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This interview is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

interviews James Womack

In Exchange with James Womack
Sam Buchan-Watts
Diego Velazquez, La Fragua de Vulcano</i>, 1630

Diego Velazquez, La Fragua de Vulcano, 1630 (detail)

SAM BUCHAN-WATTS: Why Misprint as the title of your first book? On one hand a misprint can be something fortuitous, in terms of an aleatory poetic; on the other, it invokes clumsiness, even failure (though failure might be more in line with misprision...). What can a typographic error do for us that authorial intention can’t?

JAMES WOMACK: The poem called ‘Misprint’ came before the title of the collection as a whole, and seemed in many ways to sum up what turned out to be themes of the book’s subject matter (death and irony), and what are in a larger way my current obsessions. So there’s that, purely ry, usage. But I think you’re right in the larger sense, that the idea of the random incursion into an otherwise ‘perfect’ entity is an extremely fruitful one. I’m riffing here, but maybe there’s a spectrum moving between the misprint which has a small but contained effect on the poem (Auden writing ‘every poet has a name for the sea’, and Isherwood reading it as ‘every port’, but that doesn’t change anything in the poem’s argument beyond that one word and its subtle influences) and the misprint which is the absolute cause of poetic inspiration (cf. Bishop’s ‘Man-moth’). My ‘ideal’ misprint would be something like the flaw in the Persian carpet, that stops the object from being aridly (or divinely) perfect, but which is itself a source from which other ...

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