Monday, May 26, 2008
An interview with Timothy Gager: A “Dire” Reader in Somerville, Mass.
Writer Timothy Gager is a man who crosses many literary genres. He has a new poetry collection out from Somerville’s Cervena Barva Press: “ this is where you go when you are gone.” In 2007 alone Gager had 32 works of fiction, as well as poetry published in online and print journals. Gager is the current fiction editor of the “Wilderness House Literary Review,” the coeditor of the “Heat City Literary Review,” and the editor of the fiction and prose anthology “Out of the Blue Writers Unite.” He is the cofounder of the Somerville News Writers Festival, as well as the Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Mass. The series was voted “Best Of” in the Boston Phoenix 2008. I spoke with him on my Somerville Cable Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Doug Holder: Tim you write both poetry and fiction but until recently you were primarily known as a fiction writer. Which do you identify with more strongly: poetry or fiction?
Tim Gager: I don’t define myself as exclusively either of them. I don’t wake up in the morning and say: “ I am a poet, I am going to write a poem.” Or “ Gee, I haven’t written a story for awhile, I’m going to write a story.” If something strikes me at a certain depth or certain level, that is when it is going to become a poem or a story.
DH: Charles Bukowski wrote that wine, classical music, jazz, the horses, and women were essential to his writing life. What’s on your list?
TG: Reading. Food. Love. Disappointment. Achievement.
DH: Any music?
TG: I like calming music. I like folk music. I also like to have baseball on in the background. I’m not really watching it on the TV. I’m not listening to it, but I like it on.
DH: Some writers claim that writing is like an addiction. Your take?
TG: Addiction is sort of a strong word. It can be viewed negatively. I think “passionate” is a better word. With passion-you always want to be in possession of it. If you have a passion for writing you want to spend as much time with your love as you possibly can.
If I wasn’t writing I would miss it. It would be like my best friend went across the country. But I would survive. But I can’t see myself giving it up. If I didn’t write there would be definitely a void.
DH: Baseball comes up in a lot of your writing, as well as other writers we know. What is it about the game that holds such allure?
TG: Baseball is the first reality television show. The drama is each individual’s numbers going up and down: it’s who is hitting better, who’s in first place. It’s a lot like life. Life has a lot of drama. There is also love in the game. When Manny Ramirez makes that great catch you love it.
DH: You co-founded The Somerville News Writers Festival. With the support of the folks at The Somerville News, you managed to book top name talent like Junot Diaz, Tom Perrotta, etc… You spend a lot of time on this. You are in essence making a showcase for other folks, and you are not getting rich. What makes Tim Gager, run?
TG: I promote other people, but, if I didn’t have the Dire Reader Series, The Somerville News Writers Festival, I would be missing out. The fact that I have these venues provokes people to check out my stuff. A lot of excellent writers’ work may never see the light of day. The fact that I founded these series is a big payoff for me personally. When in doubt (because it is subjective to a great degree of what good writing is), editors, etc… when they see that I have read with the likes of Franz Wright, may have second thoughts about my work. It has given me a lot of respect. I even getter better rejection slips…almost apologetic ones.
DH: But of course there is an altruistic reason, right?
TG: I believe writers should be treated like rock stars. It makes me happy to have an event where writers can be seen.
DH: The Norton and Tauro families, the owners of The Somerville News have been very supportive ,right?
TG: It has never been, “Hey, get 250 or 300 people or the festival is over…” I have that internal pressure on myself.
DH: In the poem “2A.M.” from your collection “ this is where you go when you are gone” you write provocatively about sex:
you push down
the weight on each bent leg,
cures my evils…”
Often you explore the ying and yang of your relationships with women. Is there more ying than yang or vice-a-versa?
TG: That’s a personal question. I use intentional double meanings. People may not get the poems—but it adds an extra layer. For instance: “ Pushing down on someone”—you might think that refers only to the physical aspect of sex. But it also means you are leaning on someone.
DH: You have run the Dire Literary Series for many years now. Recently it was voted of “Best Of…” in the Boston Phoenix. What’s your secret?
TG: It is funny how Dire evolved. I had thought it would be a variety show, like David Letterman, with all the guests as readers. It evolved into a house party, and everybody is involved.
You have to make your series fun—it has to move quickly—you have to be able to relate to people. You have to have “events” not just another reading. The audience should have a chance to schmooze with the writers for instance. Oh yeah, publicize…I am afraid not to.
* On July 11 at 6PM there will be the annual Dire Barbecue, with readers, food and drink. Out of the Blue Art Gallery 106 Prospect St. Cambridge, Mass.