Okay, let’s start with the title of your debut collection, ‘all these urban fields’ — what are urban fields? What does this mean to you?
Hey, me! A very good question right off the bat, if I do say so myself! A friend once texted me, ‘i was on the subway & saw all of these air conditioners sprawled out on the roof of an apartment building, like this whole field, & i finally got it, i got your title!’
If that text doesn’t fully answer your question, then let’s go with this: I lived in Brooklyn — urban — for two years, and while it was a daunting experience in many ways, it was also incredibly fulfilling. That being said, I could not have lived there, could not have fully survived, I don’t think, without drawing from the experiences I had on a farm in Vermont — pastoral – and my trips to smaller towns in Massachusetts. I think, in essence, the title — and the collection as a whole — is meant to be an ode to both types of landscapes, to how well they balance one another out.
You draw inspiration from landscape, clearly, but from what else, or who else, do you source inspiration?
So, so glad you asked me this! There’s a whole long, long list of poets I could name — from my former creative writing advisor, Monica Ferrell, to my soon-to-be advisor Brenda Hillman, to Alice Notley (talk about an urban poet!)…like I said, the list goes on, on, on! But also — and here’s why I’m so glad you asked me this, it’s because I’ve been longing to talk about my absolute love for — folk music! Singers like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Townes Van Zandt, etc., etc.! Lyrics in folk songs are often so incredibly lovely in their narrative quality. I’m thinking right now, for example, of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Tecumseh Valley,’ which tells such a particular, such a detailed story of a girl named Caroline looking for work in, yes, Tecumseh Valley. I’m in love with that sort of narrative, that sort of arc in lyrics. While my poetry, especially in this collection, can be a bit more abstract, I absolutely love listening to the imagery that’s used in these narratives.
So, presumably, you listen to folk music when you write — anything else? Are there times when you just need silence? The sound of no more than a coffee pot brewing or the rustling of your roommate in the kitchen? Alternatively, what about music without lyrics?
I rarely write without listening to some sort of music, & usually the songs I listen to do have lyrics, but not always!! I’ve been getting super into Daniel Bachman’s ‘Variations on the Goose Chase’ and also ‘Appalachian Springs: Variations on a Shaker Melody’ by Aaron Copland is one of my favorite songs!
Do you have any rituals when you write? Writing at a certain time? That sort of thing?
I think rituals are fantastic, so man, I wish! But…not entirely. I do generally feel the need to go for some long sort of walk or run prior to writing, to get energy out, to clear my head, to be outside, all that — so that could potentially be a bit ritualistic? Then again, there are certainly times when I try to write very early in the day, shortly after I wake up, when I have not yet gone on a walk or a run, have done no more than drink a cup (or 2 cups, rather) of coffee, so….I’m not sure!
Build on those rituals! They’re important, I think. Anyway! Let’s end on an easy question: you mentioned your creative writing advisor, Monica Ferrell, earlier…where did you go to college? Do you plan on continuing your education at any point?
I agree! Rituals likely are important and I certainly want to develop my writing rituals further! Anyway, I went to SUNY Purchase College (Go Panthers! Ha…sports, haha)! I plan on pursuing my MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California come fall! Thanks for going easy on me!
Congratulations! Anyway, that’s all the time we have left — thanks for spending some portion of the night with me!
Quite literally any time.