Steven D. Schroeder’s poem “Everything Looks Like A Target” appeared in the August issue of The Collagist. His first book of poetry is Torched Verse Ends (BlazeVOX [books]). His poems are available or forthcoming from New England Review, Pleiades, The Journal,diode, and Verse Daily. He edits the online poetry journal Anti-, serves as a contributing editor for River Styx, and works as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.
1. Can you talk about the inspiration for “Everything Looks Like A Target”? What was on your mind while you were writing this poem?
My current manuscript project, where this poem appears, has a strong thread of American consumer culture and our current economic crisis. On the flip-side of that, I love Target stores and even go there on casual dates with my girlfriend. On the flip-side of that, I worked retail for a couple years and found it to be mentally and emotionally deadening. So I was thinking of all those things in harmony with the title lyric from Clutch, one of my favorite bands. (The manuscript uses all stolen titles.)
2. I had a professor that stressed how important outside of writing jobs are for writers to have, especially when developing one’s craft. This poem seems to back up that statement, relying heavily on what would seem first hand experience, marked with the first address of “Kid.” How much of this poem is a result of your own outside of writing work experience?
I was once a proud employee of Hollywood Video and Lightning Lizard Pizza, so the general weariness and wariness of customers comes from that, as well as how I regarded the chaos of the busiest times. The specifics of the poem are more a conglomerate of stories I heard from friends, things that happened to me outside the context of work, and an ending departure into complete invention.
3. The impressive thing to me about this poem is how it stays serious, keeping the poetic feel important. For me, a poem like this would be difficult to stay away from complaining or over-reflecting. However, this poem does a great job of showing the difficulties, framing them in a way that is both purposeful and poetic. Can you discuss how you managed to stay purposeful in your writing of this experience, whether personal or not?
I’d be much more prone to complaining than I would to over-reflecting. Here, as in many of my poems, I tried to leaven the bitter aspect with humor and soundplay. I also wanted to convey some of my genuine affection for the Target stores and their positives to accompany the more obvious negatives of customer service and consumerism in general. The poem needs both sides to be genuine to me and probably to be more interesting to a reader.
4. Your collection Torched Verse Ends recently came out from BlazeVox Books. How does “Everything Looks Like A Target” compare to the poems readers can expect in that book?
It’s hard for me to talk about the new poems next to the poems from Torched Verse Ends—my current writing is by nature closest to me, which isn’t really fair to the book. There are poems on similar themes, from one at the aforementioned Lightning Lizard Pizza to one about treating workers as if they’re pets or accessories, and I frequently use that humor-plus-wordplay-plus-darkness approach. However, there’s also a strain of poems in the book that the next project does not replicate: mostly wildfire and wild animals.
5. What current projects are you working on?
There’s this stolen-title manuscript, which loosely covers theft, lies, and other transgressions, and is currently called All But One Untrue. It’s set for submission to presses this fall, and I can tell my headspace is ready for another big thing. Next, it’s going to be lyric, fragmented fiction-ish, set in a city inspired by everything from Calvino and Machiavelli to China Mieville and the Civilization game series.
6. What great books have you read recently? Are there any upcoming releases you’re excited about?
The poetry books I’ve enjoyed most recently are the From the Fishouse anthology and Dara Wier’s Selected Poems from Wave Books. And I’ve just started on The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry and Thunderer by Felix Gilman (another potential inspiration for the city project), but I’m pleased with both so far. Except for books by friends (and there are several excellent ones upcoming), I tend to be a late adopter who gets the literary news rather than gives it.