December 12, 2011
Tell us about The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments. Does the collection really use found text from Modernist writer H.D.’s correspondence?
The Body is a Little Gilded Cage was definitely inspired by H.D.’s life and work. I like to think of her writings as being only a starting point for my own book, since much of it re-envisions the original text, images, and biographical narratives. Throughout the book, I try to re-inscribe these accounts of fin de siècle romance, ultimately blurring the boundaries between biography and autobiography. I’m fascinated by subjectivity as it manifests itself in efforts to document events from the past. The book is, in many ways, a parody of these attempts to claim meaningful knowledge of another person’s experience.
Why H.D.? And why these particular letters?
I find H.D. fascinating, not only for her visionary poetry, but also for the events of her life. She created silent films, underwent psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, and traveled the world. It seemed like her biography, as well as the time period she inhabited, lent itself well to an exploration of subjectivity and literary-historical documentation.
Did you find working with found texts to be different from writing exclusively in your own words?
In some ways, I find it much more difficult. I find that I’m always reluctant to revise another person’s words, and this became a significant obstacle while drafting the project. Some of the erasure poems especially didn’t seem like complete poems, but I felt that I wasn’t doing justice to H.D. by adding text to her letters. In the end, I realized that this is precisely how you make someone else’s text your own.
The book has been described by reviewers as “fragmentary” and “elliptical.” Why doesn’t the book follow a traditional narrative trajectory?
With this book project, as well as works like Night Songs and Compendium, I’m very interested in perpetuating Modernist ideas about the relationship between reader and author. A writer in this tradition rarely tells anyone what to think, but rather, he or she creates work that encourages the reader to participate in the process of creating meaning. A work of art, then, functions as a machine of sorts, one that ultimately generates myriad possibilities for interpretation. And nothing creates this effect more than fragmentation. Because text fragments imply a coherent whole, which the reader lacks access to, they invite active speculation on the part of the audience.
It seems like much of your work depicts broken-heartedness in some capacity. How do your experiences with having a broken heart inform your work?
Are we to take that as an affirmative, that you really do have a broken heart?
Okay. You seem to depict similar experiences from different perspectives, both within the same collection and across different books. What do you hope to accomplish by revisiting and re-inscribing these same experiences?
In many ways, this is what all of art does. Every writer has his or her obsessions, which they return to again and again in their work. Consider H.D. as an example. She wrote Tribute to Freud, which depicts, in beautiful prose, her experience as a pupil of the famed psychoanalyst. And she would later revisit this same experience in her epic poem, Helen in Egypt, and in silent films she created with The Pool Group, a collective of avant-garde filmmakers. For me, it’s these experiences that stay with us, these obsessions, that make art possible at all.
I see that you have another book called Melancholia (An Essay) forthcoming from Ravenna Press. What type of project is this? An essay, poems, or both?
Melancholia (An Essay) is an essay in poems. The book draws its inspiration from Julia Kristeva’s writings on melancholia, which she defines as a sort of “pathological mourning,” as well as Romantic depictions of melancholy in literature. If you’re interested in a sneak peak at the collection, poems from the project are featured in elimae and Mutable Sound.
What’s next for Kristina Marie Darling?
I’m hoping to start a new book project soon. This time, I’d really like to engage with a single poetic form, rather than several. The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is filled with glossaries, footnotes, notes, and erasures, but the next book will probably be just footnotes, or just erasures, or just glossaries. I’m thinking that my next project will also be more novelistic in structure than previous books.
What are you reading now?
I’ve been absolutely enamored by G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher’s collaborative book, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts. Rebecca Loudon’s Radish King and Keith Waldrop’s Transcendental Studies are also recent favorites. And, of course, the newest issues of P-Queue and Wild Orchids.