The play Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins represents a chance for the award-winning poet and memoirist (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) to “work a muscle [he] hadn’t before.” He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

Is Alice your first play?

In my memoir there are fragments of writing that look like plays. It’s interesting to build whole worlds out of what people say and to line that up against what they are doing, which can create another level of tension, especially if the two don’t line up perfectly.

What have you learned from the directors and actors who have staged it?

One thing I’ve learned is that actors want to know the backstory to a character. There’s a guy in Alice named Ivan, and it is unclear whether he is a businessman or homeless, and the actor really needed to know. The problem was, I didn’t know, and still don’t—he’s a slippery character.

What projects are on your desk at the moment?

I’m finishing a hybrid memoir based on the reaction in America, and in myself, to the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. Part of it involved meeting with the ex-detainees portrayed in the now infamous photographs. That was eye-opening. Right now the title is “The Ticking Is the Bomb.” Faber & Faber, $13

(Read the full interview.)