There's a theme with my dreams involving PF: funny underpants. I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps because PF doesn't wear underpants. In my book, Your Ten Favorite Words there's a reference to one of these dreams in the poem "No Bra Required." The most recent PF/funny underpants dream happened in March. PF came into my room and asked if I had denim underpants. My response: “Yes, with a zipper going up my ass.” That prompted a good long laugh from both of us.
Michigander PF Potvin is the author of The Attention Lesson (No Tell Books). His poetry and fiction have appeared in Boston Review, Black Warrior Review, Born Magazine, Coconut, Sentence, Sleepingfish, No Tell Motel and elsewhere. He has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Casa Libre en la Solana. He has won many trail marathons and ultras and finished in the top 25 males last year in the international Trail Runner Magazine’s Ultra Race Series. He serves on the deck of the journal Drunken Boat and can be spied at www.pfpotvin.com.
Reb: You're an ultra marathon runner, which I interpret to be "code" for nutballs. Please briefly describe what an ultra marathon is and how it informs/deforms your poetry.
PF: Nutballs — yes, best served on a flaky crumb with soft tangy cheese, think goat or sheep massaged Japanesestyle into letting drip rather than bawling as mechanicals jerk the teats. The Greeks did not invent those rotund delicacies. They lay claim, however, to the marathon, 26.2 miles (42.2 km) of humph and huff, the historic distance run from Marathon to Athens. Ultras certainly existed prior, but few gave names as it was more a matter of throwing gestures or mutterings like “over those peaks” or “across those plains.”
Today an ultra is any race longer than a marathon, typically 50km, 50 miles, or 100 miles in the U.S. Most ultras are run on unpaved roads and trails, although I’ve sweated some races through forests and swamps where the only path is a series of orange ribbons tied above ground on reeds or branches. Unlike road marathons, ultras seem less obsessed with time and personal records and more concerned with challenge and the ever reconnection to the primordial. I mean apart from strangling or being strangled how much closer to baseline humanity can you get than running hour upon hour over glade and dale while stuffing your face with fig bars and the occasional pb & j?
All of which brings us back to reconnecting with the body. One of my former poetry imbibers, Jason Shinder, worked with Allen Ginsberg on Mind Breaths and helped me foster an awareness of everywhere rhythm. When running an ultra I don’t simple feel and experience per the normal; I enter a zone of realized livewire, of pulsethud and stride, of gulp and burp and groan and sigh wherein muscle and vein expand and contract in cadenced exhaustion and the mind flitters in and out of blank as narratives flash on an internal eye and I witness and record and translate into word what is and what I’ve seen and where I’ve been and where I’m going and upon returning I drive those fingers to spill a voice poetic and roll their sounds in mounds of crushed almonds and cashews and when the perfect forms arrive I lay them flat on their spines under the shadow of the moon and step back and wow as they blink themselves dry.
PF: Well, I have a dead dog and a recipe to blame. As I child I had small dreams, but one in particular magnified itself into a monster. It started with Brandy, our yellow lab, bolting through the door. She hightailed to the woods beyond the house and even though I sprinted after her, my two legs were no match for her four. I followed her footprints most of the day and around dusk finally tracked her back to the raspberry briars near the house. I tried to coax her out, but she only whimpered, so I flopped on my belly, caught her by the skin of her neck, and hauled her out. As she lay licking her wounds, I tried the doors and windows, but all were bolted shut. I sat down next to Brandy and she nuzzled ear. “It’s time I gave you a recipe so you will never go hungry. It’s called Animal Scab Cake and there are only a few ingredients. I’ll tell you all but one. The last is on your own.”
I guess I’m still looking for that pinch of divine.
Reb: When are you going to ditch poetry and write something people want to read?
PF: Tom Waits once said don’t feed the dolphins too much while you’re out at sea because if they get too big, they’ll poke holes in your boat.
I’m in the rough of a novel as we speak and will officially denounce poetry when Oprah picks up my book.