February 05, 2011
How does it feel to be a 41 year-old grandmother and a poet?
Wise beyond my years. In rhythm.
Do you always speak tersely in verse?
Often. But not always.
I read that you wrote your first play at ten?
Yes. It’s about three very attractive people who turn themselves into hideous monsters in order to find their inner beauty.
And you wrote your first songs at age nine?
Yes. I wanted to be John Lennon. But my lyrics never had music.
When did you realize that you were a poet?
At 23. I wrote “I climbed because I wished to fly” Or rather, it came through me.
What do you mean?
Like I was a channel for the words flying out of me onto the page like blood and lightning.
Oh. And when was that?
October 1992. I was reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.
For my Introduction to Existential Philosophy class.
That’s right, you were a philosophy major, weren’t you?
Tell me about that.
Well, I was looking for a major at UWM…
No, Milwaukee. I had dropped fine art and psychology. And I noticed I was taking so many philosophy classes.
So, there you go.
Did you always believe in God?
Not so much believe, I’ve simply had experiences that I cannot deny.
Were you ever an atheist?
Yes. I denied concepts of God. I even quit my confirmation class. Then, after studying dreams and visions in American Indian metaphysics, along with Eastern philosophy and religions, Islamic philosophy and mysticism, Vodoun, Santeria, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, magic, pagan and neo-paganism, new age, cults, reading the major scriptural texts, I sat down one afternoon and read the entire Gospel of John. And knew I was a Catholic.
I wanted to run down the streets naked singing about love for God.
Like St. Francis.
Yes. He’s been quite an inspiration. And Hildegard von Bingen.
Hildegard von Bingen, 12th century abbess, and visionary, leader, composer, poet, herbalist, activist, artist…
That’s the sense I’ve always felt.
I understand you’ve written a screenplay about her.
Yes. The project was blessed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Who are some of your other inspirations?
Simone Weil, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, e.e. cummings, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Edith Wharton, Charles Bukowski, Jerome Schroeder, Matt Cook, Jen Benka, Geo Kiesow, Marc Smith, Jennifer Knox, Stephanie Strickland, Ryokan, Charlie Kaufman, John Patrick Shanley, Jean Paul Sartre, Fabrizio Mondadori, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco… pretty much anyone who writes and writes well inspires me.
And you’ve made your living as a writer?
Yes. Not an easy living mind you. But the passion remains.
What do you write about?
Many many things. I’ve been blessed to travel and see the world. To meet fascinating people. To love. To give birth, and witness birth. To die a couple of times. To live again. To draw from the well of guts and illumination.
Will you ever stop writing?
No. I suspect, even after the next death, I’ll keep on.