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Lucy Ives in Conversation with Rachel Levitsky at Triple Canopy
We’re bursting with pride after reading this delightful conversation—at Triple Canopy—between Rachel Levitsky and Lucy Ives about Levitsky’s newest book, The Story of My Accident Is Ours. It’s an insightful and ruminative conversation about the similarities and differences between fiction and poetry, that demonstrates the exemplary knowledge of both parties. Check it out!
Lucy Ives: John Ashbery comments that The Story of My Accident Is Ours—which is a novel, if I’m not mistaken—explores “a territory not unlike the domain of poetry.” Is this true?
Rachel Levitsky: In some ways that gets it exactly right. I understood the book to be a novel from the very beginning. It has a sustained plot device. I don’t think books of poetry do that. But I wanted to write a novel. I mean, my work is prose, but the poetic urge is always breaking in. I’m a poet because I interrupt my own prose with poetry. Whatever poetry means.
LI: Are you content to leave it there, “whatever poetry means”?
RL: No. In the same comment, Ashbery also calls my novel “prose poetry.” In effect, the book is both “like poetry” and poetry. And perhaps this is what poetry is: something that is like the thing that it is.
LI: Can you explain how poetry can be “like” what it is? In other words, what would it mean for Rachel Levitsky to be “like” Rachel Levitsky?
RL: It would mean that Rachel precedes and exceeds herself. I have a theory that poets love being amateurs. Most like to read from new work at readings; they’ll give their published book a few minutes then read from a black portfolio or notebooks or some crumpled thing. They read unfinished things most energetically, excitedly. In the time I’ve been a poet lots of ideas have come and gone, and now it is all about uncreativity. But the fiction world is pretty stable—in fact in the conversations about prose and novels in which I am most involved (see Gail Scott’s essay “The Sutured Subject”) we grapple with the lack of discursive traction for experimental prose. The thing that many of us are doing fails to appear recognizable as genre, so that people like yourself, Bhanu Kapil, Renee Gladman, Pamela Lu, Danielle Dutton end up of floating between genres, and, I would add, between publishing venues—we’re often published and reviewed in poetry or art venues, not fiction venues.
Read more at Triple Canopy!