Toby Barlow (BSS #181)

Toby Barlow is the author of Sharp Teeth.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Distrusting of certain types of poetry.

Author: Toby Barlow

Subjects Discussed: The appeal of free verse, genre distinctions, the concern for lycanthropic physiology, Terry Pratchett, deviating from the rules in the werewolf canon, Brian Francis Slattery’s Spaceman Blues, a hyper-giddy version of the New Weird, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Donald Barthelme, Homer, James Ellroy, “Pay attention,” pop cultural references, purposeful wordplay, water as a love metaphor, pulp and Los Angeles, Chandleresque metaphors, Gun With Occasional Music, odd statistics, the possibly apocryphal idea that 38% of the homeless population living in Los Angeles, dog population statistics, the Santa Ana winds, mining the Interweb, verbs that reflect nouns, the dog world beholden to alliteration, Aristotle’s “prime mover,” Godel’s incompleteness theorem, the Ukan way, DC “straight edge” punk, ways of reading text, lawyers, carne asada tacos, bridge columns in the newspaper, Alfred Bester’s “Hobson’s Choice,” the desire for community, and balancing narrative elements of a quest with free verse.


Barlow: I knew I wasn’t writing poetry. So I was not looking at in that style or strict formal style. But I did want — I did create breaks most of the time. There were a lot of line breaks in it. But most of the time, I was creating breaks when I wanted the ear to kind of catch twice. So the phrase had its own meaning. And I wanted to break up that phrase, and break the way that you were going to hear it or see it. So there would be a kind of constant tumbling over process as you went through the book. Because again, I think that that added a lot of drive to the piece. Even lines that felt cliched. If you break them in the right way, they’re suddenly not cliche anymore. They’re suddenly a little — there’s just a bump in the road where you didn’t expect it. And I just wanted to keep people guessing and thinking and moving through it.

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