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KGB Interview: T. Zachary Cotler

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In baseball, T. Zachary Cotler would be considered a “triple threat” - a star player who can hit, run and throw with equal aplomb.  But it is on the literary diamond where Cotler makes his mark, and where he excels as a novelist, poet and editor.  In keeping with the theme, I asked this rising talent three questions about his writing life.

Q:  The main character in your new novel, Ghost at the Loom, is a young poet who retraces the travels of long dead poets in Europe. As an accomplished poet yourself, how were you able to find and maintain “the voice” necessary to write so successfully in a different genre?  Also, has your poetry been changed and/or influenced by the writing of this novel?

The novelists I most admire are poetic. I have always written fiction and poetry. It all tends to look the same in the first longhand draft. Later, I break the lines or not, add dialogue, and so forth. I’m glad you put “the voice” in quotes. I, too, find it a troublesome term. The tones and patterns in which the poet-narrator of Ghost at the Loom addresses his sister, the novel being a long letter to her, are the same tones and patterns I understood in House with a Dark Sky Roof, my first collection of poems, though I began Ghost at the Loom before that collection, certain poems of which are broken paragraphs from Ghost at the Loom. Either poetry and fiction, in whatever neural networks in me allow/cause literary production, are two patterns entwined with rich feedback, or they are not separate patterns at all

Q:  You are a founding editor of The Winter Anthology, a collection of contemporary literature with an elegiac perspective.  You have also written a book of criticism, Elegies for Humanism. Tell us about the elegiac style and why you champion it.

“Elegiac” has a lengthy, complicated history of meanings. The mission statement of The Winter Anthology calls the collection elegiac, lowercase e, by which we mean no more than that we look for writing influenced, consciously and not, by the dwindling of print culture and the humanities. Better than any further explanation, why not read a piece or two: www.winteranthology.com.

Whereas in Elegies for Humanism, due out soon, I argue for the rise of what I tentatively call “the Elegiac,” a paradigm in literature—perhaps in the arts and culture in general—not merely influenced by the moribund state of print and the humanities, but explicitly engaged in the writing of elegies and eulogies for the artworks and artforms of more fully human eras. This argument develops with reference to transhumanism, cryopreservation, Moore’s Law, human-machine interfaces, and other far-from-science-fictive, rather frightening lighthouses and storms on the horizon.

Q:  You clearly have many different interests as a writer and an editor.  What are some of your upcoming projects?

The Winter Anthology is the leading edge of a larger enterprise that will, in coming years, include a print anthology and literary press. Quite recently it has expanded to include an independent production company specializing in writerly films. We’re currently in pre-production on a short film and a feature film, both written and directed by myself and Magdalena Zyzak. As far as unalloyed projects go, I’ll finish a new novel over the next year or two, and the second in the three-book sonnet sequence I began with Sonnets to the Humans is complete.

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Theodore Zachary Cotler is the author of a novel, Ghost at the Loom, a forthcoming book of criticism, Elegies for Humanism, and two books of poetry, House with a Dark Sky Roof and Sonnets to the Humans. His awards include the Sawtooth Prize, the Amy Clampitt Residency, and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship. He is a founding editor of The Winter Anthology