The strange can take on many forms in Andy Gricevich’s poetry. Working with weird music selections in the background and drawing inspiration from reading subjects such as philosophy and biology, the Madison-based writer is bound to get results that feel bizarre and boundary-pushing. But he doesn’t necessarily want readers to see his work that way.
“I don’t call any of this stuff avant-garde or experimental. I call it strange or weird,” Gricevich says. “It’s not about being at the forefront. I don’t think of this practice as, ‘Let’s do an experiment.’ I think about about as, ‘Let’s open the field of possibilities.'”
Writing towards what scares you and what you haven’t tried before can become daunting, but it’s also crucial to pushing forward. Gricevich not only pushes himself to try new things in his work, but also encourages those around him to try something different.
Gricevich’s interests tend to shift and turn each time he approaches a poem. He toys with the syntax of a poem as well as with the actual sound and frequency of the words. “I’m interesting in sculpting energy and speed,” he says. “You can have a sentence that keeps going and tumbling and turning into another sentence or you can have these sudden stops or little short fragments. You can have a lot of space or have really dense work. I think of all of this as meaning-generating.”
Gricevich has also worked to create more community around writing in Madison as well as building connections online. Through his journal and small poetry press Cannot Exist, he has focused on contacting people who want to have writing be a moving and thriving part of their lives. His work through his press and the reading series Oscar Presents, which has its next event on April 28 at Arts + Literature Laboratory, aims to create an organic exchange of writers and collaborators. You might have also encountered him through the playful and often cryptic Library Oracle project at some of the Madison Public Library’s special events in recent years, including Bookless, Stacked, and Municipal. His other activities over the years have included the satirical folk music duo The Prince Myshkins and an experimental theater group called The Nonsense Company.
“I and most of the writers I am friends with want writing to be part of the continuity of our lives. We want to think of it as both a vocation and as as something that we just do,” he says in reference to the range of poets and writers involved with both the readings and presses he works with. “We make spaces that feel non-exclusive, which is interesting because a lot of the writing is pretty odd and I think in an institutional setting, people get a lot more anxious about aesthetics.”
Gricevich’s emphasis on the grassroots as opposed to the institutionalized spaces, because there is a relaxed nature in a group collective, as opposed to the monolithic nature of institutionalized writing.
Recently Tone Madison contributor John McCracken took a workshop from Gricevich through the Bubbler, a part of the Madison Public Library. Gricevich drew on his exploratory side during this time the class; exercises involved listening to instrumental music as a prompt, listening toGricevich read from multiple books at a time at quickening and decreasing rates, and having members of the class read books directly into each other’s ears while the listeners tried to transcribe or create work. These exercises were odd and sometimes nauseating, but they helped McCracken find new ways to approach my own writing.
Gricevich sat down recently with John McCracken to discuss writing and read some poetry. Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.