Interview with Lyn Lifshin

Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I definitely feel a strong connection between writing and the human body: breath and breathlessness, a pulsing, wildly alive flow of words like a heart racing. In working on a PH. D dissertation, I chose to compare and contrast the poems and psalms of  Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney. I loved, and felt more connected to Wyatt, the rush, almost a staggering, explosive rush of words, the thought  being thought out with all the raggedness and intensity of thought in progress.” For me and my writing, Sidney is more polished, smooth, with his endstopped lines, almost a summary of some final polished, revised, more “perfected” work. But a more ragged aliveness is what I try to keep. My new book, BALLROOM, almost unedited in a way, written in what has feeling of being obsessive, rushed, daily, passionate seems aligned with Wyatt. First I was not sure, a book made from files, not carefully, quietly, over and over again, molded and smoothed of all edges. But now, I feel its liveliness is definitely helped by all that didn’t happen: kept more intense and fresh.
 
Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

What I don’t like about being a poet: I don’t like a lot of the things one has to do after the poem is written. All the record keeping– I am not fantastic about that. I don’t like all the really secretarial details, or the need to push and promote and feel like a one woman show. I have chosen to pretty much write on my own: without the support of a university position with some of the perks and support that go with that, So often I am aware of just how outside an outsider I am. I’ve been nominated over and over for years, hundreds of time for a Pushcart price but I am the Susan Lucci of the Push Cart award. But I’ve had wonderful publishers and wonderful fans– they are the high point.
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Recent books from Lyn Lifshin: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: MYYEAR WITH RUFFIAN, Texas Review Press, ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME from Black Sparrow at Godine., following COLD COMFORT and BEFORE IT’S LIGHT, DESIRE and 92 RAPPLE. She has over 120 books & edited 4 anthologies.   Also out recently: NUTLEY POND, PERSEPHONE, BARBARO: BEYOND BROKENNESS, LOST IN THE FOG, LIGHT AT THE END, JESUS POEMS and BALLET MADONNAS, KATRINA, LOST HORSES, CHIFFON, and BALLROOM. Forthcoming: ALL THE POETS WHO HAVE TOUCHED ME, LIVING AND DEAD. ALL TRUE: ESPECIALLY THE LIES. Her web site is http://www.lynlifshin.com
 
 
THE CHAMELEON
 
Some days he’s the sheik, he’s
Valentino, slicked back hair
for a dangerous tango. A
day later it’s jeans, the bad
boy, the hipster. His sneer
pierces. His beard grows in
over night. Some days he’s
French, some days Italian.
He’s the sheik in more ways
than one. The heart breaker,
the Valentino. Tango with
him and he leaves a stain.
One day he’ll bring you
chocolate, another he’s in his
Fred Astaire hat, is the dance
away lover. Too many women
linger near his tent. Valentino
in a pale striped summer
suit, Valentino in the tuxedo.
The days he’s Viennese,
your feet won’t touch the
ground. He smells sweet as
he says you do. For beat or
hippy days, his sweat smells,
thrills some. If death gets
him young like Valentino,
the train with his gorgeous corpse
would stall traffic. Long haired
girls, blue as the silver bloom,
or the tart and sweet blueberry
will cry and no one no one will
know who he went out as

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