Here are the instructions I'm sending folks who I will interview on this first, pre-RV trip through the Midwest:
I’m juggling 12 visits on this first, pre-RV trip, so I’ve done my best to meet the scheduling requests of all of you who have been so gracious to allow me this opportunity.
Let me run through some information about my visit and my plan to allow you as much lead time as necessary to prepare for this intrusion…haha.
I’m requesting just an hour of your time to do the following:
• Ask you some questions about how “place” has influenced/impacted your own work as a poet. (I’ll record our conversation on a small recorder.) It would be very helpful to me if you could reference specific poems or books of yours that you think relate to this idea. I would like your permission to republish in the finished book a single piece of your work that we discuss. I am several months away, obviously, of pitching the book, securing permissions, etc., but this will help me edit the book and your section in particular. Should you have a paper copy of the work in question, that will also save me a lot of time and energy.
• Shoot 10-20 photos of you - and/or you in your space - some with a digital camera, some with a 35mm. (I also have a handheld light to fill in light in any indoor locations.) I am very keen on taking photos that don’t look like the typical “author” photo. I’m hoping that the photos in this book (not just of authors, but of places, highways, towns, etc.) will be extraordinary and striking. I imagine that the best photos might show you in a natural habitat: at the computer, in the back yard, reading a book, twirling a yo-yo, anything that is really singular to your experience as a poet. A book full of normal headshots will rob the venture of a valuable insight. So, I imagine a certain quirky collection of shots. In the end, however, I will do my best to defer to you when the choice comes many months from now.
• Ask you to sign a release giving me permission to use this interview for a book project called The Poetry of Places that I will write and edit over the next several months, and then try to sell to a publisher in 2004.
• Leave you with an assignment to provide for this anthology a new poem, one born – perhaps – because of our discussion and your own thoughts about the role place has played/plays in your writing life. This is something that I wouldn’t need until early next year, but obviously I would be pleased to see it any time.
I’ll be alone on this trip, as my wife is staying behind in Maryland to babysit our house that just went on the market. As noted in my earlier communiqué, this is a quick trip to the Midwest and back to do some interviews that really couldn’t be done in late Sept or Oct when the real RV driving begins in earnest. I will be neat and clean, in and out in a hurry, and I’m almost sure not to leave any of my equipment behind.
I’m hoping to do the interview wherever you feel the most comfortable. Quiet is much preferred – for recording and later transcription, and a single uninterrupted portion of time will be necessary for me to keep to my schedule. Also, some flexibility of start time might be necessary, as some days I will be driving upwards of 300 miles to reach you from a previous stop.
What I’d ask at this point is a reply from you with an address, any directions, etc. as well as a good telephone number to reach you on the day prior to and the day of the interview. In most cases, I want to do the interview at any time that fits your own schedule. I’ve arranged my travel a little tightly, but if you say 8 am, that’s okay. If you say 8 pm, that’s okay, too.
What else can I tell you? If there’s anything in my plan that you’re not sure of, please know that I will amend my visit in nearly any way to secure your thoughts about the role place has in your work as a poet. One writer recently was unable to keep a date we had set up, so we’re going to do the interview via email, collect the poems later,, and somehow try to shoot a photo later in the year. It’s not ideal, obviously, but I wanted to be as amenable as possible.