Wearing the Wrong Glasses: A Conversation with Giles Goodland ✺

Giles Goodland & Ruoyu Wang

Interviews

Wearing the Wrong Glasses: A Conversation with Giles Goodland ✺

Ruoyu: Giles, what struck me about this piece was how carefully distanced the narrator seems from the actual movements of the story. Rather than focusing inwards, the story seems more interested in addressing the reader, a third figure party who receives all the power in details yet no power in ability to affect an outcome. In this landscape, one that is readjusted with each paragraph, how is the meaning of “domestic” changed? If we, as the reader, are found in this space but are only allowed observation, what does that mean for these preconceived expectations of “coming home”? Of safety and stability, even?


Giles: I had originally written these as separate prose poems, each with the name of an object. After looking at them for a while, I realized that they made better or stronger sense without the titles. After all, I was not writing riddles. But I wanted to keep an overall title that still refers to the domestic.

The act of reading them may give the impression of a narrative, in the same way that a series of polaroids laid out on a table might. Or tarot cards. 




Ruoyu: You treat the story’s figures with such honesty, and I wanted to point to the specific moment where the narrator tells us, “one of the [nearby drinkers] grabs me and calls me dad. I draw away from him…but as the lights change, I say take care.” The entire story seems to hinge on these atmospheric changes, how settings and even “domestic objects” can reappear with new faces depending on how they are lit. While writing this piece, how did you uncover the patterns across these images? What do you hope that the reader sees?


Giles: I had been trying to write 'imagist' poems while rejecting the main claim of imagism, expressed by the famous Williams quote, “no ideas but in things.” It seems to me that this statement is nonsense. As a phenomenologist I believe that “no things but in ideas” is closer to the truth. These poems were based on actual experiences: the shimmer of falling cellophane from a cigarette packet, or the accidental switching of glasses in a gym changing room. Wearing the wrong glasses for a few moments allows you to see a fragment of the truth. But then you have to swap glasses with the man standing next to you and you see you are still in a gym changing room. 

I can see how they are more like micro stories or anecdotes of the immaterial, in which objects just guide the way. But they are also poems.




Ruoyu: Could you tell me about one piece of art—this could be anything from other poems to TV show scripts—that has been deeply formative in creating the spaces your work exists in? In what ways does it continue to compel you towards new understandings? 


Giles: As a small child I would gather mud from a nearby stream and form them into objects, which I would place on a wooden fence. I called them sculptures, and told my parents I had made an art gallery. Despite giving them instructions of how to find the fence, I don't think that they or anyone else saw these objects, or if they did, they did not take them as art. This remains my definition of art. I still feel grateful if my poems are mistaken for something else, and this is really my aim. ✺

Read the piece here.


Giles Goodland

Giles Goodland's books include Of Discourse (Grand Iota, 2023), A Spy in the House of Years (Leviathan, 2001), Capital (Salt, 2006), Dumb Messengers (Salt, 2012), and The Masses (Shearsman, 2018). Civil Twilight was published by Parlor Press in 2022. He has worked as a lexicographer, editor, and bookseller, and teaches evening classes on poetry for Oxford University's department of continuing education, and lives in West London. 


Twitter: @lexiconoclast



Ruoyu Wang | Interviewer

Ruoyu Wang (王若雨) is based in Washington state, where they enjoy cold walks. An Adroit Prizes commended winner in poetry, their work appears in The Shore, Sine Theta, COUNTERCLOCK, and elsewhere. Find them at their website.

Published

Mar 16, 2024

Wearing the Wrong Glasses: A Conversation with Giles Goodland ✺

Giles Goodland & Ruoyu Wang

Interviews

Ruoyu: Giles, what struck me about this piece was how carefully distanced the narrator seems from the actual movements of the story. Rather than focusing inwards, the story seems more interested in addressing the reader, a third figure party who receives all the power in details yet no power in ability to affect an outcome. In this landscape, one that is readjusted with each paragraph, how is the meaning of “domestic” changed? If we, as the reader, are found in this space but are only allowed observation, what does that mean for these preconceived expectations of “coming home”? Of safety and stability, even?


Giles: I had originally written these as separate prose poems, each with the name of an object. After looking at them for a while, I realized that they made better or stronger sense without the titles. After all, I was not writing riddles. But I wanted to keep an overall title that still refers to the domestic.

The act of reading them may give the impression of a narrative, in the same way that a series of polaroids laid out on a table might. Or tarot cards. 




Ruoyu: You treat the story’s figures with such honesty, and I wanted to point to the specific moment where the narrator tells us, “one of the [nearby drinkers] grabs me and calls me dad. I draw away from him…but as the lights change, I say take care.” The entire story seems to hinge on these atmospheric changes, how settings and even “domestic objects” can reappear with new faces depending on how they are lit. While writing this piece, how did you uncover the patterns across these images? What do you hope that the reader sees?


Giles: I had been trying to write 'imagist' poems while rejecting the main claim of imagism, expressed by the famous Williams quote, “no ideas but in things.” It seems to me that this statement is nonsense. As a phenomenologist I believe that “no things but in ideas” is closer to the truth. These poems were based on actual experiences: the shimmer of falling cellophane from a cigarette packet, or the accidental switching of glasses in a gym changing room. Wearing the wrong glasses for a few moments allows you to see a fragment of the truth. But then you have to swap glasses with the man standing next to you and you see you are still in a gym changing room. 

I can see how they are more like micro stories or anecdotes of the immaterial, in which objects just guide the way. But they are also poems.




Ruoyu: Could you tell me about one piece of art—this could be anything from other poems to TV show scripts—that has been deeply formative in creating the spaces your work exists in? In what ways does it continue to compel you towards new understandings? 


Giles: As a small child I would gather mud from a nearby stream and form them into objects, which I would place on a wooden fence. I called them sculptures, and told my parents I had made an art gallery. Despite giving them instructions of how to find the fence, I don't think that they or anyone else saw these objects, or if they did, they did not take them as art. This remains my definition of art. I still feel grateful if my poems are mistaken for something else, and this is really my aim. ✺