Stay tuned all month for poet interviews in honor of National Poetry Month.
1) Why poetry?
When I was rebelling against genre and insisting on the fluidity of (arbitrary) forms, a teacher told me that, no, actually, poetry and prose are distinct. So I made a table: sentence over the left column, line over the right. And filled in the columns automatically: simple, arbitrary, without editing vocabulary or naivety:
blue print / pencil shavings
a house of pencil shavings / a drawing of a blueprint
grounded in reality / grounded in rhythm
segment of a straight line, representative of a vector / imitates + enacts vector while resembling a ray
language / resembles language
essence of utterance (mineral or element) / figure of utterance (painting or sculpture)
captures + contains geometry / performs geometry
relationship of symbols / symbol
[logical] progression of images / image, or curation + juxtaposition of images
logic is in progression; arrangement is aesthetic / logic is in arrangement; progression is aesthetic
After the table, I began to choose poetry less. I turned to The Sentence because mine were clunky and terrible, and I had to find a way to write them. But now, I’m in the middle of writing a prose manuscript and have just realized that I need to be writing poems about inheritance. And I’m focusing on the line because, now, I can’t write one. It comes anyway, at a rate that flows over my ability to think through / tame syntax. Maybe that’s “why poetry”: poetry doesn’t care.
2) Do you feel like poetry is more or less important & relevant today?
Always relevant: never enough.
3) Tell us about one poet who has greatly influenced you as a writer and a thinker.
Lisa Robertson, Bhanu Kapil, my students
4) Tell us about one lesser-known contemporary poet who you’d like more people to know about.
“womanhood can be the revenge for girlhood
and ain’t nothing scarier than a black body that you can’t kill”
–from According to my Upbringing
5) Share with us one of your recent poems and tell us a little bit about its context.
This poem is part of a series of prose poems I’m currently working on, about healing in different institutions / spaces.
House Part II
This is the time to practice dark domestic arts. Every witch who’s ever had a day room.
I often think of instances in which time has collapsed in a room and I’ve spoken to myself over the edge.
I clean my lover’s cuts with salt water, there’s lemon in the bowl and a new knife to harvest herbs. Do you know how to identify a natural abortifacient. How to tell an edible root from the poison, their flowers look the same.
In a house the boundaries of time are timid because of the domestics of space, conjuring the same room of every house and each event that’s occurred there and who you were then. In each room you are a different girl speaking to each other.
Save all your seeds, tinctures for healing, we’re in the backyard, doing the same old séances, practicing inclusivity and nursing.
When boundaries are so timid you can press through them, toward yourself, with a loving hand, to apportion survival to your less auspicious selves.
One of my demons is a little girl, I have to be a mother to her. If I feel guilty for everything that’s ever happened to me, now I’ve done them to myself. I have to remember she’s there.
I keep a book of dreams at each stage of my life. A book of hotels, a book of demons, which would you like to read tonight. How long before my child knows me. How long before I can tell her who I am.
Ella Longpre is the author of How to Keep You Alive (CCM Press 2017) and three chapbooks of poetry and essay. She teaches, lives, and works in Colorado and can be found in the woods.