Welcome back to 5 Questions, a monthly feature on the Blog in which we query an author visiting our store for an event. With each of our new City Lights publications, we try to invite all of our authors to come and read/perform at our store for free to celebrate the release of their books.
Today we profile Eric Baus, the author of the latest edition in the City Lights Spotlight Series, a poetry series of innovative American writers edited by Garrett Caples. As with all of our 5 Questions posts, the questions are always the same.
Eric’s book, The Tranquilized Tongue, was published this past April, and Eric will embark on a book tour through the summer – starting with an appearance this Tuesday at City Lights. Eric’s Q&A appears below.
Event: Tuesday, June 10th, Eric celebrates the release of his book with a reading featuring special guest Sunnylyn Thibodeaux.
About the Book: In the tradition of French poets like Francis Ponge, Pierre Reverdy, and René Char, The Tranquilized Tongue offers a series of prose meditations in the form of surrealist declaratives, each sentence unfolding like an alchemical riddle in which sounds, images, and figures appear, dissolve, and re-emerge to offer a glimpse of a complex unconscious roiling below the surface of everyday reality. Sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a sentence, occasionally just a fragment, each poem in The Tranquilized Tongue is a portal to new perspective on the everyday materials of reality as constituted through language itself.
City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?
Eric Baus: My sister first took me to City Lights when I was still in high school. I’m pretty sure that I bought Artaud Anthology on that trip and maybe René Daumal’s The Powers of the Word, mostly because of their covers. I lived in Indiana at the time, which was not all that exciting, and the store’s big front windows as well as the books that City Lights published all seemed to glow in contrast.
CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?
EB: I like the idea of listening to extended hypnotic instrumentals while reading the book: Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians; Pauline Oliveros, A Little Noise in the System; Roscoe Mitchell Sextet, Sound; Annea Lockwood, The Glass World.
A soundtrack of shorter tracks would include: Suicide “Ghost Rider”; Yoko Ono “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)”; The Raincoats “No Side to Fall In”; The Jesus & Mary Chain “Never Understand”; EPMD “Get Off The Bandwagon”; Arthur Russell, “Being It”; Can “Oh Yeah”. Most of these songs have some fluttering elements on top of an underlying droning quality.
CL: What’s the first book you actually finished?
EB: I think it was The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure, but I don’t remember anything about that story. I just realized the titles of the books in that series (The Sinister Signpost, The Melted Coins, The Twisted Claw, etc.) are like the titles of the poems in my new book (“The Eviscerated River”, “The Infested Echo”, “The Abducted Dictionary”…).
I really liked The Mouse and the Motorcycle because I thought it was cool that the mouse started up his tiny motorcycle by making a sound with his mouth. When I was even younger I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon because he was able to invent new landscapes at will.
CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?
EB: I would probably have become a linguist or a librarian. I would love to work with animals in some helpful capacity.
CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi).
My cat Virginia, a variety of treats for Virginia, De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest, a bunch of César Aira novels, audio recordings of other types of environments, audio recordings of the voices of my family and friends (though not necessarily talking directly to me), paper and a few nice pens, chamomile plants, a sleep mask, and earplugs.
Eric is reading Tuesday, June 10th at City Lights Books with poet Sunnylyn Thibodeaux whose new book, As Water Sounds, is brand new from Bootstrap Press. Eric will be on tour this summer in various locations in New York, Chicago, and on the West Coast.
For all of the events happening at City Lights, go here.