DiscoverVerse: nathan dueck + A Very Special Episode

Poet nathan dueck joins us for ALU DiscoverVerse, a month-long poetry binge: we chat about his playful, pop-culture-inspired collection A Very Special Episode (Wolsak and Wynn), why silence makes him deeply uncomfortable, didactic German drama, and what a Santa’s hat and Gideon’s bible have to do with a Cabbage Patch kid. 


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During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured DiscoverVerse books for 20% off (+ we’ll send you a set of three poetry bookmarks so you’ll always find your place.)

An Interview with nathan dueck

All Lit Up: What did you learn writing A Very Special Episode?nathan dueck: So, um, silence makes me deeply uncomfortable. I think it has something to do with being an anxious boy who was raised in a home where there was always noise on in the background. It felt reassuring to hear the TV, for instance – even when there wasn’t anything on. I ate, studied, and slept to the familiar rhythms of orchestral soundtracks or studio laughtracks. It helped to ease the static crackling in my head.So, writing A Very Special Episode gave me an excuse to immerse myself in a few shows that composed my subconscious. And it was deeply comforting. Most of the favourite cartoons of my youth turned out to be half-hour ads, which shouldn’t have come as news, but I was surprised by the quality of some educational programs. I had resolved myself to sit through preachy morality tales, so whenever I saw something that had probably taught me something, I was taken aback. I learned more about imagination, for instance, from Mr. Rogers than I had ever realized!By the by, my children don’t know it yet, but they’re already microdosing Schoolhouse Rock! (Not when they’re eating, studying, or sleeping, mind you.)ALU: If you were a character in a Choose Your Own Adventure story, what kind of quest would you be on? What three things would you have with you on your journey?nd: I can’t believe my fortune to get this question: See, I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure-style short story about the same time as I started work on A Very Special Episode. It was a quest narrative where I was – er, you are – desperate for the last Cabbage Patch Kid in your hometown. Inside a bag you’re holding a Santa’s hat, a whole month’s allowance, and a Gideon’s bible…(If you’re curious about how this goes, message @nathandueck. If not all that curious, read on.)ALU: Where do you draw inspiration from outside of poetry?nd: Right now, I’m poring over plays by Bertolt Brecht for this poetry project I’m working on. Sorry. That answer’s true, but I know it makes me sound kind of insufferable. As much as I’d like to say that my research takes me to the forest where I walk along a stream – I feel that’s likely the right answer because I live in a mountain valley – all I really want to do right now is sit in a library and read didactic German drama from the mid-twentieth century. It’s inspiring to see how theatre engaged the existential dread that is comparable to many of the fears we’re sharing right now. Honestly, I know that I should go out to watch the ice break in the spring, but I’m stuck inside picturing the Berliner Ensemble. Sorry. ALU: Help us with a poetry prompt for our readers. Can you come up with a writing prompt for our readers to write their own poetry?nd: I tried this one out with my introductory creative writing students and it went reasonably well:A wretched coward who looks suspiciously like your teacher got a line of poetry tattooed on his forearm. Even before his skin could heal, he felt overwhelming regret. Like, he got home and tossed all his tees. Then he got another line of poetry tattooed on his other forearm. His relief was indescribable. He could even roll up his sleeves. Write a poem that begins with the first line and ends with the second one. Remember: you’re writing about a wretched coward.

A poem from A Very Special Episode

Concerning social protocol,
courtesy, tact, patience,
C-3POTM comes across cold.
Panic attacks
short-circuit sentience.
Cognition circuitry lacks
coping mechanisms
which process melancholy –
hence criticisms
breaching common decency.
C-3POTM ironically
respects privacy
because electronic voices echo.
Controlling secrets excites C-3POTM.
* * *
nathan dueck’s middle name is russel, which means his initials spell “nrd.” His folks tell him that nobody used that word when he was born, but dictionaries say otherwise. He is the author of king’s(mère) (Turnstone Press) and he’ll (Pedlar Press). Born in Winnipeg, he completed his PhD at the University of Calgary and now lives in Cranbrook, BC, where he is a creative writing and English instructor at the College of the Rockies.Photo credit: Stephanie Moore* * * During the month of April, you can buy A Very Special Episode and any of our featured DiscoverVerse books for 20% off! PLUS: FREE shipping!Keep up with us all month on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #ALUdiscoververse. BONUS:Play our Choose Your Own Poetry game where YOU are the narrator! Choose from multiple paths on the way to one ultimate goal: visiting your local bookstore to browse poetry. As you move through the story you will find poetry books to collect in your tote bag. There are a total of 36 poetry books to discover across the various paths with 12 possible endings. Which poetry collections will you find on your path?Playing time: 1-2 minutes per path. To play, click the link below to start the download. 

DiscoverVerse: Choose Your Own Poetry Game