Behind the Words: Chad Hanson

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Chad Hanson

Chad Hanson’s poem “Alonely” was published in our fifth issue of Spry. Catherine Kyle was fortunate to interview him on working in different creative mediums for our Behind the Words feature. Enjoy.

Catherine Kyle: In “Alonely,” you explore loneliness as a physical space/setting in interesting ways. Can you comment on what inspired you to analogize solitude—which is so often considered an internal, invisible, and private experience—to the public, visually rich settings of fairground and ghost town?

Chad Hanson: In 1950 David Reisman published, The Lonely Crowd. The book became a classic in the field of sociology. Reisman points out that isolation is a specter that haunts us, even on busy streets and in public places. With “Alonely” I did my best to capture the solitary feeling that follows you after a breakup.

Looking over your website, I see that you write fiction and poetry in addition to flash. What about your conceptions of and hopes for this piece made you decide to write it as flash?

My flash begin with an idea. First I find a notion that I’d like to voice. Then I decide whether the thought lends itself to expression as an essay, flash, short story, or poem. In this case, “Alonely” started with the observation that we all strain to strike a balance between belonging to groups and maintaining our individuality. I also tried to stir up the feelings embedded in this struggle. After a false start as an essay, I decided that flash served as the best format.

In addition, I see that you’re a photographer. In what way does your participation in this art form intersect with your writing?

When I make photographs, I wrestle with the same challenge that I take up when I write. In my art I try to distill the busy, non-stop world down to its basic components. Either with a lens or with a keyboard, to the extent that I can, I pare images or blocks of narrative down to a core. To my ear, it is when a sentence is stripped bare that it starts to sing. I consider the process of editing photographs good practice for revising poems, essays, and stories.

Your art, across all genres of writing as well as photography, seems grounded in place and in nature. How did these become sources of ongoing inspiration?

I grew up in rural Minnesota. I spent my childhood canoeing through forests of mixed hardwoods and evergreens. I came to know my early self in the outdoors. Then, as a teenager, I moved to the West. I’ve been fortunate to live in places like Wyoming and Arizona—states with glorious scenery.

Drama broils across the landscape. It seeps into everything I do: art, teaching, life.

You work in sociology and academia. How do these aspects of your life influence your practice as a writer?

Of course I’m speaking for myself, but I could not have become a writer if I had not become a sociologist. My discipline provides me with the questions that lie at the foundation of my art. Who are we? What is a good life? Do we possess free will? How should we act toward each other? The Earth? Or, animals? My creative writing has been influenced by the time I spend with these questions.

Who are some of the writers you’re most excited about right now?

We lost Jim Harrison in 2016. He was best known for Legends of the Fall, but Harrison wrote poetry before he started writing prose. His death gave me a reason to go back through his body of work. It’s a hard thing to describe, but the best thing I can say about Jim Harrison is that he had soul, and it comes through on the pages that he wrote.

I spent a part of last summer hiking in the high country of the Teton Range. I took a copy of James Salter’s rock climbing novel, Solo Faces. Afterward, I bought a copy of his short story collection: Dusk. I find myself learning about rhythm, pace, and timing when I read Salter. I consider him a member of a small group of authors who put on a clinic every time they pen a paragraph.

I’m also excited about the overdue collected works of Tom Hennen. Between 1974 and 1997 he published six books of poetry, on small presses and with little recognition. Recently, Copper Canyon Press gathered the best poems from each volume under the title, Darkness Sticks to Everything. In his poem, “The One and Only Day,” Hennen describes “a thickly falling rain that sends the animals back to their dens and causes the woods to drip and become the color of owls.” I never grow tired of reading that line.

Are there any projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?

I am working on a coffee-table book combining essays and photographs of the wild mustangs herds in Wyoming. The manuscript is called “The Grass Remembers the Horses.” I am also in the early stages of writing a proposal for a textbook that teachers can use in freshman courses meant to orient students to the liberal arts. I am calling the project: “The New Renaissance: A Reader for the First-Year Seminar.” These efforts will keep me out of trouble for at least a couple years. I post updates and selected images on my website.

Catherine Kyle holds a Ph.D. in English from Western Michigan University. She teaches at the College of Western Idaho and writes grants for The Cabin, a literary nonprofit. She is the author and illustrator of the hybrid-genre collection Feral Domesticity (Robocup Press, 2014); the author of the poetry chapbooks Flotsam (Etched Press, 2015) and Gamer: A Role-Playing Poem (dancing girl press, 2015); and a co-editor of Goddessmode (Cool Skull Press, 2015). She also helps run the Ghosts & Projectors poetry reading series. Her graphic narratives, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in The Rumpus, Superstition Review, WomenArts Quarterly, and elsewhere. In 2015, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.