Andrew Weatherhead on the Art (and Necessity) of Writing Collage
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Andrew Weatherhead is the guest. His new book, Fifty Thousand Dollars, is available from Publishing Genius Press.
From the episode:
Brad Listi: I want to ask you about collaging. I’ve talked with writers who work in this mode on this show. I think of David Shields as an example. Sarah Manguso is another one that comes to mind. And Maggie Nelson has done it; I’ve talked to her.
I feel like when it’s done well, I find it really thrilling to read. There all these different arguments that people make about appropriation and what’s okay and what’s not okay. I land squarely on the side of it doesn’t matter. All the attribution and appropriation, all that stuff, it’s like, come on, it’s a collage. It’s just like visual collage art. We shouldn’t get caught up in all this copyright B.S. if it’s an artist working in good faith to create a collage.
The other thing I think about it, and this gets to my question, is that it when it’s done well especially, I think literary collage can trick you into thinking it’s really easy. And when I’ve tried it myself, I have found that the exact opposite is true. It’s really hard. And so, I would like to hear you speak to that part of it for you. Where you have these lines and you’re trying to sequence them correctly. Are you just doing it by feel? Is it intuitive, and once you kind of feel it click into place, is that it? Or do you have some sort of system?
Andrew Weatherhead: I would say yes, it’s intuitive, and that any time I’ve tried to put more of a system—or even with this book, I tried to diagram it at one point with the certain themes that come up. I wanted to see with what frequency and was I overdoing it at any point or was there enough balance. But then that just seems ridiculous to put a formula behind it. Or the formula wasn’t helping at all. It was making me feel like I had to do something rather than letting the work dictate what should happen.
I think with collage in general, I’ll try to write full poems or full paragraphs of prose or a short story, but then I end up just, again, I like the one line that was exciting in the first place, or I write towards something and I realize everything else around it is bad but this one part is good, so just do that. So, it’s almost not a choice for me to collage. It’s out of necessity. I wish I could write a novel, but I just end up cutting too much, and then I like what I have cut out of it better.
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Andrew Weatherhead is the author of the poetry collections Cats and Dogs (Scrambler Books, 2014) and Todd (Monster House Press, 2018). He lives in New York City and used to work in health insurance.