An Interview with Rich Ives

How about giving the readers of RRR a bio of one hundred words or less?

I was born in South Dakota, raised in Spokane, schooled first there and then at the U. of Montana, studying with Richard Hugo, John Haines, Madeline Defrees and William Kittredge. I was a librarian at the U. of Montana before moving to the Seattle area to teach. I now teach creative writing at Everett Community College just north of Seattle. I’m an avid musician, playing fiddle, dobro, piano, several different types of banjo and guitar, and nearly any other instrument I have time for, especially if it’s used in country, Celtic, or swing music. I dabble in papermaking, assemblage, and encaustic painting.

How did you get the idea for writing “moles”?

After writing both poetry and fiction for a while, I found many of my approaches and interests overlapping and condensing. I was also influenced by German poet Gunter Eich, Russell Edson, and the French Surrealist poets. The shorter pieces in RRR are from a collection with one for each day of the year (an old form known as a “book of days” more recently corrupted into daily “inspirational” calendar books) called Tunneling to the Moon. I needed a name for them that described what they do as well as suggested the hybrid nature of the work. I’ve had the same piece rejected by a fiction magazine for being a poem and by a poetry magazine for being fiction. I’ve had pieces from the book published (when I don’t designate the genre) as fiction, poetry, and even essay.

When and where do you do your writing?

I keep a “notebook” on my laptop and frequently add words, phrases, parts of pieces, curious phrasings, provocations, etc. whenever I can. My favorite time to work is as soon as I wake until lunchtime. I start with a small piece that provokes my imagination and let it run. If it doesn’t go anywhere, I place another piece next to it, and so on until that suggests the forward motion. Sometimes most of the work is in finding the best sequence and phrasing for the combinations. I move things around and experiment a lot. I watch for the implications of plot and character suggested by the combinations and let that influence the sequence. A great deal of the meaning is often in between the lines, created by what is suggested as a probability for the particular phrases to have emerged from. It’s the reverse of “plotted” writing. I concentrate on style and voice and look for plot and theme in what the language suggests and hints at rather than says directly. I first started doing this after studying the notebooks and posthumous “poems” (assembled by David Wagoner in Straw for the Fire) of Theodore Roethke.

Favorite band?

I played electric piano and organ in a blues-rock band for a while so bands like John Mayal, Canned Heat, The Yardbirds, Paul Butterfield, are favorites, as well as the great moody lyrics of Leonard Cohen and the tortured country humor of Guy Clark, but lately I’ve discovered the Western Swing bands from before I was born––Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers, Spade Cooley, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies . . .

Three random items on your bucket list?

1. finally finish all the work on the log home I live in
2. understand and write about the probabilities of my sixth cousin three times removed, George Homer  Ives, first man to be hung by vigilantes in Montana
3. put out a CD of my own songs

Do you believe in ghosts? UFO’s? Anything of a paranormal bent?

I’m a pragmatist with a wild imagination. I pay attention to a lot of things I don’t believe in. Often there’s a truth hidden in implausible possibilities that’s more important than their “reality.”

Favorite all-time TV show?

Twin Peaks and The George Gobel Show

Please ask and answer a question that I (Chris Duncan) should have asked you?

What other influences have contributed to the style of these “moles?”

Fairy tales, a condescending 1938 Social Studies reader for 6th grade, an 1890 handbook on marital compatibility, numerous annoying educational advancement studies, the myths and legends of third-world countries and minority peoples, frequent conversations with Crows, Owls and a wide variety of underground inhabitants, insects and the people who collect them, Joseph Cornell, the Quay Brothers, letterpress printing, and the inability to channel my imagination linearly.
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About Rich Ives:
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. An interview and18 hybrid works appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Bitter Oleander. In 2011 he has been nominated twice for Best of the Net and once for the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award.