THE NEXT BIG THING: a guest post by Shara McCallum

photo credit: Stephen Shwartzer


Shara McCallum is the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at Bucknell University. 

Thanks much to Ellen Dore Watson, who asked me to join in this internet chain letter of sorts.  Her wonderful response to “The Next Big Thing,” discussing her much-awaited book of translations of poems by the Brazilian poet Adelia Prada, is here.  Thanks also to my lovely former students who allowed me to be a guest on this blog.

Some of the questions were a stretch for a poet to answer—at least this poet—but here goes.

What is your working title of your book?

I don’t have one yet.  Titling my books has been something like naming my children.  I’ve had to wait the full gestation period of each and meet the child before I could settle on her name.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s a book of poems so that’s tough to answer.  Individual poems are guided more by image, language, voice, and character than by an overarching book idea.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.  Is there anything else?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m not sure how a person could play a poem but I’d love to see someone try.  Scratch that.  I’d love to see Miyazaki animate the poems.  That would be beautiful and strange and wild.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Since I’m not finished, it’s hard to say exactly.  There’s madness and death, history and myth, and exploration of what it means to be—in other words, the same synopsis as the other books of poems I’ve written.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Neither—by a press that loves poetry.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still going.  My third book took eight years to finish, so we’ll see.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm…the Odyssey?  Only the women are the heroes this time.  Oh, and there are not exactly supernatural creatures or gods who make appearances in the guise of mortals—well, maybe kind-of.  Also, the setting’s not the Aegean (mostly the Caribbean).  And my poems don’t really recount an epic tale.  Also, they’re shorter.  Much shorter.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The same people as always: the dead and others who can’t speak for themselves.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

That I’ll probably feature a painting with naked people again on the cover (someone pointed out to me that I’m four for four with the cover images on my books so far).

Thanks to my fellow writers, whose works I so admire and who agreed to keep this thing going (their responses will go up next week):

Opal Palmer Adisa
Kwame Dawes
Sharon Dolin

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