CH: If we’re not mistaken, that image on your cover looks like an Abe Lincoln penny. Can you tell us about it?
RZ: Yes, there’s a much-rubbed close-up of ‘Honest’ Abe on the front of the book – and the Lincoln Memorial peeks through on the back. The photos are from a series on the psychoanalysis of money done by New York–based Canadian artist Moyra Davey. Moyra’s an old friend of mine who inspired me in many ways to write this book through a number of conversations we had on the links between money and shit, the capitalist anal-erotic character and other fascinating topics! Moyra’s photos are referenced on page 20 of the book, which alludes to a surreal experience I had exiting a meeting at a financial company as part of my day job writing corporate copy and stumbling across these images of Moyra’s in the lobby. The photos fit the book so well – I’m very happy Moyra gave us permission to use them.
CH: How does the notion of money intersect with the ‘human resources’ of your title?
RZ: Money is a resource that humans use, made from other resources (copper, nickel, etc.). Humans are resources used by other humans for money (‘human capital,’ boss/employee, master/slave economies, etc. etc.). Human resources can also be harnessed to counter the depletion of language and meaning in this overstuffed 21st century – in books of poetry that pay the author no money!
CH: Through the course of the book, your words seem to transmute into numbers. Why?
RZ: Why not? Okay okay, I stumbled upon a few online search engines that numericize language and they really fit the book. One, WordCount, lists the 86,800 most commonly used words in the English language. A linked engine, QueryCount, tracks the most common words queried in WordCount. So while ‘the’ is the most common word, ‘fuck’ is the most commonly queried word. I then took certain words and rankings and put them through a quite psychotic online Gematria (Hebrew numerology) machine, to come up with some really crazy shit. Why all these numeric processes, you might ask? (Oh yeah, you did.) You could say I wanted to bring to the surface some of the codes (actual and symbolic) operating under the language we use every day; you could say I wanted to depict corporatized experience alongside other assaults on the human; you could say that numbers look and sound beautiful as words; you could say they add value to evacuated language; you could say they have tremendous spiritual power; or you could stop there before you go maudlin …
CH: You’ve done some work in corporate communications. How has that affected your work? Might your clients recognize themselves in the book?
RZ: It’s made me very tired! I doubt my clients would ever pick up this book, and more power to them if they recognize themselves. I certainly can’t recognize myself amongst all that jabberwocky! I do secretly hope that just one HR manager somewhere is lured into picking up the book by reading its title, then finds their life completely transformed by putting into practice just a few of the simple tips contained in this key manual.
CH: What writers have most influenced your poetics?
RZ: Who ever has a good answer to that question? My poetics changes with each book. I can tell you some writers whose work was important for this book: Edmond Jabès, Paul Celan, Erin Moure, Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, Steve McCaffery, Robert Majzels … You could broadly situate my work among a kind of documentary/investigative poetics practised by people like Juliana Spahr, Claudia Rankine, M. NourbeSePhilip and a number of other folks. You could place my work among the proceduralists or the digital poeticists, but why categorize? Seems kinda anal to me. Perhaps I was more influenced by my Christian evangelist copywriting teacher, or those staunch warriors on the front lines of Human Resources communications everywhere, fighting the good fight each and every day – for acronym, euphemism and Clarity!
CH: Your subject matter could have been terribly depressing, yet your tone isn’t overwhelmingly cynical.How have you managed to make the dehumanizing of language so very human?
RZ: Must be my scintillating sense of potty humour!