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Words in Flight: An Interview with Dean Schabner, author of No better place than here

Schabner 1

Dean Schabner grew up on the Great South Bay of Long Island. He’s dug clams, framed houses, worked in bookstores, and has been a reporter, sports writer, and editor. In addition to no better place than here, he has a chapbook of poems, surf-body, out from Ghost City Press, and has had poems and stories appear in The Pushcart Prize, The Trouvaille Review, Juniper, River Heron Review, Witness, Northwest Review, and others. He lives on the shore of Jamaica Bay in the Rockaways of New York City, and is a body surfer who doesn’t particularly mind if a wave takes him and tumbles him once in a while—and he’s glad his daughter is that way, too.

You can buy No better place than here here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title, which comes from the last few lines of the last poem of the book, came to me rather easily, once I saw it. It carries, I hope, the dual sense of both that we should accept where we are because it is just where we are, and that wherever we are is the best place to be, if we will look around us attentively, deeply, to see the beauty everywhere.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I can’t remember not wanting to write, and the list of writers whom I read to learn from is long. When I turned back from prose to poetry about ten years ago, it was D.H. Lawrence first who gave me permission to write messy poems that reach for something and don’t need to be perfect. Other voices since then, in no particular order: Denise Levertov, George Oppen, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Emily Dickinson, Saigyo, Wang Wei, Meng Haoran, Tao Qian, Thoreau, Alice Oswald.

But on a personal level, and in terms of what it really means to be an artist, my mother is the heart and soul of my inspiration. A painter who never stopped exploring new mediums and the full range of her vision and imagination, who studied the techniques of others and learned from them but has always retained her own vision. And for whom art is about the creative process, the doing.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

The most fun I had as a journalist was working at a small-town weekly newspaper, where I covered first high school sports and then the village and town boards and the cops. I loved the sense of responsibility, knowing that if I didn’t get things right, people coming up to me in stores and on the street would challenge me, want to set me straight. I liked that these things mattered to people.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

I like to think that publishing my book has given it wings to fly beyond the circle of people I have been able to share my work with. I can only hope that someone somewhere has come upon it by chance and found something in it to give them a moment’s joy.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

What I have tried to do in my book is capture small moments of beauty; to see the world and see into it. These are all love poems, and not just in the sense of love between one person and another, romantic love, but love as a way of seeing and being in the world. That is, an attentiveness to things being what they are, an openness to that, and an embracing acceptance. I hope I have conveyed at least a little of that, enough that a reader might for an instant, reading one of my little poems, feel that, too.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am working on a hybrid text, prose and poetry, inspired by a recent trip to Taiwan, and drawing on the travel diaries of medieval Japan and China. I thought my vision of it was clear, but it has turned out to be much more difficult than I expected, feeling like I want to say more than I know how to say.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

It was a pleasure to work with Atmosphere Press. I felt a genuine excitement from the people I worked with: a close reading from my editor who saw what I was trying to do not just with individual poems but with the shape of the book and helped me further my goals, and patience from the designers as I asked again and again for changes until we created the book as I hoped to have it.

You can buy No better place than here here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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