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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.
An Interview with nathan dueckAll 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 EpisodePROTOCOL