In the halcyon days of September 2015, when the weather was mild and Trump’s candidacy was moderately less terrifying, we published interviews with Eileen Myles and Jane Smiley. Our print subscribers have long since read, digested, and discussed them, and would no doubt greet any mention of them with “That is so two quarters ago”—but now, five long months later, the interviews are freely available to everyone.
I have some very … I don’t know if sentimental is the word, but I have some thoughts about what poetry is and how old it is and what it means and what it could be. I feel like it’s this old thing mumbling inside of me. When I first started to write, in my twenties, I did associate poetry with being fucked up, and poetry definitely managed something for me—the dissonance between the world just as we’re being invited to enter it and that whole world inside of you and what to do with that gap. I had a mentally ill grandmother who I had, and have, a deep attachment to. She kind of mumbled and had a weird little West Ireland accent, and when I started to write I’d swear it was her. I felt this grrrrr, like something inside of me that was not me. It’s very weird—I feel like I’m working for Eileen or something, like I have this job being her performer, learning this argot of hers, finding it. But I think it’s older than me and it’s older than my grandmother.
If you’re in a creative state, then essentially things sort of coagulate and you enter a state of hyperconsciousness—you can write for an hour or so, but it only seems like a few minutes because you’re so concentrated on it. I’ve experienced that a lot, which doesn’t mean there’s no frustration, but I don’t really remember the frustration very well. I remember more when the writing comes together. And I’m willing to seek out that coming together. If I get frustrated, I’ll go eat something, I’ll go open another Diet Coke, I’ll go the barn, I’ll distract myself, and then the parts in my brain that were working click and I get an idea. I read an article about how to learn to play a musical instrument. You practice, practice, practice on Friday, then you walk away. And then when you sit down on Saturday, you’re better. Not only because of all the practice, but also because of the walking away. I’m a firm believer in walking away.
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