Seth Thill is the author of Cover, Recover, a chapbook that combines poetry and printmaking, and which draws from his recent work as artist-in-residence at the Hartman Nature Reserve in Cedar Falls. He is also an assistant editor at the North American Review.
Thill will be the featured reader at the Final Thursday Reading Series on February 23 at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The in-person open mic takes place at 7:00 p.m. and Seth Thill takes the stage at 7:30. Thill’s reading will also be simulcast on Zoom. Click HERE to register for a Zoom link.
Interview conducted by Hannah McConkey.
But, of course, I am not Thoreau or Emerson, and we are not in the 1800s (all things I am glad for, to be clear). So while I was afforded this tremendous privilege, the one thing that could never be possible was total disconnection. The Romantic ideal of going completely off the grid with nothing but my finest quill, or whatever those guys had going on, could never be what I aspire to. While I was writing these poems, I was trying to focus on the natural world around me, but I still work full time, I still have bills, horrible things are still happening in the world, and I still walk around with a computer in my pocket. So I can’t write the poem about hummingbirds that isn’t also about a dead friend or the poem about the river that isn’t also about my bank statement. The chapbook I wrote in my time at Hartman, Cover, Recover, is twenty or so poems where all of those things collide with each other at various intersections. And the great thing about not going full Self-Reliance mode, is that I got to share my work with so many wonderful people through the events and workshops run through my tenure as Visiting Artist. It allowed me connection, and to me, that is much more interesting than disconnection.
I am a first-generation college graduate from a working-class household, and no one I grew up with gives a shit about poetry. And I think that is partially because poetry gets this rap as some mystic endeavor led by the muse, a misconception no doubt fueled by often all-or-nothing veneration of figures like those Romantic Poets. But those were just some guys. I don’t write poetry because some magic force compels me to. I’m just some dumb guy who spends a lot of time thinking about Alf. My time at Hartman and the programs we put on during it gave me my proverbial rooftops to scream all my demystification talk from. And that demystification became kind of a secondary mission of the project as a whole, and had and continues to have a real impact on my writing. I never want to feel like I am writing for lit mag editors but not for people who just need to feel something on their lunch break to keep them sane.
HM: You have a very unique form of medium when it comes to your writing by working with prints. When did you first start to discover this was the way you wanted to present your writing and how did you get into it?
To extend the metaphor of poetry as images dumped on a page in some sort of Rorschach configuration, the visual art is simply something else to dump on the page. I have long worked in multiple mediums, and quite frankly, I just think the more mediums you can cram together, the better! I love the fullness of experience someone can get from reading a poem, but also seeing what I think that poem looks like. Or for instance, I made a playlist of songs that I was listening to when I wrote Cover, Recover, because it is fun to me to read the poems and think about how the songs might have seeped in. So, essentially the idea of mixing visual art and poetry has just been something I’ve always done, but doing so with linocut printmaking was a recent decision that simply happened because that was the medium I was interested in at the time. There’s something really compelling to me about how with linocut, every decision you make is, to some extent, final, but even when you have the piece done and carved and exactly how it will always be, there are a million chances to invent and reinvent that carved block. That theme—of reimagining the cards we are dealt, of having the generosity to embrace what can’t be changed, of making the remains beautiful—became really huge in the writing process as well.
HM: A lot of your recent work is connected to nature, but that hasn’t always been true of your writing. What led to this development?
HM: Coming back to the art of printmaking, what made you decide to use that type of media for your writing rather than another such as digital art or drawing?
One last thing: you can find me (and my book) at seth-thill.ghost.io! Thank you so much for your time and for your thoughtful questions.