August 19, 2019
Your newest collection is titled something sweet & filled with blood, that’s a little creepy. How did you select this as the title?
It’s a line from the last poem in the book, the star painter & a sleeping nude. The poem is about watching someone sleeping just after glorious sex. There’s something haunting about the wee-hours before sunrise…especially when you’re sleeping in someone else’s bed…
Thomas Fucaloro, cofounding editor of great weather for MEDIA, suggested it. The editors and I thought it encapsulated the collection nicely. There are some very saccharine moments in the book: first kisses, something asking someone to dance, a ballerina en pointe, and the last moonlight before sunrise. On the other hand, there are also some terrifying moments that make your heart race, or cause the adrenaline to start pumping…like when “red hives mount/under an amorphous head” in the lollipop presents as a young girl.
You seem attracted towards both the gothic and the surreal. Is that a fair statement?
Yes, I’ve always been captivated by Edmund Burke’s theory of the sublime. Sometimes things are so achingly beautiful, and it’s terrifying because we don’t quite understand this ache. Can you imagine the head of a lollipop turning into that of a young girl’s? It would be amazing, simply because it never happens. It would also be disturbing. You might begin to question your own sanity. We respond to that kind of awesome terror with interest…when we feel safe to do so.
For example, at the age of six I clearly remember visiting the Grand Canyon. I was sharing a donkey with my grandmother and holding onto her for dear life. As our physical bodies bumped down into the canyon, my mind was drinking in the sights. It was incomprehensible, beautiful, and terrifyingly huge. I’ve always been interested in horror, because it generates that same simultaneous feeling of safety, awe, and fear.
I remember watching The Fly for the first time on VHS. My mouth was open for so long, I think I might’ve drooled on myself. It is absolutely the most disgusting horror film I have ever seen. And yet, I never tire of watching his teeth fall out and the wings break through the skin on his back. I still get chills just remembering those scenes.
Gross…how does the surreal figure into your love of horror?
I think of surrealism as a strategic disruption of norms. More specifically, it can be the reconfiguration of reality—by an unusual or new perception—onto a new plane of existence. Think of the opening sequence of The Twilight Zone, the original series. This adjustment, or new plane, is unsettling; much in the same way that horror is disconcerting. What if someone broke into my house? What if my neighbor were really a creature from another planet? What if all the clocks melted, my arms fell off and tigers flew down from the sky? These ideas are inspiring.
A majority of these poems are based on paintings or other works of visual art. And yet, in this collection, you regularly flash metaphors of movement and/or articulate sound and voice(s)…into almost every poem. What is the stimulus for this work?
As you can tell, I have quite an imagination. I’ve always loved reading, because the best authors allow the reader to retain creative control of so many of the details within the narrative. I can hear the tonalities in the characters’ voices, visualize the descriptions of the settings and actions anyway I want to see them, and fill-in the blanks using my imagination. The same is true for many of the visual arts. When I stand in front of a statue, I imagine what happened in the moment just before or after creation. I imagine what the subject had for breakfast; what they said just before they sat down; what made them happy; why they needed to sit for this work; who they loved; why they loved; where they came from; where they wanted to go and what they dreamed of saying to the artist. Did they ever say it? Ekphrastic poetry allows me to continue the narrative constructed by the artist and to participate in the making of something new.
So, through these poems you feel like you’re giving a voice to the voiceless?
…who are some of your poetic influences?
Since horror is on the brain, I find myself thinking about Daphne Gottlieb’s book Final Girl. I loved this collection because she took a concept that many horror fans know, but rarely articulate (or name) and created a fresh story. Each poem performs a consciously political act, provides thoughtful academic validation to a sub-genre of popular culture, and provides a new and feminist narrative to a (sometimes) tired trope. I think all exciting work performs at least two of these actions.
Who are you reading now?
Over the past ten years, I have begun delving into more focused author studies. Emily Dickinson, Audre Lorde, ee cummings, Charles Olsen, Kevin Young, Sylvia Plath, Gertrude Stein, Tracy K. Smith, Alice Notely and Amiri Baraka are all poets I love. I zealously read (digest) everything I can find by one author…until I run out of work to read. If I read their works in order, I find that each poet has something new to teach me about their process, about writing and/or about their life as a writer.
Thank you for taking the time to complete this interview.
Thank you for asking interesting questions.
melissa christine goodrum’s experiences include Guest Editor of Other Rooms Press’ first print anthology: The Or Panthology (Ocellus Reseau), Co-Editor of The Brooklyn Review, Designer/Publisher/Editor of Cave Canem’s “Writing Down the Music” and “Letters to the Future,” Co-President of the Cambridge Poetry Awards, Administrative Director of Bowery Arts & Science, and recipient of a Zora Neale Hurston Award from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Thanks to an NEH stipend in 2016, she studied the works of the political philosopher Hannah Arendt. The result was a collaborative multi-media eruption at the John Natsoulas Gallery, A Political Lacunae: Verb-ing Violence into the Visual. Her poetry can be found in journals and anthologies including New York Quarterly, The Torch, The Tiny, Urgent Bards, The Bowery Women Poems, Like Light: 25 Years of Poetry & Prose, Suitcase of Chrysanthemums (great weather for MEDIA, 2018), and in the chapbook a harpy flies down (Other Rooms Press). A first collection of melissa’s poetry, definitions uprising, is available from NYQ Books. Her second full-length collection, something sweet & filled with blood was published by great weather for MEDIA in 2019 with praise from Sapphire and Tyehimba Jess.