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Army of Lovers: Talking With David Buuck & Juliana Spahr About Their New Book
SF Gate profiles friends and collaborators David Buuck and Juliana Spahr, whose much-anticipated co-authored book, Army of Lovers, has just been released from City Lights. The pair read last night at the San Francisco bookstore. More on their process:
Poets David Buuck and Juliana Spahr have known each other since 2003, through the local poetry community. About five years ago they decided to go outside their comfort zones and collaborate on a book together.
Up until that point, Buuck says, both poets’ works could be described as political poetry, including documentary poetry and environmentalist poetry.
“If you told me five years ago that we would have written a book of fiction, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Buuck says.
The collaboration started as an idea of getting them “out of their own habits.”
To get the process going, they’d give each other homework assignments: “One was we both sat down and wrote biographies of the other person,” Buuck says.
They e-mailed friends to ask for gossip that the friends had heard about the poets. That was an “idea that we are defined by what other people think about you,” Buuck says.
The result was a 150-page “experimental novel.” The title of the experimental novel comes from a phrase “from the queer liberation movement in the ’70s which was ‘an army of lovers cannot fail,’ ” Buuck says.
“Army of Lovers” contains four stories. The characters include two poets who decide to collaborate on a poem of political and social interest.
“I think of the stories as overlapping, flowing episodes, in my mind that are occurring in the same mental space and at the same time,” Buuck says, “as opposed to this happened, then this happened, and they grew as people. The last story is meant to be where they sort of end up, and the first story is them fumbling around and trying to figure out what to do.
“But we never sat down and charted out a plot or a character arc or those kinds of conventions, as a novel it just isn’t interesting or particularly useful nor did it feel true to our experiences,” he continues. “It’s hard to describe the book. They call it a novel, I don’t know if I think of it as a novel – connected stories maybe? – Either way it’s overlapping times.”