Monkey Bicycle Interviews Ori Fienberg

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Today J.A. Taylor from the literary journal Monkeybicycle interviewed poet and Phreelance Writer contributor Ori Fienberg about his piece ‘Clockwork Dog’ which appears in their latest issue. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

‘Clockwork Dog’ is built on a disparity of terms – ‘friendly friction’ / ‘retrieving discarded’ / etc. – how important is this discord to your poetry (or this poem)?

In poetry, and contemporary poetry in particular, I think that the
pairing of disparate words and contrasting language is a common
strategy. The goal, I’m pretty sure is to be evocative, but often it
results in obfuscation. You could say the same about the very title
and subject of this poem.  I understand that an initial reaction may
be something along the lines of, what the hell is a “clockwork dog”
anyway? Well, I don’t want my reader surrounded by a jangle of words,
so while the exact form of the dog is left to the reader, by the end
they have an idea of this dog’s motivations, and I think would agree
that he is a “good dog.” So rather than discord, in this and other
pieces I work to create chords from unlikely notes.

There is also an aggressive use of range in this piece –
running the reader from a ‘tornado’ to a ‘merry-go-round’ – can you talk to us about what you hope this scaled-variation will do to

Simply, the range makes the poem livelier and more engaging. The
reader has the opportunity to fit their own rotations and clocks
somewhere between bottle caps and planets, and make their own personal
connections to time with the Clockwork Dog as a guide. . .

For the full interview visit the Monkeybicycle blog and and to read more by Ori Fienberg check out our reprint of his sequence “Collectors


Back to Square One


Danny Hoffman is, even in the face of job market disaster, an optimist.

He’s the kind of guy who, when it was discovered there were mice invading his apartment, hoped that the rest of the mice would leave after they saw their comrade silenced by the first trap.  He’s the kind of guy who stays positive when someone else at work eats the lunch he made, or when the water heater in his apartment combusts all over his bedroom, or when his car is broken into—or when his car gets towed (repeatedly).  Unlike many people who fight fire with fire, Danny has a seemingly endless supply of fire extinguishers.

In the past year, Danny has held four jobs—some of them simultaneously.  He worked for a Children International’s street team, requesting donations to sponsor children in third world countries.  He left that job for a more stable (if small) wage working with Americorps as a mentor for at risk grade school youth with a program called Friends of the Children.  He supplemented this income with a gig at a small Starbucks shop, which he left as soon as he was brought on full time at the mentor position—much to the despair of his Starbucks manager.

At Friends of the Children, Danny excelled.  Over the past year he’s worked with nine kids in the Boston area, with no small amount of highlights.  He worked with his “achievers” in and out of school, helping them with anything from schoolwork to social skills.  “I basically single-handedly raised the funds for one achiever to attend a national football camp,” says Danny.  His involvement with the program was also a personally rewarding experience. “Two kids had to write their end-of-summer essay, and they both wrote about trips to the park and the beach with me—like it was the best thing they ever did.”

But yesterday, with no warning, Danny was let go.  The directors told him they were merging the Friends program with social work, and that his position was no longer in existence.  The issue, like most these days, was one of funding, and they said it would be cheaper to have interns do the work.  Danny, ever positive, isn’t as concerned with the treatment of his position as he is with the treatment of the kids.  “They’re making me say goodbye to seven families in four days,” he says. He’s not looking forward to it.

Now, he says, it’s back to square one.  “I searched for jobs, got on food stamps, finally got a job, lost that job, now I’m going to file for unemployment, get back on food stamps, and get back to searching for jobs.”  In fact, he’s already started.  This morning he woke up early to update his resume, and he’s already found a couple jobs he’s going to apply for.  “I’ll be fine,” he says. “I’ve saved my pennies. I’m going to write some kick-ass cover letters, and I’m going to get a job, just to spite them.” He pounds his fist on the arm of the couch, and in that moment it’s easy to picture Danny lowering an oxygen mask over his face, pulling two fire extinguishers off his hip and twirling them like revolvers as he wades into a forest fire.