Featured Nonfiction/Hybrid Interview: Mark Blickley
Hello again flock! This issue we have a chance to chat with our featured Nonfiction/Hybrid writer, Mark Blickley, who brings us a lovely ekphrastic piece you can read here. Join us and we chat frogs and hybridity below.
Ashely Adams: So first off, I absolutely adore your piece and am thrilled you allowed us to give it a home here at Lammergeier. My first question as a former wildlife educator is, of course: why frogs (besides their incredible beauty and natural charm)?
Mark Blickley:Thank you so much for your kind words about my ekphrasis piece, my first solo text-based art. For the past few years I’ve worked on dozens of ekphrasis collaborations with artists in many differing genres. I have an intense, personal history with frogs that began when my father died when I was nine and I did not possess the language skills needed to express my grief, anger and confusion. I began a secret ritual with frogs that I captured while on summer break from the Bronx at a makeshift cabin my uncle and grandfather made from found scraps and materials in Upstate New York. I am writing about this amphibian ritual in my novel in progress, Danger: Falling Rocks. Thus far I’ve published six chapters from this work. The book’s two protagonists are a young boy and a frog he captured and named Broc, because his name sounds like a frog’s croak. I’ve been working on this manuscript, off and on, for nearly two decades. My only tattoo is on my right shin and it’s a portrait of Broc, above his stenciled name. A few years ago, Rogue Agent Journal did an article with writers who have tattoos that reference their work, Deeper Than Skin, which I contributed to and exposed my Broc tattoo. The article is an interesting concept and quick read: http://www.rogueagentjournal.com/tattoo-gallery
AA: I would love to hear more about the process of this piece. What made you decide to go with this form? How did you create the image?
MB: I am not a visual artist, but I do write about art and have curated exhibitions. In the Fall of 2018 I co-curated an art exhibition in Lisbon, Portugal Encontro De Rios (Tributaries) under the auspices of the international artists cooperative Urban Dialogues. Brazilian artist Sonia Gil was my co-curator and Belgian artist Frie J. Jacobs came up with the concept that each artist from the five represented continents would create a visual music composition score as part of the show. My partner and artistic collaborator, Amy Bassin, was working on other aspects of her Lisbon presentations and procrastinating about the music score, so in exasperation, I challenged her to focus on Frie’s concept by making a deal that if I completed a visual music score, she would have to focus on her score. She accepted the challenge and it worked. Thus, my visual image is really a fluke. I didn’t plan to exhibit “Frog Concerto” in Lisbon, but Sonia, Amy and Frie insisted. Funny thing, my “Frog Concerto” collage was exhibited in New York in 2019 and it actually sold! As far as the text goes, I’m not a very accomplished poet, but my background as a dramatist comes into play and I just love and feel very comfortable crafting unpunctuated stream of consciousness prose poem monologues.
AA: One thing I think you see in poetry more so than in other forms of writing is consideration or how text looks on a page. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you consider the visual layout in your writing.
MB: Sorry to disappoint, but as I am not an accomplished visual artist or poet, I don’t have a visual layout philosophy. I don’t do poetry explorations of content and form, but truly admire poets that are able to give that added dimension to their texts.
AA: When we started Lammergeier, I knew that I wanted to publish work from multi-genre writers. Looking at your bio, you have quite a diverse background. Can you talk about how your experience writing across genres and how hybridity has influenced your work?
MB: Because I began my professional writing career as a playwright in my early thirties, the great collaborative nature of theater taught me the importance and thrill of working with, and within, diverse art forms--- from music, to stage sets, to lighting and thespian/directorial interpretations. I’m a firm believer that content dictates form, and since I consider myself much more a storyteller than a writer, I enjoy exploring different writing genres with which to present my tales. If the story is externally driven, I consider writing stage and electronic scripts; if it’s internally driven, I choose prose and poetic narratives.
AA: And the most important question we must ask: what is your favorite bone?
MB:The bone I’d most like to release from on high and crush into harmless, non-shard splinters would be my chronic fear and resistance to attacking my novel, Danger: Falling Rocks. It is a work I feel I need to complete before I shuffle off this mortal coil, but psychological and aesthetic concerns have been successful thus far in thwarting its completion. I too often wave a flag of surrender when I know I should be hoisting a battlefield banner. On the brighter side, my favorite bone is def NY pizza!