James Leaf Answers the Questionnaire


How do you take your coffee?

Black, usually, but lately I’ve been coming around to adding a bit of sugar.

Tell us a little about the experience of making the work you have featured in REALITY BEACH.

Well the shorter piece, “Changes in Apperception,” was written on a train between Bonn and Cologne in Germany, I believe. I was meeting a friend and feeling rather homesick. In some ways, that piece was both a manifestation and explanation of the things I was feeling at the time, like anxiety, alienation, and confusion.

As for the other one, “I Guess It Was July,” it is still one of the most difficult pieces I’ve written—but not for any emotional reason. It was, and remains, a piece that I’m not sure I’m finished with. Every iteration is something I like (or I wouldn’t have submitted it), but every once in a while, I go back to that piece and I add and subtract parts. It’s not conquered yet, I guess.

Tell us about the poems you’ve been writing.

Generally, I’ve found myself gravitating toward writing about the Great Plains of Northwest Texas, where I grew up. I think nature and the landscapes that surround us affect who we are to such a great degree that we can use them as lenses to see ourselves and our hidden parts.

What’s the last thing you burned?

Other than what normal people burn, a painting an ex gave me. It was a really childish thing to do, honestly, but that was a couple years ago. I had somehow convinced myself that I was making it “better” and simultaneously leaving behind those emotions. I just burned out the middle and left the frame. It did end up looking better, though.

Where is your beach?

In my hometown, there’s this disgusting, defunct lake that fills the gorge that marks the northern end of the Palo Duro Canyon. It’s beautiful in its unapologetic refusal to support life. That is, until the geese fly down for the winter.

What’s the best line on the fifth page of the poetry book closest to you?

The book is Elegy on Toy Piano by Dean Young:
“In the Valley of Eternals,
you’re perpetually in profile, talking
out of the side of your mouth to jackals.
The air smells of lilacs and barbed wire.
You enter the ballerina’s lair.”

What is your favorite dance move? Please Describe.

Coming from a rural area, I’ve done a lot of two-stepping. Hurts my hips though.

What’s the ebb reveal?

Plenty of muck and human tragedy.