What is it about poetry as opposed to other genres?

I guess it’s the wordplay; the truly infinite number of ways that exist for using language and syntax in poetry that other genres don’t allow. Poetry by its own nature adheres to something ineffable and far more embracing than the Chicago Style Manuel. Restrictions that hinder creativity annoy me anyway. Poetry, on the other hand, is viscerally and emotionally freeing.

As a long time choreographer and teacher of improvised performance arts, I learned from the very beginning that any individual’s freely flowing and naturally occurring continuum of creative thought and action is hindered only by their own private wounds and learned or imposed behaviors. Most teaching of improvisation actually involves unlearning habitual patterns. And all writing at its inception is improvised. For me writing poetry is remedial work for the creative spirit. I love that work. The need for it, is at the core of my driving interest in writing poetry for the last 20 years.

Parachutes have risen
and structures of fashion
have shifted in the foyer.

Prestigious and versatile,
the concierge collects
luxury gifts. She drinks
the beverage before her,

sucks air too loudly to sigh.
A carnage of orchids
dries on Spanish tile. A red
pepper turns in the bowl.

Photo credit: A Pavhk

You are about to release your third book, prey. Tell us everything.

prey is a themed full-length poetry collection centered around navigating a culture of predation. It details various predatory relationships from childhood onward, drawing parallels between human and nonhuman predators. The book seeks to expose the depth of trauma caused by physical, psychological, and sexual abuse—exploring what it is to become prey.

She sits quiet, drunk on her own anger
again & his despicable

drips down each fang just like
the bourbon from out his pores—

don’t misunderstand, she’s seasoned, racked up
husbands & guzzlers, & all she learned

from Mother who was no princess &
all the grandmothers dating back

to the Revolution & perhaps even back
to Babylon, too, the kind of ladies

The last thing on earth I ever thought I’d do was write about fashion.

I equated the industry with the worst of capitalism: defining human beings as consumers, tricking them into thinking they need the “new look” simply to make a profit. I equated the industry with patriarchy and women’s internalized misogyny: the command to dress as the object of the male gaze, the message that you are subhuman, at best, monstrous, at worst, if you don’t comply. Fashion, it seemed, was the perfect vehicle for what Louis Althusser called the interpellation of the subject by an ideological apparatus.

That is, until I read Valerie Wallace’s House of McQueen (Four Way Books 2018).

 

How’s the erotic poetry business?

Funny you should ask. JUNKIE WIFE, my erotic chapbook chronicling my first, dysfunctional, drug-fueled marriage, has just been published by Moon Tide Press, with a foreword by the great Bill Mohr. I’m reading all over town. (Details on my website.)

1.
when I see I’ve overwatered it again, I jab
the turkey baster into the rust-colored runoff
before the water spills over,
onto the hardwood floor.

in our mid-town apartment,
the harsh light sears the spiky leaves.

it reminds me of summer,
when you left me here on Beachwood Dr.
and I shot Demerol
my rust-colored blood backing up in the syringe,
the same pierce of yellow light,
the sharp spike breaking my skin.

Let’s start with that cover – it is both lovely and bizarre. Where did it come from?

Isn’t it? It’s an illustration from an early 17th-century anatomy textbook on fetal formation by Adriaan van Spiegel and Giulio Casseri I came across in the process of researching historical medical texts. The governing idea of this manuscript was the concept of maternal imagination – that a mother’s thoughts and experiences, especially traumatic ones, affect fetal formation and can be responsible for monstrous births. This illustration seemed to embody both of those – specific anatomical detail of pregnancy combined with that imaginative presentation of the baby blooming from the mother’s abdomen. And I love how the book designer curled the mother’s hand around the C.

Mary Toft knew how it felt with child –
three birthed, one dead – but in the field,
heavy with her fourth, up starts a hare.
The effect is more than Mary can bear:
the rabbit all day long ran in my head.
That August, a large lump of flesh bled
from her body, and by October: rabbits,
litters of them, enough for every Cabinet
of Wonder in London. But was it fair or fake?
Methought they there a burrow tried to make.
Mary, Mother Incarnate, carny
of the most marvelous yarn –
the rabbits all day long ran in my head –
snared hare, lapful of lapins bred
in her Welsh rarebit, follicular,
cuniculous, mad with rabbit fever,
rabid with fervor to birth, quaint
trickster, canny coney, cunning cunt.

Why is there a fish on your book cover?

I like the idea of shooting fish in a barrel, or even a stream. The feeling that I am constantly overdoing it, living with a sense of desperation and the easy way out, which is often messy.

Grateful for the way we once walked through the pines
you, apologizing to the boughs and needles with your gentle heels noticing the light warming one side of the conifers
capturing the way moss sneaks to live on in the dark bark,
tiny holes, vacant homes, thanking the ferns
harmonizing the body with the poplar

I tried to live this way

I am from plywood and Datsun noise
skate ramps and shitty forts
you are from purple milk thistle and where storms are born running high in the Santa Lucia green
With black nightgown whipping
I watch you fall in the coastal fields-
a credit card flopped on a poker table
laughing like it’s all going to be okay

Terry, you have a new poetry collection titled Ruin Porn. What’s the story behind that title?

“Ruin Porn” is a term coined by Detroit writer/photographer Jim Griffioen in Vice Magazine; he critiques the aestheticizing of destruction, which he saw firsthand in many artists’ responses to the devastation within the city of Detroit. By focusing on the “beauty” of abandoned and crumbling buildings and neighborhoods, we ignore the human and economic costs to the communities.

At the same time, we are in the midst of profound disintegration of our society and our culture—the dissolution of gender roles, fragmentation in social relationships and in the psyche, degradation of the environment and of civil society, and the decay of the spirit. I can’t imagine what else to be writing about. “I cannot turn my eyes away…”

Biologists demand a garland
of children, but I have neglected
any theory of origins.
My oven holds another cake,

fluid with cream, a complex miracle
of light and language, Miles Davis
on the radio, friends coming by.
Meaning-filled, the rich batter.

What I’d like to get Romeo to understand
if he weren’t already dead is that
all I do is check my mail.

I do not keep an altar in my bedroom—
candles flicker not around my temporary tomb
I am not allowed to keep a pet in this apartment
so I was thinking icons might actually be someone to talk to or
ask things of

and Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten so young
smoking a cigarette against that orange sunset

When did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry in high school as a way to deal with my depression. I realized much later (at the age of 30) that I was a lesbian, but back in high school all I knew was that I felt different and was unhappy. Most of what I wrote wasn’t very good—it was just a way for me to process my feelings. I continued to write poetry in college and I still have notebooks full of poems I wrote over thirty years ago. Interestingly, some of my poems from this period of my life are about same-sex attraction. In my own hand writing! And yet my mind was not ready to accept (and celebrate) who I was.