The Next Big Thing: Elaine Bleakney

Poet Jennifer Kronovet tags Elaine to talk about her forthcoming book with Sidebrow as part of The Next Big Thing self-interview meme.

What is your working title of your book?

For Another Writing Back.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started this book when I was pregnant. I had an intense desire to write to someone I didn’t know and loved already. I went on in this epistolary prose mode after my son was born.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry. Prose Poetry. Nonfiction. During the time I was writing For Another Writing Back, I was emailing with a friend of mine about wanting to make a novelesque experience for a reader using lyric and narrative strands. I thought about a reader who doesn’t read poetry (or who doesn’t read it often) and how I might snag her along with a poetry reader who is primed for the book’s asides about poems/poets.

I like how Rachel Levitsky intercepts your genre question in her Next Big Thing: “readers are called to by categories of formal constraint.” So true. A bookseller will shelve my book in Poetry and that’s right. “Prose poetry”—fine. “Lyric essay”? “Hybrid”? Blah. But finding a shelf within broad market categories—and/or finding a way to fashion a market outside of them—is part of the gig for those of us “emerging” now.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A handful of Brooklyn-based actors are seen and alluded to in For Another Writing Back. But the thing is a solo on paper. In my dream world, books of poetry are all audio-recorded and Sarah Polley reads my book live from an ice-fishing shack.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s a sentence in my book, addressed to the reader: “It’s almost too random to bear, how I meet you, how you travel here.”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Sidebrow Books will publish it in early 2014.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Two years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Stop caging me in genre, Next Big Thing thing. Some thinking people/polestars I don’t know personally who this book converses with: Alice Munro, Claudia Rankine, Emerson, A.R. Ammons, Ayane Kawata, Whitman, Ole Risom, Mark Twain, Roberto Bolaño, Gwendolyn Brooks, Czeslaw Milosz, Doris Salcedo.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My relationships—a desire to write about my personal relationships while engaging someone who could care less about my days and nights. The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald and Maggie Nelson’s writing kept me company during the time I was writing For Another Writing Back.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

This short section from my book at The Volta would be a good place to start.


Chris Dombrowski
Steven Manuel