Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poet in Preview: Aaron Tucker

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Poet in Preview: Aaron Tucker

BT: Aaron, you’re a poet, reviewer, writer on a book about film theory and the internet, and professor at Ryerson University. Your first full-length collection of poetry, punchlines, was published with Mansfield Press in 2015. After such a successful first book and an extremely busy career, what types of poetry projects have you been working on? Is there a second book in the works that we can look forward to? Would you care to share a new poem?

AT: Ironically, I haven’t written a single poem since punchlines came out. I did, however, finish a novel, still mysteriously untitled, about J. Robert Oppenheimer and his work at Los Alamos on the atomic bomb. I find him such a compelling figure: he was a true polymath, a man with an incredibly wide ranging intelligence, a deeply sensitive humanist that also happened to be the figurehead of the only weapons of mass destruction ever used. I haven’t worked in prose since I was in my early 20s so it was really interesting to work with full sentences again, on the sort of scale that a novel demands.
So, while I haven’t been writing poems myself, I have been working on some machines that do. For the past few years, one of my main projects has been the ChessBard, which I co-created with Jody Miller. The short description of it: it’s an app that translates chess games into poetry; there is also a playable version where people can play against the computer and the moves are translated in real time. The project was very much influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s writing and painting, but also his presence within chess. I’m thrilled then that Bookthug is going be publishing a collection of Duchamp’s games as translated by the Chessbard with 2 time U.S. Woman’s Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade writing the introduction, who has done a number of really great chess-art exhibitions like hula chess.
The machine I’m currently spending the most time on though is another collaborative poetry project, unimaginatively titled the 3D Poetry Project (I’m not great with titles). Basically, Jordan Scott and I are writing poems together with the basic constraint of icebergs, and then we are transforming those poems into 3D data points, mixing that data with a bunch of geolocational data from the Columbia Ice fields, then rendering all that information as a 3D model, which we’re calling sculptures, and then printing those using 3D printers. I’ve been lucky to be working also with Tiffany Cheung and Namir Ahmed on this too, who are both so wonderful and intelligent. The poem below is the first that Jordan and I wrote together.
Who knows what’s next. I’ve been reading a bunch of bonkers conspiracy books, like Dark Mission about the secret history of NASA and am interested in the languages and arguments made in conspiracy theories. There’s something rumbling around in my head, a long poem about aliens and cover-ups. I’m sure that’s normal right?
Sample Poem from 3D Poetry Project
Hand 2.0: arroyo
calving muse
drunk ablation
or whatever
looks into ice, into centre chasm
iterates at
copulate breath
mult lymphatic, me
a potter’s mule
scults dependent proxemics

poetry: on
ice satellites
orbits misshapen
by gravity melt
and grooved hands
joyride through
lavascape, figure against scree, decibel
me and megatheorium
country, splitting
oracle in midprofecy
midglob, gone
luscious flumein
verse volcano
all subsurface layering, all core tunneling
- Jordan Scott & Aaron Tucker