Sacha Archer lives in Burlington, Ontario with his wife and two daughters. He is the editor of Simulacrum Press (simulacrumpress.ca). His work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as ARC, filling Station, Matrix, Nöd, Politics/Letters Live, Utsanga, Otoliths, FIVE:2:ONE, Futures Trading, Timglaset and Touch the Donkey. Archer has two full-length collections of poetry, Detour (gradient books, 2017) and Zoning Cycle (Simulacrum Press, 2017). His most recent chapbooks are TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press, 2018), Contemporary Meat (The Blasted Tree, 2018) and Autopsy Report (above/ground press, 2018) with two forthcoming: Houses (no press) and Framing Poems (Timglaset). His visual poetry has been exhibited in the USA, Italy, and Canada. His website is sachaarcher.wordpress.com.
How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?
I remember my bedroom and the woods. I began writing in these two places. I would walk through the woods just looking at what was going on around me and write about it. Also I would make sculptures and generally engage in a creative way with the environment. How old I was at that time I don’t exactly remember, but pretty young, a boy. How does one begin writing? With an instrument. And words. Maybe. There was some need to engage with the world as it occurred, both with words and visually.
What could possibly keep me going at it? Well, it’s an addiction of identity, right? I mean, no one cares if you make or not. There’s no money in it. Time is eaten by work and children. Sleep deprivation ushers in slight hallucinations. It’s easier to disappear in front of the TV with a few beers. Maybe I am just trying to keep myself from disappearing myself. There is a great satisfaction in the process of creating. That process is my home.
Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem, now that you’ve published a handful of books and chapbooks?
Nope. If anything, my pieces are becoming more and more difficult to imagine in a book precisely because I don’t start out by considering the question of whether or not something might be fit for publishing.
How has the process of putting together a manuscript evolved? How do you decide on the shape and size of a manuscript?
I am so bad at putting one together. I can’t do it. Or I can put one together as I see how I want my work presented, but that’s not what larger publishers want. I usually work on a project, a series, rather than an individual piece—and ideally would always like to see a series presented as a whole in its own book, but, especially with visual poetry, that can be difficult to sell a publisher on. So, I’m at a point where either I learn how to play the game or I don’t. The alternative being that I continue playing my own game. As far as I can see both paths lead to the same result.
Given you work in text and visual mediums, how do the two sides of your writing interact? How did you begin with visual poems at all?
I think the marriage of pictures and words starts with picture books. Or the world we live in where they are not separate. I think I have always leaned toward the visual, but have always wanted to write more. But maybe it was Apollinaire and bpNichol that got me really going. Certainly ubuweb was a huge eye opener.
Essentially, all my work aims to land in the same place, which is more or less the general failure of communication and what is born of that. I don’t know how visual versus textual interact. Language is always the starting point—always the possibility of saying something. Always the questions where is language? what is written? Language is supposed to create communication, and I find so little actual communication from day to day. Or, I find an enormous amount of communication, but it fails most often via words. I remember when I was getting my TESOL diploma the most interesting insight I heard was that the most important thing in communication was not how one says what they’re saying, but that one can make themselves understood. Of course it seems obvious, but it isn’t, is it? How people snicker at ‘bad’ English, but the fact is, nobody knows what their saying. It’s a pretty messy dance. Always an attempt.
What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?
The easy answer is all of them who I’ve read. Either encouraging a style and approach or dissuading. Each book read a stepping stone. But, poets who I enjoy that I can see embedded somewhere in my own works (even if it’s not obvious)? Rimbaud, David Antin, Andre Breton, Susan Howe, Anne Carson, Bob Cobbing, bp Nichol, Erica Baum (not a poet, perhaps, but) Derek Beaulieu, Sam Roxas-Chua, Clark Coolidge, John Cage, and on…
You are editor/publisher of simulacrum press. Why do you feel this work is important, and what have you learned through the process?
A micro press like Simulacrum isn’t bound by the same rules as larger publishers. It is a place of possibility because it does not run on funding and is an act of generosity. I don’t really have some pool of expendable income, but I make it work. I started Simulacrum because I wanted to create a place where I felt certain of my own works would feel at home and so inevitably certain works of other like-minded creators. There is amazing, provoking work being made which deserves physical publication, and it is a joy to collaborate with authors and bring their work to the world—to try to frame that work so it can fully sing. I think every creator that I’ve published has been happy with how I’ve handled there work (except maybe one). It’s a different way to engage with work, a new angle to understand it—how to draw from it a response which does not intrude on the work, but holds it up.
What have I learned? A lot of people don’t know how to submit, or read. Tip for submitters: don’t just send a link to some huge file and think I’m going to open it. You may want to say something as well. Also, and this is big, a great many visual poets don’t know how to use their tools, and by this I mean within the digital realm. Please learn how to save a high res image. If you’re work is the tiniest bit pixilated, it better be intentional.
How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?
No, not that I can think of—with writing in particular. There have been people along the way who have encouraged me and exposed me to certain aesthetics. Maralynn Cherry was a great teacher. That was purely visual work. Jake Kennedy was also a great teacher, but that was more a lesson in attitude. Mostly it’s just been reading and not lying to myself.
What are you currently working on?
Not much. There’s a new baby in the house and a new job that tires me out completely. I’m usually engaging with my practice every day, creating every day, so I’m struggling with being so fatigued and trying to find some routine and balance. I’m jotting down ideas for event poems and hope to soon execute/perform a few of them. In the summer I invited a bunch of people to preform two event poems and it was a blast. So, I’m looking forward to having a like gathering soon where those ideas will come to life. Also, I try to find objects at work that might facilitate a poem. I recently brought home a role of stickers that was tossed in the garbage. Usually they are fed through a machine that prints bar codes on them. This was a great find. I considered the object for a few days then went to Staples and designed a stamp:
for Tactile Poem
Line # ________
So, each sticker will have this stamped on them, and potentially, a series of objects will have the stickers placed on them. Objects as lines. I don’t know how many stickers there are—I’m yet to count them. But this object, the roll of stickers, led me to a new approach to the poem. I am always thinking about my practice. Always. Everything in life relates back to it. And I think that’s what it takes to make good work—if I make good work. Total, unrelenting devotion.
Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?
Besides all of them? Franco Cortese. He’s doing amazing work, very powerful. Read Franco Cortese.