Kevin Doran Interview

Kevin Doran is published at Dusie, elimae, Unpleasant Event Schedule, Sein und Werden, zafusy, etc. He is the founder of Triptych Haiku and his blog is Siberian Kiss.

SK: Could you educate me on the Triptych Haiku as a format? This is a form of haiku that you invented as well as the name of the journal you edit, am I right?

Kevin Doran: Yes. But I wouldn’t say I invented it; it’s merely an idea I gave a moniker to. Basically, triptych haiku is a form that applies a fixed cut-up technique to haiku: three haiku, one line from each, forming a new three-line ‘triptych’. As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been done before, though it’s difficult to say I created something that could’ve been.

I was pleased with the number of people who submitted it to the journal, though I published few of them. John M. Bennett was the first person to adopt the form, and Mark Young’s Otoliths became the first venue outside of my control to publish it.

I genuinely thought I was going to be excommunicated from the haiku world, rejected at every turn, for starting the zine. When you drop a pebble into a traditionalist's pond, they get real upset about the ripples. But the feedback/reception was unanimously positive, and veterans of the form, who I thought wouldn't even submit, or approve of the editorial direction, were pleased and supportive. Though I’m sure there are still some people out there who would jam knives into my spine in a dark alley . . .

SK: What are some of your favorite types of haiku? Does anything particular about their history appeal to you? Which writers have influenced your work and how did you get into writing haikus?

Kevin Doran: The first time I properly wrote haiku/senryu -- the odd dabble aside -- I was reading the submission guidelines of Simply Haiku, and they were taking senryu on a theme, so I wrote ten or so and submitted them. That was also the first time I had haiku/senryu accepted; that was mid-2005.

My favourite types of haiku would be haiku noir, senryu, scifaiku -- anything that’s different and/or innovative. There are other short forms I enjoy reading and writing, such as gembun, tanka, and so on.

As for literary influences: to choose writers who have influenced me would be unfair in terms of adequately portraying my scope of influence, as a writer wouldn’t influence any more than what would happen on a bus journey, or what I might read on the back of a chocolate bar. I make no distinction between the two, and therefore no distinction between individual writers. So, I’m unable to answer the question in any overly defined terms.

SK: I have trouble writing haikus and, considering your accomplishments with this poetic format, (and in general) was hoping you could perhaps break down the process for me. How is a good contemporary haiku composed?

Kevin Doran: There are endless essays and articles written about haiku, and what makes a ‘good’ haiku, but it’s completely interpretative. Ultimately, a haiku/senryu should say something, and say it concisely. I could easily write five-hundred words explaining haiku, how to write it, and how to write it well, but I won’t; just read it, study it, then read it some more. Most people get taught that --and most, if not all, dictionary definitions/popular definitions merely outline that -- haiku is a short form that is a fixed tercet of five-seven-five syllables. People who don’t know any better say that Westernised haiku is a bastardised form, in not adhering to this syllable structure, but Japanese is a wildly different language, and translations of haiku into English naturally transpose into different syllable structures. The originators of the form didn’t always adhere to the five-seven-five syllable structure themselves anyway. For a lot of haijin, haiku is a lot more about content and diction than structure, and a lot of people miss that point.

SK: How is Triptych Haiku the magazine going these days? How difficult is it to edit a magazine?

Kevin Doran: Too difficult, don’t ever do it. Editing is like a slow and painful death of the soul; like stabbing it over time with a thousand toothpicks. Ninety per cent of the problem is that no-one reads or heeds the submission guidelines. The others are mostly things like amateurs who don’t know any better e-mailing three times in a week, after they’ve just had work accepted, aggressively asking about the status of their work when the issue isn’t due out for months; or being undecided about borderline work. However, the feeling of publishing work -- especially when you’ve given people a platform that virtually didn’t exist -- and giving editing suggestions that make a piece better, is great.

These days, the zine is asleep. It will stay asleep until I find a second suitable editor to co-manage it.

SK: I enjoyed the article you proposed to Bookslut that was posted on your blog Siberian Kiss. What would or will your further works of critique and journalism be like and what is your take on critical analysis?

Kevin Doran: Thanks. I guess my critiques and journalism will follow the same lines of interest that appear on my blog -- politics, poetry, music, etc -- and take any shape at all. I’ve been mentally collating critiques of poetry blogs for a few months -- perhaps I’ll start doing something in that vain? Taking my interviews to a higher platform than my blog (I’m currently interviewing bands as a journalist for my university’s student newspaper)? I’d like to incorporate poetry into my journalism more.

I think critical thinking/analysis is important. It should be encouraged more in school, though the social agendas of school don’t allow for it.

SK: Are you into John Cage’s writing or music or both or neither?

Kevin Doran: I respect his work, yes.

SK: Could you enlighten me about your music, the process of creation, the instruments used, its style and your desired goals?

Kevin Doran: The process isn’t too serious, as I just make music for fun (and upload it to MySpace and my blog): I use solely digital audio workstation software. If I wanted to get serious, I could hook-up my guitar to my laptop, use samplers (like Matina Stamatakis does) or digital recorders, etc, but I’m having fun with what I’ve been doing. I haven’t spent any more than a few days on any one song; so I don’t sweat blood over it like I would my writing.

The style is eclectic, within the scope of the purely electronic: trip hop, drum and bass, breakbeat, ambient; anything that’s interesting.

The desired goal is to have fun and be creative.

SK: Where did you obtain this frightening mask through which you read your work here?

Kevin Doran: Someone gave it to me. It was all so haphazard, actually. I’d wanted to do something a little different, and initially thought of utilising my big hood, so to speak, and perhaps using a mask. I’d been half-thinking for a while that if I was going to put it online, I’d need to continue the partial anonymity thing I have going on (by which I mean you can find photographs of me online, but you have to look for them). The night before the reading, I saw several of the same mask hanging from someone’s bookshelf. It came together nicely. I cut bigger nose holes to breathe better, and cut out the bottom to allow jaw room to speak.

I was so busy/disorganised that I didn’t pick what I was going to read until a few hours before the reading (I mistakenly read some drafts). I didn’t have time to practise with the mask on, and I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to breathe in. And being a little drunk on real absinthe, and wine, didn’t help. In the video, you can see, just thirty seconds after I start reading, there’s a lengthened pause and I shift off one leg to the other; that’s me thinking, ‘Shit, I can’t breathe in this thing.’

SK: Living in the United Kingdom (I believe you’ve lived in England and Ireland at different times?), are postage fees concerning email-excluded submissions to American magazines a problem of expense or otherwise too much of a hassle?

Kevin Doran: I moved to Australia from England in 1986, back to England in 1995, then to Ireland in 1999, then back to England in 2005, where I co-lived there and in Ireland for the first year, and where I’ve lived to the present day.

Postal submissions to any country or place is too much hassle. The expense isn’t the issue: I see any postal fee as being more than rebated with the number of free contributor copies that get mailed to me from here and abroad. Electronic submissions are much more convenient.

SK: As long as I’ve been a fan of your work, I’ve also been a fan of your distinctive facial hair. Would you please describe for me your shaving methods, the history of your facial hair, and if there is a technical or personally invented name for the style in which you grow it?

Kevin Doran: Shaving usually occurs for me anywhere between two days and two months after I think, ‘I should probably shave now’. These Muslim guys thought I was Muslim once. A Muslim guy in a kebab shop asked me if I was Muslim. (Customs love me: I got belligerently questioned about what religion I am, once, and I usually get searched even when I don’t set-off the metal detector.) I think I’ve fully shaven once, possibly twice, since I was a teenager.

I’m not sure about names -- I’ve never looked into it! I know I’ve never had handlebars or a plain moustache. I’ll look into it . . . Okay, it seems I’ve had a balcarrotas, jawline beard/chinstrap beard, chin beard, circle beard, goatee, petit goatee, sideburns, balbo, short boxed beard, and a couple other slight variations that I couldn’t find names for. No, I’ve never named any of the styles -- but it’s something to think about now.

SK: Is absinthe legal in England? I’ve never had real absinthe before, can’t find it. That silly American ban because some cunt murdered his family in 1910 is messing me up. Could you tell me about absinthe, in general and perhaps a story?

Kevin Doran: Just to clarify, by ‘real absinthe’ I mean seventy to eighty per cent volume. Absinthe is legal in England, but you can generally only find the weaker absinthe. There’s a bar near here that has some, but it’s a bit vile. My brother brought the bottle I had -- Green Devil -- back from Eastern Europe, or possibly Spain. A friend who drinks it a lot more than I do says that Harrods in London is the only place nearby that sells real absinthe, though it can be ordered online.

Absinthe is a unique drink that induces a unique feeling. You don’t necessarily feel drunk, more so relaxed; and instead of spiralling into paralytic incoherency, it sharpens the senses, makes you feel clear-headed. This is due to the mix of both stimulants and sedatives in the drink.

I went to Amsterdam a couple years ago and drank some absinthe and wrote some poetry. That’s it; that’s my story . . .


Blogger Ben Latini said...

You're a really great interviewer Sean. You actually ask clever, thoughtful, interesting and funny questions instead of the boring typical stock questions most people ask. Only problem is: Now I've been spoiled and have a hard time reading the work of less adept interviewers.


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