they sounded amazing beside each other, so I just started playing around with them, trying to create a narrative, something cohesive. I understood by the very nature of it being a collage that it was going to be surreal in a sense, so that is what I went for. So I put the thing together and it just felt good. I read it and read it and I e-mailed Christopher and asked what he thought of the idea of me trying to get it published somewhere to sort of show my gratitude towards him and his contribution to flash fiction and he seemed pretty excited about it too.
That piece, “Another Strategy,” was published in elimae.
From there the project was born, I began contacting flash fiction writers whose words I admired a great deal and asking their permission and they all seemed genuinely enthusiastic. I began working on the next collage, which was derived from Kim Chinquee’s collection, Oh Baby. I met Kim up in Ann Arbor at a reading and I’ve sort of secretly been in love with her ever since. Then I chose Steve McDermott’s A Winter of Different Directions and Drew Kalbach’s The Zen of Chainsaws and Enormous Clippers. Drew was all for the idea because he’s a young guy (just turned twenty) so he’s like, yeah, whatever, just mention my book somehow. I think I have been most inspired by McDermott’s response. He said the experience of reading the collage, reading his own words respun into their own narrative, by someone else, felt strangely surreal, and that is how I felt about the collages all along while shaping them, so I just knew this project felt right.
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