Elosham Vog is the author of Volcano a poetry collection Unsolicited Press will release on SEPTEMBER 3, 2019.
Our team sat down with Vog and did the always fun interview! Here is what was said:
If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Just one? Can I expand this into a Come Dine With Me-style scenario, with five people each cooking a meal for each other? In that case, I’d need to choose four (living) writers. I would choose Kei Miller (whose poetry includes an intriguing critical element and whose photos of food on social media always look enticing), Tom Robbins (who I think would bring good conversation and other entertainment to the table), Alasdair Grey (who could answer the many questions I have about writing Lanark), and Anne Carson (who I initially discovered when a friend recommened Autobiography of Red after reading an early draft of Volcano; I was intrigued by the similarities and added in a reference to Carson’s book in later drafts). I expect this would be a table full of great conversation, especially after I snuck in Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood and a whole lot of literary ghosts. I think I’d make hotpot because I enjoy the communcal aspect of slowly cooking and eating together, and the opportunity for people to customize their food according to their own preferences.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
I’m not sure I’m scared by anything in the writing process. I love to write. Like most writers, I’m not a particularly good judge of my own writing, and like most writers I experience a fair amount of doubt about its appeal (and even marketability), but writing itself is grand, even though it’s very hard work.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
That’s an interesting question. To me, “crush” implies a romantic or sexual element, but any understanding or image a reader can have of author or character via reading is necessarily mediated by their own interpretation and perception and perspective. If the author is dead, we’re crushing on a projected version of ourselves reacting to a text. But I do think it’s possible to fall in love with language or writing. We’ve all had the experience of reading a text that is so crisp and precise that the language seems to sing. And some texts grow each time they’re read and re-read, so that we notice or learn something new each time we experience them. Those are the books I love (though I also find them slightly depressing because they remind me how much my own writing could be improved). Most recently, I fell for the prose and thinking in Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and The Argonauts. I was also struck by the precision of the writing in Maria Abegunde’s “Learning to Eat the Dead: USA” and look forward to reading more of her work.
What books are on your nightstand?
I tend to read several books at once. Right now, I’m reading Morgan Parker’s Magical Negro (thanks to NetGalley!), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead, CJ Sansom’s Tombland, Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation, and two collections of short speculative fiction (New Suns and A People’s Future of the United States, both also thanks to NetGalley), and I’m very much enjoying them all.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
Inspiration is all around us. The world is a strange and amazing place, and there’s always something to learn and experience. In general, I think reading, whether it’s poetry, prose, criticism, or non-fiction, is always inspiring, as is any exposure to new (to me, anyway) ideas and perspectives. I also believe texts are by their nature intertextual in the sense that they draw from the writer’s experiences of reading, and I played with this idea in Volcano. In terms of Volcano specifically, I was seeking to reply to commonalities I saw in relationship and gender narratives in the “traditional” literary canon. In the text, F isn’t given a voice, but the text is about her and ways in which she subverts the traditional and expected. Similarly, it hints at the hidden in the male figure’s life, from repressed queerness to a lingering dissatisfaction with social expectations. I wanted it to be larger than life and grandiose in its way, in keeping with the idea of replying to the canon, and I wanted to hint at elements of backstory for both characters should the reader want to dive in deeper. The result is a very surreal and wacky set of poems that are both deliberately tongue-in-cheek and decidedly serious (and I think that’s why I like it).
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
I’ve used a fair few colons in Volcano, but I’d say my favorite punctuation mark is the semi-colon. It’s versatile, and I appreciate the complexities of relationships that can be conveyed via its use. I’m also fond of the em dash, which has a similar but distinct function. I enjoy parenthetical asides, too, and these also appear in Volcano. The common thread here would seem to be a fondness for qualifying on commenting on the surrounding text. I see this in my critical writing as well.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I was a voracious reader as a teen. I read all the assigned books, and pretty much everything else I could get my hands on, aside from Harlequin-style romances. I knew all the local librarians by name.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
I would like to thank the many containers of fizzy water that helped fuel the writing process, and the many cups of tea. Without you fine beverages, Volcano would surely not exist. I’d also like to thank the many, many books I read along the way (you have to read to write!).
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
Because I like to write!
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
You only have to please yourself. Everything else will follow.