Featured Interview: Michelle Disler

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

MDBBMichelle Disler has a Ph.D. in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio University, and teaches creative writing at Grand Valley State University. Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, The Massachusetts Review, Fact-Simile, Hotel Amerika, Seneca Review, and Columbia among many others. Her first book, [BOND, JAMES]: alphabet, anatomy, [auto]biography, was released by Counterpath Press (2012).

Michelle spoke with us about literature and writing—poetry/prose, creative/technical, and that fun space in between. Here’s what she had to say:


Mark-Anthony: From your book [BOND, JAMES] to your shorter poetry and creative nonfiction, a lot of your work experiments with technical forms. How do you think these formal…forms contribute to your creativity?

Michelle: The essay is a very robust and flexible form, and I find essayists like Georges Perec and Gertrude Stein, whose formal play is well established as such, so very inspiring. Writers like these challenge conventional expectations of the essay, showing us wild and surprising possibilities for the essay. I think my understanding of the essay grows with each new attempt at formal experimentation, whether or not the attempt is successful. It’s great fun, really, and the challenge is not something I expected I would encounter as a prose writer.

I was a little bit obsessed with Skyfall when it first came out. What did you think of it? How did it aline with your understanding of the Bond mythos?

I think the “new Bond” is more in keeping with Bond creator Ian Fleming’s original concept for Bond: Bond is flawed, makes mistakes, trusts his gut and is often wrong. He’s steely, he’s way more human than he’s comfortable with being, and this is what we’re seeing on film for the first time since Fleming started publishing the Bond novels in 1953.

Do you every read technical documents for fun or inspiration? Do you see the creative potential in a technical form when you first encounter it or do you have to organize your thoughts first and then recall a form that will fit it?

I did reread an old college Spanish language textbook for ideas after I started writing the Bond Anatomy for inspiration, being careful not to exhaust formal experimentation as I was writing that project.

I think language itself and how words and concepts come together (or fall apart) in the every day catch my attention far too often, and I find myself playing with language and forms without initially having planned to. I’m shameless like that.

How do you feel about traditional poetic forms (sonnets, haikus, villanelles)? Do they hold the same interest to you as technical forms?

I am more attracted to technical forms, which are often published as poetry rather than prose. It’s always interesting to see how my writing is identified by journals and in which section of the journal — poetry, fiction, nonfiction — my writing is published.

For those reading this who are just psyched to see what you come up with next, is there anything we can expect from you in the near future?

I’m working on two manuscripts defined by formal play, one on the language and tropes in romance novels, and the other on the dirty and discouraging work of a homicide detective, my dad’s career for almost 30 years. That manuscript is dark, and painfully bone deep.


Mark-Anthony Lewis enjoys reading stories as much as telling them. He also likes Awful Awfuls and pumpkin whoopee pies. You might like his blog. Check it out.

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