3 Questions for Alison Stone

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
What I love about line breaks is that gives us a second thing. Prose has sentences. We have sentences that are often broken in the middle. That creates an effect. Breaking at the end of a sentence creates a different one. It’s interesting to me to play with the meaning of the sentences and the sounds of the lines. Two different units  — sometimes the sentence is primary, sometimes a line break will make the line primary. This shifts for me in different poems. I used to play my line breaks very safe – a bit of enjambment, a hint of surprise; but nothing radical. I’ve been playing more, indenting lines, working with spacing.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I’m a Gestalt therapist, and we believe in organismic unity. We are mind/body/spirit. Memories are stored in the body, emotions are felt in the body. The body is essential to my work. Maybe it’s more obvious to women, but I think all poets write from their bodies, or from an attempt to disown or separate from the body. There’s nowhere else to live really.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
The stigma. The loneliness. Being a poet is like having a pit bull, always needing to explain. When I say I’m a writer, people look excited, then I say “poet” and their eyes glaze over. Plus there’s so little money out there, compared to fiction. It spurs ugly competition, scarcity. I’m writing because I have something to say, but knowing that .03% of Americans read poetry is discouraging. Also, readers treating poetry like memoir. The speaker is not the poet. A poem is a crafted object. Sometimes I recited poems to my pit bull. She never asks “but what does it mean?”

bio: Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth.
This poem is from Dangerous Enough (Pressa Press 2014)
They have to wait to bury my mother
until my daughter stops nursing.
She had slept in a padded basket
while I stood wooden between my husband and my father;
people droned my mother’s praises
and the coffin loomed.
Now she wakes and roots, all
hunger. A stranger takes us
to the rabbi’s study. Amid clutter
of paper and books, I lift my black shirt.  Broken,
numb, I cannot imagine my body
will respond, but her latch draws milk down.
She sucks dreamily. New to this world,
she knows nothing but a mother
who drips tears on her still-closing skull.
Her eyes flicker open and shut. Someone knocks,
asks me to hurry. I rub my daughter’s back.
Her eyes stay closed now
but the fierce gums clamp.
I wait. The knot in my throat starts to soften.
As long as she holds on, nothing is
final. The drive to the grave
postponed, my mother is still above ground, here
with her new grandchild and me.

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