So, what inspired your piece “Mission Creep,” published in issue 10′? Can you tell us a little more about what it’s about?
The Scottish 19th Century writer of fairytales, George MacDonald, when asked the same question of his work, said, “If my dog can bark, why should I bark for him?” But that may be too churlish, and I myself am interested in the answers to such questions when asked of writers I like. So I will say that “Mission Creep,” like many of my prose poems, began with thinking about things that mystify me. In this case I was obsessing about how everything in the world eventually turns into something else: a powerful man, once he retires, becomes a person for whom a trip to the post office is a big event; an enormous sculpture is constantly shifting from one form to another, and back again; a human skull, inlaid with diamonds, becomes a work of art, and sells for many millions of dollars. In the course of its progressing, the piece became a work that conflates the measure and meaning of art with free will, and with the value of connection between audience and artist, and person and person.
What are some of your favourite books and art (including shows, videos, music) – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?
There are so many. I will stick with some recents. I enjoyed a deceptively whimsical Polish movie entitled, Never Gonna Snow Again. Other recent movies that stuck with me are The Tragedy of Macbeth (Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand); The Lost Daughter; and The Invisible Man (Elizabeth Moss). I like the first album of a British band called Cardinal Black. And I recently was blown away listening to Kurt Elling and Branford Marsaylis doing a Sting song called “Practical Arrangement.” I discovered the photography of Alex Prager, someone to add to my favorite genre of contemporary photography, the staged or altered photo (I don’t know the technical term). Since Adam Zagajewski’s death (a great loss) I’ve been rereading his essays and poems.
What, if anything, are you looking forward to right now and are there any writing/creative projects you’re currently working on?
I’m working on an extended CNF essay on the Appalachian folk song, “O Death.” I’ve also recently finished a musical for the stage based on a fairytale by George MacDonald (which explains the quote in my answer to your first question).
Can you tell us about how you got into writing and art? Is there anyone whose support or encouragement really inspired or motivated you?
I was getting an advanced degree in psychology, which had been my college major, when I stumbled on a book of poems by W.S. Merwin. I had never read a contemporary poem, and I was stunned. “You can do this with language?” I thought, and went to the library to take out a stack of contemporary poetry. Soon after I began writing. Along the way, many have helped and encouraged me. The central figure in that category, however, is Philip Levine, the American poet. I studied with him at Columbia, and he became a friend, as well as a champion of my work. I miss him dearly.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
I have a website (jeffreyskinner.net) but it is badly in need of updating. Best to just google Jeffrey Skinner.
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