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Interview: Jay Melder, 2010 Fall

In Capital Letters (ICL): What authors, poets, books, poems, stories, and writing do you return to again and again?

Lately, I've been going back to David Bottoms. Bottoms is a poet I haven't known very long, but for the last year or so has been my go to guy.  His first book "Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump" must be a southern classic by now.  It's terrific.

ICL: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process? The most surprising?  The most challenging?

 I'll steal this answer from McCann and say that I hate to write but love to have written.  The most surprising part of the process is always what happens at the keyboard--no amount of brain-storming or outlining could ever replace the fun things your fingers can pound out when the pressure to produce is on. The most challenging part of it for me is getting started--it's hell staring at that blank screen.

ICL: When did you first start thinking of yourself as a writer?

 I wrote plays and poems as a child and perhaps considered myself a writer then. Though, the deeper I get into this writing thing the less I think of myself as a writer.  I consider myself more a student of it, I guess.  When I get it right, I'll get back to you, but for now I'll just be a student.

ICL- What is the most valuable skill that you've acquired working for the National Endowment for the Arts and how might that have influenced your creative work?

 My ability to articulate my thoughts on a piece of literature has improved dramatically since my internship. Of course, there is a possibility I could be better articulating my ignorance, but if I can say it clearly I'll consider it a win.

ICL- You write often about baseball in your work. What is the game's attraction for you and how easy is it to translate that experience to the page?

I think it is extremely difficult to translate baseball to the page.  It's been done so much before, and by some of the greats, I wish I knew how they did it.  But there is something about the game, about the quiet moment before any given pitch that harbors the greatest of hopes and futures and dreams. In that moment anything is possible: you could hit the home run, you could win the big game. After that moment, that's when the loss comes, that's when it becomes a whole life.

ICL: If you weren't focused on writing, what would you be doing?

 I'd probably be in New Orleans, doing something respectable, working with family maybe, complaining about the heat and the play calling for LSU football, drinking in moderation, living the good life.

ICL: If your life had a theme song right now, what would it be?

"Best of My Love" by The Emotions.  Obviously

Jay Melder