What I like about Kristina Marie Darling, aside from the fact that she's really nice and is a really talented writer, is the fact that her work is different. I've been reading Darling since I first published her when I edited Ghoti Magazine, and even back then, I appreciated the creativity and uniqueness of Darling's work, which is a rare thing. I can honestly only think of a handful of current writers whose work is actually unique. JA Tyler comes to mind. Mark Z. Danielewski. There are others, of course, but most other writers, even "experimental" ones, can be easily placed within a category (my own work included). This isn't to say they aren't "good," but Darling stands out. And she isn't just experimenting for the sake of experimenting; her work is vital and interesting. So when I heard Darling started a press, it piqued my interest. Here's a fun little interview I did with her for Pank. And here's a little more in-depth one below.
Me: Some of your recent works seem to take the form of reactions to the works of others (which could really be said of all writing, I’m sure). What was the impetus of displaying these reactions so blatantly? What I mean is could you describe the form of some of your recent work and what was the impetus for choosing/creating this form?
Darling: That's a great question. I've always been intrigued by Marianne Moore's notion of "conversity," which is a term she coined to describe the dialogic nature of poetry. According to Moore, poetry is a conversation, in which contemporary poets not only respond to what's been done before, but revise, refine, and perfect it. This idea of art as processual was very influential for thinking about my own work. For me, the works of others aren't static art objects, but rather, are always in the process of being articulated. For this reason, they're subject to revision, appropriation, etc. And it's this type of engagement that seems most productive to me as an artist.
Two of my most recent books, Petrarchan and The Moon & Other Inventions, are presented as direct responses to another artist's body of work. The responses take the form of footnotes to absent text, which utilize material from the works of Joseph Cornell and Petrarch, respectively. I chose to display my reactions to others' work in a fairly straightforward manner because I think it's important to situate one's own work in a particular artistic conversation, since it's meaning (in my case at least) is so dependent on context.
Me: Tell me about the press: what’s the mission?
Darling: I recently started a small press, which is called Noctuary Press. Noctuary Press specializes in women's writing that takes place across (and beyond) traditional genre categories. We're very interested in publishing work that not only challenges the notion of genre, but engages it in a meaningful way, assessing both the risks and the possibilities inherent in maintaining genre categories. All too often, writing that interrogates the notion of genre remains unpublished and undisseminated, since much of the publishing landscape is predicated on well-established genre categories. Cross-genre texts become difficult to deal with from a pragmatic standpoint, since they don't fit within the existing channels of dissemination. Noctuary Press strives to create an alternative channel of dissemination for cross-genre texts by women, allowing them to reach an appreciative audience.
Me: Why did you start a press and what led you to focus on women authors?
Darling: I've always loved editing because it puts me in touch with interesting people. Not just poets and writers, but visual artists and small press editors as well. Starting a press was just an excuse for me to do something that I loved.
I chose to focus on women authors because the writing that most often fails to fit within existing genre categories, and the writing that's most frequently "othered," is women's writing. I believe this is because women refuse to write in a tradition that's hostile to them, and almost always, this means eschewing predominantly male literary forms. I'm very interested in the gender politics inherent in existing genre categories, and I hope that the press will allow both myself and readers to explore this in the years to come.
Me: Is there a disparity between publishing opportunities afforded to men and women, and why is this, do you think?
Darling: I think there is definitely a disparity between publishing opportunities afforded to men and women. All too often, publishing is coded as masculine because it requires aggressively submitting work, networking, and just being pushy sometimes. And all of these things are seen as traditionally masculine qualities. I know many women who feel that it would make them less feminine to be really aggressive or persistent about getting their work in journals. Creating greater equality in the publishing world would mean much more than just getting women in magazines. It would involve rethinking how we define "masculinity" and "femininity" in a much more general sense.
Me: What has the process of selecting work been like?
Darling: Because Noctuary Press is a small, one-woman publishing project, we've been operating mostly by solicitation, but I hope to post an open call for submissions in the fall. I would really like to be taken out of my comfort zone, and look forward to being exposed to writers whose work I wouldn't otherwise have encountered.
Me: Who are you publishing? Can you tell me a little about your forthcoming publications?
Darling: Our forthcoming books include Eva Heisler's Drawing Water, a book-length poem on the line, and Kristy Bowen's The shared properties of water and stars, which explores the intersection of poetic language and logic in ways I haven't encountered before. A feature about Heisler's book can be found in BOMB Magazine. We're in the process of assembling our 2014 series, so stay tuned.
Me:Who are your influences? Who are you reading now?
Darling: My influences range from Imagist poetry - H.D., Marianne Moore, Richard Aldington - to Victorian ephemera and contemporary visual art. But right now I'm reading Andrew Grace's Sancta, Jill Magi's Slot, and Allison Benis White's Small Porcelein Head. All three collections are just magnificent. They manipulate and undermine readerly expectations of narrative in ways I've never encountered before. I'd recommend all three.
* * *