Interview vie email with Deva Eveland
Poetry translation by Zhenming Tian
These adorable automatons
They spurt rhythmic noises
Evaluate foreign receivers
Judgments non-critically incorrect
Find new things to stare at
Test new commands
Hastily assembled orders
Haphazard happy accidents
Ad hoc living, compiled data
Harshly tuned decision matrices
Nightly memory dumps
Overloads and shutdown
They run their little batteries dry
Shut off their non-vital pieces
Stomp back home
To fill up once more on Emptiness
DE: Can you talk a little bit about where your ideas come from? Images? Experiences? Pondering the universe? (I was especially curious about .Exe and Textiles).
JW: I haven't given this much thought before. There always seems to be a spark in the shadows. I never consciously create the first line or two of anything I write. It just comes out and from there it feels a bit like a game of balancing strange blocks on top of each other. I usually know where the blocks come from with the exception of the first one.
.exe came from a place of total social exhaustion. I'd spent a week and a half where I never had more than maybe ten minutes to myself. I felt overdrawn and all the idiosyncrasies of humans just felt so strange after being around the quirks and needs of other people non-stop. It felt like when you say a word so many times that it seems to lose its meaning.
Textiles started from a place of feeling isolated, a bit of existential unease. It became a form of therapy to remind myself that we're all a part of this larger sort of emergent organism. In the same way that some termites create enormous temperature-regulating nests without any one of them planning it, I think our civilizations and the knowledge that passes along them have done some pretty spectacular things through ordinary humans. Although I guess at times we do great things more intentionally.
That poem also drew on the Fates of Greek mythology, and the Apollo lunar missions.
In planned tangles
Each and the other
Started in baskets
And plant-made braids
Held like hands
To cross the seas
We drew wires
Thinner and thinner
Stuffed it with a set
Of True and False
It was a map
Knit by little old ladies
It led to a place
That never stopped moving
Pulling the waters high
We touched the moon
With a tapestry
Squished to preserve
A yes-no story
Against cubed-circle emissions
We are threads
We are fabric
We are weavers
DE: How has the experience of living in China affected your writing?
JW: This is a two part question for me. I think exposure to Chinese culture has influenced my thinking in general, and I have writing that draws heavily on the details of things in China. I also have writing that remains wholly grounded in my Canadian roots with no relation to China. So it shows up but not always.
The second part is that China is one of the more homogeneous places I've been and it's the first time where I'm an obvious outsider. Especially in the earlier months of trying to adapt to life here, I ended up feeling fairly isolated. Sometimes the lack of familiarity and my subsequent incompetence has left me feeling like it's a strange dream, not real life. And so I write that into some things as well.
I find that cultural exposure is more becoming a factor and isolation is declining and I hope the trend continues. Loneliness can be found anywhere, so I think it's the less interesting theme.
DE: How do you know when a poem is finished?
JW: I know the first draft is not finished. It's sort of like I have to wait for the paint to dry and see if it came out alright. From there I adjust words and fine tune the way it reads until it's something that I like the feel of.
When I'm writing the first draft there will be a point where I'll run out of things to say. If I'm lucky, I'll also be satisfied with what I've said, otherwise I'll dump it into the scrap yard.
I'm very much a 'put it out there and move on' person. I used to never finish my projects so I've had to train myself to let things go when they could still be improved. I know I'm at the point to do that when, x number of drafts in I don't know if I'm making it better or worse anymore.
DE: Do you believe in free will? A line in your poem Superdeterminism begins “There is a theory…” as though you yourself don’t wish to affirm it as true or not.
JW: I studied philosophy so I could write an essay on this but I suspect it would be boring to most people. Short answer, I don't believe in free will.
I still believe in moral responsibility and I believe that the choices we make are not only meaningful but the only meaningful thing we can do.
I wrote 'There is a theory' because there are competing ideas on how to explain some apparently faster than light phenomena. Honestly, my grasp of quantum physics is pretty weak despite my efforts to understand it.
Mainly, I don't affirm the theory I subscribe to because I know that I don't really know what I'm talking about.
A lost thought
The cracks in the glass
I couldn’t bear to sleep
I no longer wished to wake up
There went the illusion of fine
No longer wandering
Just lost, perfectly on course
Rain drops, hardly bigger than mist
Spraying over the rim
Of this unreal world
There is a theory
Even paradox is no problem
If all was decided backwards
If time is symmetrical
Here we all are
Jacob Wanuch is a Canadian living in Chengdu. He likes whiskey, sweaters, and beautiful pens, none of which he can really afford. He is always working on various projects and is currently writing his first novel.