Anthony Moll is a poet, essayist, and educator. He holds an MFA in creative writing & publishing arts and is completing his PhD in poetry & Queer theory. His chapbook about the melancholy of the modern workplace, Go to the Ant, O Sluggard, is available from Akinoga Press. His debut memoir, Out of Step, won the 2017 Non/Fiction Prize from The Journal and will be available in July 2018 from Mad Creek Books.
Our Summer Issue 2018 launch is on Sunday, June 3, at 2 p.m. (information on our events page).
Q: You said at the launch that this was your third try submitting poems to your friend and our editor, Steven Leyva. Can you say something for our readers about the persistence required for publishing?
Yeah, at the launch reading I mentioned how even though the editor of LPR is a close friend of mine, I twice had poems rejected from the journal before this poem was accepted. For readers worried about rejection, I think this demonstrates two (sort of conflicting) ideas:
1) Rejection can be an act of love—to have a piece rejected that isn’t yet ready can be a good thing for writers submitting their work. In the long run, I’d rather have a smart editor say no to a piece that isn’t yet done than to have work with my name on it out there in the world when it isn’t yet fully polished. BUT,
2) Editors have their own tastes and biases too, so writers really need patience if they’re going to find the right home for their work. Sure, in some instances that work might not be ready, but there are also cases in which a writer is submitting solid, well-developed writing that just doesn’t fit an editor’s taste, a publication’s literary aesthetic, or an issue’s vision/theme.
One of the skills that writers need to develop (and continually recalibrate) is the ability to determine when one needs to keep looking for a home for a piece, and when one needs to pause and turn back to revision.
Q: Were you formerly part of the melancholic modern workplace? What helped you to decide to pursue creative writing more seriously?
My upcoming memoir, Out of Step, outlines a bit of this for me, because my path was uncommon. I joined the army at 18, and I spent the first eight years of my adult life doing that full-time. I left after I finished my BA, and I got an office job in the DC nonprofit world. It was 180° from what I was doing before, but I still didn’t love the work, so I decided to apply to graduate school. Initially I applied to a bunch of MA in Communication/Public Relations programs, but at the last minute I applied to a single MFA program as a “why not?” gesture. When I got back offers from the schools, I had to decide whether I wanted to continue in the nonprofit world or move toward writing and teaching.
But I worked through my MFA too, and the job that inspired Go to the Ant, O Sluggard was a job I had during that period. It was an uncreative job that I did not love, so I decided one morning that I’d spend time every day writing a single poem in a form that I was exploring during the time, the Fib.
Even though I was already in the MFA program at the time, working that job was a moment that helped me recognize I made the right decision; it helped me figure out what I didn’t want to do for 40 hours a week. (And I’m so lucky that hustle, privilege, and fate lined up in a way that allows me to teach and write for an [admittedly meager] living now.)
Q: How does Queer theory intersect with your poetry?
Gertrude Stein writes, “Act so that there is no use in a centre,” and for me, that’s what both Queer theory and poetry are scratching at.
The root of Queer theory is resistance to notions of what is normal or standard. In that context, it’s usually in relation to our bodies, gender, and desire, but the best poetry does that work too—it doesn’t say “this is how the world is,” but it acknowledges the complex, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory ways of seeing and being in the world.
I think Whitman gets to this too when he proclaims (quite queerly):
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Q: What are you working on now?
My first full-length book launches in less than two months, so I’m primarily working on the promotional stuff that goes into that—getting reviews and excerpts out in the world, setting up reading events, etc.
Writing a book is so much more than writing a book—getting it published is another entire beast to slay, as is making sure the published work rises above the din so that the readers who would enjoy it can find it. I’m really lucky to have the staff at Ohio State University Press backing me up with this, but there’s still plenty that lands on me to do too.
But like any person who really loves writing, my eyes are already on my next project. Right now I’m trying to polish up a book-length collection of poems about being a city-dwelling queer person during what feels like the end times.
Q: Will you be at our next launch on Sunday, June 3? But no pressure!
You know it.