Checking in with Kevin McFadden

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Checking in with Kevin McFadden

What are you working on currently?
I’m working on my next book of poems, which may be called Wicked Bible. It takes its title from a famous edition of the Bible that left the word “not” out of the seventh commandment, so it says “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Not sort of domestic adultery, but maybe the adulteration of language that the poetry’s more concerned with, things that are left out, put out, or messed around with.

Kevin McFadden keeps active with letterpress technology at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center. “It’s really kind of destabilizing to your sense of language, because you’ve got all these parts that come together to make words,” he says.

I keep active with the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, where we’re using letterpress technology. It’s really kind of destabilizing to your sense of language, because you’ve got all these parts that come together to make words.

What is your favorite tool of the trade?
I have a penchant for puns. They are somewhat discredited among writers who think that they distract or take attention away. I’m always interested in the times when something can happen in language that pulls our mind, in having two things happen at once. It’s something you can’t really do in a lot of other spatial formats, but in our mind it all happens, it’s 2D or 3D, and all of these meanings come together.

What is your favorite snack food while working?
I like Oreo knockoffs. Nothing quite so decadent as an Oreo, but give me an off-brand and I’ll take it. It’s really a format to get you to drink milk.

What music are you listening to lately?
You know, I got on a kick with that Bob Dylan soundtrack from No Direction Home. A lot of people tell me they had never heard that version of “Visions of Johanna,” but strangely, I don’t remember the most popular version, so that’s the version I remember now.

What single article of clothing would you take on a long trip?
I usually have a kind of lucky blue camping/printing/knocking around shirt. When the shirt utterly falls apart, I quickly get on to the business of getting a new one that can fill that role.

What item do you carry around with you at all times?
I’m pretty into the iPod Touch. I’m not an iPhone person, but I could probably be wooed. I don’t carry a cell phone a lot to begin with, unless I’m traveling someplace and know I’ll need it… There’s a way to read books on it now: Stanza, this little app.

Guilty pleasures?
I’d say just a lot more Hulu-watching than people might think. I like stealing TV. I don’t want to own one in my home anymore. Hulu is basically for people who can’t admit that they like watching TV. I can believe I have the TiVo lifestyle through Hulu. My wife and I tear through multiple seasons all at once. “Mad Men” is pretty hard to beat, although I think we had to subscribe to that. We watch “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show,” “30 Rock.” Smart and funny goes a long way.

Who is your favorite poet? Favorite artist outside of your medium?
I really like a poet named Heather McHugh. I’ve been reading her books for some years, had the pleasure of meeting her at the Book Festival. She finally got a MacArthur grant this year, and she deserved it. I took her as kind of a model early on, because she’s someone who likes to have a lot of fun with language, and it’s evident in every poem.

On the whole, I am kind of intrigued by Bob Dylan, mostly because I think he did it the right way. Learning about any tradition—if you’re going to write novels, you read the best novels. He did it by learning folk music to the point that he became an expert at it, and when you do that, it pushes you up to another level where then you can create through that expertise and go into something new.

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