Questions from Miriam’s Well:
1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.?
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
4. Was the process of putting your new book together the usual one, or different than previous collections?
1. As a primarily narrative poet, I’m really interested in the line as a means of propelling a poem forward, particularly with regard to the tension between the line and the sentence. Although I tend to draft poems in paragraphs rather than lines, once I start playing with the line breaks, there’s a lot of enjoyable trial and error and printing multiple drafts. I’ve also learned that when I’m really struggling with the line breaks, it’s likely because there’s something wrong with what the poem is saying and not just its shape.
2. Though I’m deeply interested in the body as a wonderful and flawed machine, for me, writing is one of the ways I attempt to escape my body, however briefly. And yet I also can’t stop myself from adding: because I never learned to hold a pencil correctly, I have a callus on right ring finger of which I am very proud because it signifies that I’ve been working. The results aren’t always successful, but it means I’ve tried.
3. Let’s be honest–if I didn’t love being a poet I could quit at any time and hardly anyone would notice. But the one thing I do dislike is some of the cultural nonsense around being a poet, some of which are gendered as well–that we’re all terribly tortured and somber and that we wear lots of artfully-draped scarves and drink red wine. I am a scarf-less, beer-drinking, very boring and fairly calm human being who is usually asleep by 8:30. I’m also pretty funny, though I’m sure not everyone would agree.
4. With I think one exception, all of the poems in Grief Land (which will be out on August 15) were written in the two years after my husband’s death because there were so many things I wanted to understand about how he died and also so many things I wanted to tell him about my life after his death. From the very beginning, I suspected I was writing a collection and that I knew what the collection would contain. All of my books so far have had a kind of theme, though in some cases it’s looser than in others. This time the themes felt very tight to me, and I also wrote more quickly than I have in the past. That being said, in terms of also writing poems that didn’t make it into the book and doing a lot of revision, the process was very much the same as for my previous collections.
Carrie Shipers is the author of Family Resemblances, Cause for Concern, and Ordinary Mourning. Her poems have appeared in New England Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and other journals.