The Next Big Thing: Kevin Varrone

I recently tagged the very talented Philadelphia poet, Kevin Varrone, for The Next Big Thing – a chain self-interview for writers who have forthcoming or recently published books. Here are Kevin’s responses to the questions.


What is the working title of the book?

& all & all that rises

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came from a few different sources, most concretely, from reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Kate Greenstreet’s The Last Four Things in quick succession. And thinking a lot about stammering as a kind of articulation (vs. a defect in articulation) and sound as a potent sense and source of memory.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ralph Macchio for the Wonder Years-esque voice-over narration. I don’t think there are any other characters!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

You are what you hear and how you say.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first (longish) poem in the manuscript, “stammer,” didn’t work that way, really. It came together in bits and pieces and fits and starts over 2 + years. The second longer-ish poem, “earshot,” took somewhere around 4 months for the first draft. There might be a common denominator in there somewhere, but that math is beyond me!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The books I mentioned in Question #2 inspired “earshot.” Also, a memory of being in a tree stand with my brother as a young kid, in the winter, in the morning, when it was still mostly dark and completely silent, and jumping from the tree stand after our father shot at a deer. “Stammer” was inspired by spending a lot of time around kids and just really loving the way they tend to speak; that, and the young son of a friend who was having some difficulty with a stammer. I was just thinking a lot about the relentless normalizing forces in the world and how they turn beautiful things in defects sometimes. I wanted to try to write something that went in the other direction. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hmmm. Hard to say. Maybe that it’s a book that tries really hard to put the ear and hearing at the center of the poems (vs. sight). I was––am––really interested in the idea of a sound image. Of language transmitting meaning through sound as much through meaning (i.e., definitions of words). I like how emotion sound is, in a way that painting is emotional for me, or music: emotional without the filter of language and the meaning of words. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m not sure yet. I don’t anticipate self-publishing it in book form, though I increasingly like the idea of multi-dimensional electronic publications, such as



My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: Sarah Blake, Sue Landers, Chris McCreary, C.E. Putnam, and Carlos Soto Roman



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