On the Books: Brian Dunlap

by Jefferson Beavers
From: Fresno State MFA Blog

Photo Taken By Scott Dunlap 2When did you attend the Fresno State MFA program, and what genre did you study?

I attended Fresno State from 2010-2013 to study fiction.

What were your first thoughts when you learned that your poetry chapbook, Concrete Paradise, would be published?

Surprise and disbelief, because I’d only sent my manuscript out to four or five publishers in the six months since I began the submissions process. Plus, I thought it was ironic that my first book was a book of poems, considering I always wrote fiction and dreamed of publishing novels, and for most of my life had avoided poetry altogether.

Any reasons why you “avoided poetry altogether” for most of your life? Did Fresno poetics seep into your prose anyway while you were in the MFA program?

I was introduced to poetry in grade school in the traditional way, with Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and several other poems that felt, at least to me, like highly traditional academic poems. That initially turned me off of poetry because the themes and ideas the poets were talking about did not seem relevant or important to me.

No, I don’t think Fresno poetics seeped into my prose. However, when I started reading poetry, it was Fresno poetry I began with because so much of it is about place—who lives in the Central Valley, how do they live, and the importance place plays in these poets lives and in the lives of the people they write about—which was something I could relate to being a writer of place myself.

Did parts of your poetry chapbook grow out of your Fresno State MFA thesis manuscript, a novel called Amongst Waves? What does the future hold for Amongst Waves? 

My thesis was a novel I keep saying I’ll return to and finish. I do hope to publish it one day. So my thesis didn’t evolve into my chapbook. However, since Amongst Waves is set in Los Ángeles, it did give me plenty of practice with the language of L.A. and how to describe it—what it looks like, how it feels, how it shapes its residents’ lives—that helped me to write my chapbook. I began to hone how I understood L.A. and how my friends understood L.A., which I was able to borrow from and expand upon.

How did you land your publishing deal with Finishing Line Press, and what about their work is a good fit for your chapbook?

I submitted my chapbook to the Finishing Line Press chapbook contest. Going into the submissions process, they were the first press I knew that published chapbooks. Actually, their chapbook Bearing the Juice of It All, by Long Beach poet Nancy Lynée Woo, is the first chapbook I ever owned. And I knew they were a respected press by their reputation. Read Rest of Article Here

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