This Week on Luminations

An Interview with Bill Marsh

Ben: Thank you for agreeing to appear on Luminations, Bill. For the first question, I'd like to begin by asking you about you and the SDPG. In all truth, I don't know much about you. I've done a little searching on the web and see that you are part of the San Diego Poetry Guild, a collective that I certainly find exciting. The SDPG appears to embrace all forms of artistic speculation and enquiry with a fairly clear drive towards interdisciplinary collaboration. But perhaps most importantly, it is a *guild*. So could you tell us how you got involved in the SDPG (did you start it?) and how do you see yourself within the guild as whole? Bill: The Guild is still finding its edges, so it's difficult to give a clear history or even a clear explanation of our project. At heart, the goal is to bring writers in SD together around the idea of "poetry" or "poetic activity" but without necessarily limiting ourselves to poetry (print or performed) per se. A short answer to your question would be that two friends and I -- all Communication grad students at UCSD -- got together one day maybe a year-and-a-half ago and decided to form a poetry group for informal work-sharing and discussion. Last year, on a whim really, I started the SDPG blog -- admittedly as a personal attempt to work through some ideas and questions I had at the time about group formation and writing, but also (I hoped at the time) to provide a web forum for the group. The group blog never really caught on, so in a way "SDPG" (the blog) evolved mostly as a fiction. But as the initial group of poets grew to include a photographer/videographer and a couple dancers, in addition to a few more writers, we grafted the "guild" concept onto the group, and the name stuck. For some of us, the guild structure, even if only a fiction, invites interesting questions about the work of poetry (or art more generally) and the way that work gets distributed, shared, supported, and then "sold" or exchanged out in the world. So, as we solidify as a group, we do so around the basic idea that we're all contributing (and refining) labor and craft in part on behalf of the larger guild/group effort. In that sense we're trying to distinguish ourselves from the perhaps more routine or predictable activities of a reading group or collective, but to be honest we're still not entirely sure what the differences might be, at least beyond this fundamental commitment to sharing work and resources. Ben: As a guild, I imagine that there is a fairly strong sense of community and cooperation (perhaps this is idealizing somewhat), how has working as part of this diverse group (SDPG is a year old now) affected your creative 'output' and poetic thinking (if it is really possible to separate one from the other)? Bill: We've had perhaps six meetings since last year -- perhaps not as many as we should have -- but in the meantime I've spent a lot of time working with one other guild member putting together a performance piece mixing projection, audio, and his dance moves. To answer the second part of your question, the group/guild dynamic has changed my thinking (and my output) radically, in the sense that I'm working toward an entirely different set of ends now. Writing becomes more occasional and directed, and the kind of assembly or appropriation/collage work that I've always liked to do takes on an entirely different meaning. With hindsight I see some of my earlier writing as often limited to formal exercise and, I think, a short-sighted, maybe myopic, focus on print-publication (journals, book). I've been toying with web-based (visual/animated) assembly too for about five years now, and that stretches the frame a bit, but in general I've been mostly concerned with object creation for display, whether page or screen. Now I think more in terms of generating pieces, scripts, chunks of material (image, sound, text), to use in a broader, more processual, assembly work -- writing for eventual performance, for example, instead of (or maybe in addition to) eventual publication. So, re the first part of your question, there really is a strong sense of "cooperation" among us, and that obviously rewires my thinking about what's possible. While I've done a considerable amount of collaboration (usually "long distance") with other poets and artists, this is the first time I've worked closely with others for an extended period of time, and toward collaborative performance and installation work. It's pretty exciting and eye-opening. This past weekend, four of us took part in an exhibit called "Hotels/Motels" organized by a local installation artist. About fifty artists rented rooms at the downtown Travelodge and "set up shop" for the night. For the first time, the Guild had a "stage" and a presence, and we spent part of the day assembling the latest issue of our Guild zine (Zazil2). Later, J.R. (my chief collaborator in the Guild) and I worked out our evolving performance for rotating audiences. It was a blast, and I mention it because that "year" you mention has obviously brought me a long way from the kind of work I was doing before SDPG grew from fiction to (pseudo)reality

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