Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nosy Interview: Steven Arnston

Steven (photographed by Anne Mathews) in M1:The Crab Nebula from Hubble, ©NASA, ESA

Steve and I met in the Seattle writing group started by Elizabeth, and it was there that I also met Henrietta, who is a character in Steven's book, The Wikkeling, but who also feels like a real person that I know. Visit Steven's website, and help him meet one of his New Year's resolutions by liking his Facebook page. 

What do you smell like?
A Literature professor of mine once said, "Any poet who writes about a bird other than a blackbird or a sparrow is just showing off." Maybe he was joking, but I really thought about that! Eventually I decided I didn't agree, at least not about birds. I think it takes more than a few extra species to be considered a showoff, and it should be okay for writers to add some local fauna as part of trying to evoke a place. But when it comes to senses other than sight and sound, I often do avoid specifics out of worry that it could seem like I'm trying to show off. Maybe it's because people don't as frequently employ the secondary senses in writing, so the showoff bar is lower. This is sad, though, right? Because sometimes I avoid things in the interest of maintaining the appearance of descriptive humility. Anyway, all of that aside, I smell like a sparrow.

What do you like to smell?
My wife and I frequently walk down to the Seattle waterfront, and I always tell her how much I like the smell at low tide. When I was a kid, my parents and I sailed a twenty-six-foot-long boat around in the San Juan Islands every summer. Our diet consisted largely of things we harvested from the beaches—clams, such as little steamer clams, fluted cockles (the only clams that can swim), big horseshoe clams with strange exfoliating shell rims, buttery butter clams, hard-to-catch geoducks; the pale feet of limpets and chitons; oysters; eels; seaweed. We pulled the clear, longitudinal muscles out of sea cucumbers, sucked snails from their shells, mined the eggs from sea urchins, trapped crabs, netted shrimp in butterfly nets. And we weren't the only ones out hunting for our breakfasts, either—an endless variety of birds joined us daily, picking right alongside us. Squawking seagulls spazzed on the clay tarmac, crows cooly investigated shallow pools, starlings screeched (they've only arrived here in the Northwest during my father's lifetime—isn't that weird?), great crook-necked blue herons stalked, sandpipers skipped just ahead of the waves. And now I love the smell of that place, so packed with all kinds of life. Smelling of sparrow.


Colin said...

I was really really really hoping for a period after "My Wife..."

Preets said...

I want to meet this seabird man!

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