17 | From the Editor
An Interview with Poet, Editor & Professor, Dr. Matt Schumacher
poetry belongs to no one . . . it is like the wild Thoreau wrote about . . . .
Sloane: You are the editor of Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism. What are some of the biggest challenges and learning curves that you have encountered in that role?
Schumacher: Phantom Drift doesn’t have the audience it deserves and doesn’t receive enough submissions. It doesn’t have donors, sponsors, a backing university, reliable support, or funding partners who are concerned for its survival. There is often a certain instability that sometimes makes me feel disoriented, like a very old man forced to ride a teetertotter or a cyclops at the optometrist.
Sloane: How would you describe New Fabulism?
Schumacher: New Fabulists pride themselves on fantastical propositions. New Fabulists find hidden secret notes in spacesuits at alien autopsies. New Fabulists are restless dreamers who tried to put down roots in the clouds and watched their stiltwalking home drift away into the blue. Phantom Drift, strives to provide a temporary shelter for those lonesome wanderers of the weird, for literary nomads unafraid of terra incognita.
We’re unafraid to invite more types of weirdness in from the rain, and let these weirdnesses warm their toes at our hearth of strangeness.
Sloane: If there is a New Fabulism, there must be an ‘Old Fabulism,’ what’s the difference?
Schumacher: Old Fabulism is vacuumstuffed with timeless stuff: Aesop, the Odyssey, Henri Michaux, and Jonathan Swift all spring to mind. These are fantastical visions which deliver unexpected wisdom. New Fabulism, as we see it, fires up and bears a similar torch, but as an old professor from a hallucinatory novel course I attended said, “we like to keep the library as open as possible.” We’re unafraid to invite more types of weirdness in from the rain, and let these weirdnesses warm their toes at our hearth of strangeness.
Sloane: You have been writing poetry for a very long time now. What inspires you?
Schumacher: I find inspiration in suddenly occurring ideas, in animals, in encounters with flora and fauna and wilderness in the Pacific Northwest, in misunderstandings of language, in missing papayas, in dreams, in weird things people say, in strange places, in the uncanny, in myth, in speculative hypotheticals, in things I should have said but thought of only later.
Sloane: You hold a Ph.D. What was the focus of your work? Through it, did you learn ways of thinking and doing that benefited your poetry?
Schumacher: My avid interests include utopian literature, poetry and poetics, experimental architecture, visionary environments, gothic lit, and the fantastic and surreal. My studies definitely energized the poems.
Sloane: You have had six books of poetry published thus far, correct? Is there one that you feel a particular affinity for?
Schumacher: I still like them all. My current affinity would be for the two unpublished manuscripts in progress currently, a surrealist almanac, and a poetic exploration of the literary uncanny. But I find merits in those published books, and I have other unpublished manuscripts, too, that held merits.
Sloane: I believe that everyone has poetry within them. Why do you think that poetry, in this country at least, seems to be considered the domain of literary specialists?
Schumacher: Popularity may be overrated, in these days of celebrity bestsellers. Poetry’s audience consists largely of its practitioners, hence the literary specialist thing. But it’s heartening to know that there have always been poets doing innovative things outside the canon and elitism’s boundaries—see Dada, Surrealism, and the Oulipo, for instance. But true poetry belongs to no one, and certainly not literary specialists; it is like the wild Thoreau wrote about in “Walking.”
Sloane: Poetry sustains itself at a certain level of popularity in this society, do you think that poetry has reached its pinnacle, or can it still reach a wider audience?
Schumacher: The internet makes an incredible amount of poetry available to readers. There is the Walt Whitman Archive, The Blake Archive, Kenneth Goldsmith’s Ubuweb, and the curations of Cary Nelson’s MAPS website, for instance. Consider for our purposes poetry as a dead art that comes back to life every time a good poem is written. At these times, I envision the audience of poetry as just one hell of a fun-loving bunch, grinning and wearing plastic fangs. There’s plenty of good poetry being written out there. I have lately been reading Diane Seuss’s Frank. The wider audience just needs to open wide and sink their fake plastic teeth into those dazzling stanzas.
Sloane: We’ve known each other for a long time now. In that time, about how many poems would you say that you’ve had published? Is there one that you feel represents some of your most inspired work?
Schumacher: I have enjoyed our friendship! I have never tabulated or thought about it, but it’s a sizeable number, though I’ve never counted and would avoid such a calculation.
Sloane: In your view, is fevered inspiration the ultimate catalyst for great work or is a persistent and technical approach just as important?
Schumacher: I’d say writers of all stripes could use an infusion of both catalysts to keep creating their best work. Fevered inspiration can be a wonderful gift but it arrives unexpectedly and you can’t count on that mercurial phenomenon, though I do suspect it’s the preferred wellspring of inspiration. There is much to be said for the sustained and studied labors of a hardworking writer with a lively imagination over time.
Sloane: You’ve been nominated for the Pushcart Prize a couple of times and received an award or two. Did that increase your marketability as a poet?
Schumacher: It did not. Poetry for me is not a capitalist enterprise, though I wouldn’t mind at all if poetry decided to become profitable suddenly and demanded to pay my bills for me for an extended period of time.
Sloane: So, what’s on the poetry horizon for you?
Schumacher: Here in my poetry crystal ball, I see some ventriloquist dummy poems that I’ll be performing live with a ventriloquist dummy sometime relatively soon. I have been writing under the spell of a Dada alter ego known as “funny guy.”
Sloane: Where can we buy your books?
Schumacher: Spilling the Moon, Fire Diary, and The Fire Diaries are out of print and a little hard to find these days, but they can be had through private sellers on Amazon. favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics is available through Finishing Line Press. Ghost Town Odes can be purchased from Redbat Books. A Missing Suspiria de Profundis can be purchased from Greying Ghost Press.