Welcome, Dean Rader! (And Welcome Back, Simone Muench!)

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us since last summer—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.
Today we bring you Dean Rader and Simone Muench, whose collaborative poetry collection Suture, will be published during National Poetry Month next year. This will be Dean’s first book with Black Lawrence Press and Simone’s second.

IMG_4753The Authors

Simone Muench is the author of six full-length books including Lampblack & Ash (Sarabande, 2005), Orange Crush (Sarabande, 2010), and Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014). Her chapbook Trace received the Black River Award (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). She is a recipient of a 2013 NEA fellowship and the 2014 Meier Foundation for the Arts Achievement Award, which recognizes artists for their innovation, achievements and community contributions. She received her Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is Professor of English at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies and serves as chief faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review.
IMG_9552 (1) (1)Dean Rader’s Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Prize, and Landscape Portrait Figure Form (2014) was a Barnes & Noble Review Best Poetry Book of the Year. He is the editor of 99 Poems for the 99 Percent: An Anthology of Poetry and the winner of the 2015 George Bogin Award from the Poetry Society of America. Rader writes and reviews regularly for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Rumpus, The Huffington Post, and The Kenyon Review. He is a professor at The University of San Francisco, where he won the university’s distinguished research award in 2011.

The Book

Where did you write the book?
Dean: Since this is a collaborative book, it went back and forth between Chicago and San Francisco pretty much non-stop for over two years. But, I also worked on poems on airplanes and cafes and hotels in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Poems or parts of poems were also penned in the DMV, the library at the University of San Francisco, my car, my son’s preschool, a bar (or two), a Volvo dealership, and an emergency room. But not in that order.
Simone: As Dean notes, we wrote this book in cyberspace as I was located in Illinois and he in California, which means that I frequently wrote from the vantage point of my sofa surrounded by coffee cups, books, and cats: Youki at my left hip, Misa at my right hip, and Clemens at my feet. It’s the perfect furry entrapment, and you never want to get up lest you disturb them.
What is your favorite memory from working on this manuscript?
Simone: At a Chicago reading series, I read some of our sonnets, including one that begins with a Rita Dove line, “Are you having a good time?” As I read the first line, everyone responded with an enthusiastic “yes,” which was followed by laughter once people realized that the question was actually part of the poem. It was a lovely moment of unplanned audience interaction.
More generally, when I would write a penultimate stanza, and Dean would send back a stunning finale—a closing that felt simultaneously surprising and inevitable. Or, vice versa, when I’d deliver a final couplet or tercet that I was unsure of, and Dean would genuinely love it. This certainly didn’t occur for all of the poems, but for those that it did, there’s the recognized writer’s euphoria that often follows poem-making when the piece finally feels resolved; and, when it’s collaborative, you have someone to share in that energizing thrill.

Dean: I have all of these different but similar memories of opening up an email attachment from Simone and being simply amazed at how good her lines were. This happened most often when I would send her the first four lines. I would wonder—sometimes for days—how she would respond, if she hated my lines, if I left her in an impossible situation. But, in every instance, I was 1) surprised and 2) pleasantly so. Her responses were never what I thought they would be (even when I thought my stanza had sort of determined where things would go). So, my happiest moment was when I realized I was collaborating with a superior poet.
How did you know that the book was done and ready to send out?
Dean: When Simone said it was.
Simone: At some point our process slowed down due to other obligations, and we began to focus on revisiting the poems instead of writing new ones. Once we had discarded some of the sonnets and revised others, we decided to send it out. Though, I would say, it was a process that I never tired of, and I would have been happy continuing to collaborate. I always loved waking up, checking my inbox, and having a new stanza to puzzle over for days.
IMG_3523What’s on your reading list for this summer?
Simone: My books continue to pile up on both my nightstand and a bench by my bed, but here are some that I’d like to get through this summer (see photo), including ones I’ve already begun: Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves (I’ve been meaning to read this for years), Eduardo Galeano’s Voices of Time, Samantha Irby’s Meaty (just saw her read a piece called “Triple X Christmas” that brought the house down!), my former student C. Russell Price’s new chapbook Tonight, We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other, Rikki Ducornet’s The Deep Zoo, Attila Jozsef’s Winter Night: Selected Poems, Larry Levis’ The Darkening Trapeze, Sally Wen Mao’s Mad Honey Symposium, Brian Teare’s Pleasure, Rebecca Morgan Frank’s The Spokes of Venus, the comic book Wytches Vol. 1, and others.
Dean: Wow. Nothing too beachy. I have all these books to review and two more to write. I just received Heid Erdrich’s (Louise Erdrich’s younger sister) new book of poems in manuscript that I’m very excited about. I also want to read Wiltold Grombowitz’s Diaries. I just met Viet Nguyen, so I’m thinking about starting The Sympathizer. I’m open to suggestions!


You thought I was the kind of animal
You thought I was the kind of animal
who would first purr, splay my belly before
I bite. I am not feline or femme fatale,
despite your desire for me to be your
feral other. But, this is no cartoon.
You’re not in some fairy tale. You’re in line
seven, and my claws are sharp. Here, feel. Soon,
it will be time to eat, and you look divine.
Succumb to my wolf face, your own savage
sweet tooth. Lick my fur until there’s nothing
but flesh, no more facade, no camouflage,
only revelation—the heart’s reddest
rifle. Let’s be honest: you love hiding
but I love hunting. Let’s see who’s the best.
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where           
and who and when and which, and I would stitch
thunder to air, to blue, to the wound star
of you; I know the sound of clutch and glitch,
gash and gone. The scarlet charm of open
mouths, rose clouds. I wound; the body’s coil spring
is both rupture and rapture—a woven
sack of loss and plasma, a suturing
of sky to skull, of cloud to eye, and I
shall ring the loud bell of these bones as one
who owns the wings and knows the way to fly
beyond this body’s sad anatomy. When
wind enters me as though closing a door,
I am the frame, the flaw, the sky, and the scar.