Interview: Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger

We talk to Sam Preminger – whose work appeared in issue 38 of Neon – about social media, titles and the process of writing.

I thought that the titles of your poems in issue 38 were particularly excellent. How important do you think titles are? Is the title often the starting point of a poem for you, or does it come later in the process?

In my mind, the title of a poem is essential, though I should specify that I don’t view it as a piece of the poem itself. A title offers the opportunity to establish tone, plant a preliminary image, or – as is often the case in my writing – offer context to the reader. I believe a strong title in poetry should operate the same way as the title of an abstract painting; if you’re looking at a Duchamp or something by Kandinsky, well first off you’re confronted by this mess of symbols – colours, lines, shapes – and maybe you have some inkling of what’s going on, but it isn’t until you hear the title that it starts to unravel. It’s a compass, or a key, when used well. And yes, I often start from a title; I keep a notepad full of titles for someday poems.

Social media features prominently in your poems “Poem In Which You Unfriend The Dead Girl” and “Ilan Who Works In The Bagel Shop”. What is your relationship with social media? Is it a positive or a negative thing? How necessary do you feel it is to a writer or poet?

Social media is a bit like my bedroom window – I find myself inadvertently drifting towards it. I won’t mean to, there won’t be any cogent thought, I just find myself there reflexively, a silent observer, always searching for something new while very little changes. Leaves fall, profile pictures update, raccoons steal from the garden and angry people post angry opinions. It’s all a lot of energy clattering around, sometimes it seems to build towards something, some greater narrative or structure, but in the end it just is. I wouldn’t call it a positive or a negative thing, it all depends on the day. As far as its necessity is concerned though, I don’t feel that social media is a required tool for poets – most of the promotion and networking I’ve had to do has either been in person or through email. From a craft perspective though, if you’re attempting to write about contemporary life, social media is bound to weasel its way in sooner or later and I don’t see the sense in resisting.

What’s the most interesting result returned when you google your name?

Issue 38 of Neon Literary Magazine.

Are you aware of any themes that tend to feature in your writing? Do you always write poetry, or do you sometimes write prose as well?

A former teacher of mine once told me that every poet has one poem which they write again and again; I don’t know that this is actually true for all writers, but it certainly seems to hold up in my case. In almost all my writing there’s a preoccupation with small objects and silence, the challenge, perhaps even impossibility of honest communication. I catch myself harbouring an obsession with surreal, unspoken elements of daily life. As far as medium is concerned, I try not to discriminate and once an idea is in my head it isn’t unusual for it to go through drafts in both verse and prose – sometimes I’ll even draw it if I’m really stuck.

Can you tell me about a writer or poet who you think is significant, and why?

It’s always hard to single out an author and I don’t feel entirely right about it, but since she’s been on my mind lately, I suppose I’ll have to mention Allison Titus. She has a remarkable talent for writing poems you can feel, for offering words which don’t seem to be inked on a page so much as trapped inside you, and for anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about I’d urge you to pick up Titus’s collection Sum Of Every Lost Ship. Most importantly though, Titus doesn’t write wry, ironic, or self-satisfying work; her poetry is courageously authentic and gives language to those that might otherwise endure quiet lives – animals, office workers, people lost and people left behind. I was actually in a room once during a Q&A with her and I had this long list of questions in my hand; I’d been up all night beforehand trying to find something worth asking and wrote a bunch of possibilities down, figuring I’d know the right one when I got there. In the end I couldn’t decide… or maybe I just lost my nerve. I guess I’m still not really over it.

What is the best way for readers to find more about your work, or keep up with what you are writing?

Keeping up with my writing is easy, I have the bulk of it available on my author’s site (hiswistfulthinking.tumblr.com) which I try to update fairly regularly. If anyone’s interested in finding out more about it though, the best way is to ask me – I’m not hard to find.

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Sam Preminger would rather have been born a moth, even if it meant drowning in your kitchen sink. He lives in Albany, NY, is afraid of his basement, and often imagines himself lost at sea. His writing can be found in The Blue Route, Gandy Dancer, Perspective Magazine, and scribbled on napkins throughout New York State.