Who do you think you are? Poets can’t write about television!

Umm, yeah they can. That’s the beauty of poetry. Poets can write about anything.

Why Don Draper?  What have you got against Roger Sterling?

Oh. There’s no question. Roger whines too much, and Don is a man’s man. Despite his errors, he has values and morals. I don’t care for Roger. If he loved Joan so much, he’d be with her. Period.

So, why are you a teacher if you clearly enjoy advertising?

Honestly, I never thought about it.  I didn’t really think about advertising until I was married years ago to someone who worked in advertising. It was fascinating, but also grueling. It has long hours; and you know what, there’s a real dark side to it. Not everyone gets to sell Nabisco, you know what I mean?  Some people have to sell pharmaceuticals and sometimes that’s a hard sell, and there’s guilt. I’ve seen that. And there’s a lot of booze.
With that said, I’m interested in advertising and propaganda. I really think it’s just my interest in words and wordplay. My blog, I am my own heroine, originally started as a blog to discuss advertising and I had one post and then switched it over to poetry.  I’ve always loved commercials.  I’m that sap that cries at cat commercials.
I don’t know how I’d feel about working in advertising.  It’s not as glamorous as Don makes it seem. I don’t know if I could deal with all of those meetings. I’m an English teacher and I get what it’s like to work around the clock, because I’m “on” all day long. Kids need my focus and I need to entertain them to a degree. But, the thing is: I love it. It’s the hardest job in the world, and the most underpaid, but I love my students, and I love the books I teach. I’m a big Orwell fan, too.

So you’re that annoying teacher that starts every  new book unit with, “Oh, this book is one of my favorites. You’re going to love it.”


Are you sad that you left out Betty and Sally in your Mad Men-inspired chapbook,
Don Dreams and I Dream?

Betty annoys me.  I guess she’s supposed to.  Sally, I love.  I still want to write a poem about her love for her father.  She really wants Don’s love and I think he’s really afraid of being a father. I think in his mind he already knows he has failed.  His childhood was so grim.  Poor Sally. I will say, she’s turned into quite a teenager. I can’t wait to see this new season in the April 2014.

Let’s switch to fantasy. So, Game of Thrones is one of the most violent and sexually explicit shows ever.

Nah.  Season 1 was a little over the top sexually, but this is the 21st century. Sex sells. Despite that, there are some kickass women on Game of Thrones and some real good men.  I love that.
I’m just going to lay it all out there: I haven’t read the books.  Don’t judge. I never realized until recently that I think I like fantasy books.

…And now you love fantasy?

I think so.  I’ve realized some of my earliest favorites have been fantasy and I just neglected to admit that it is a genre I really enjoy.  I mean I was obsessed with the Anne Rice Vampire series, and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King as a teenager.  But now I feel like I’m being a traitor to my favorite, Wuthering Heights.

So, why not write about Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy?

Ehhhh. No interest. My 10th graders are always trying to get me to watch it. But, on that note, I had no interest in Don or the show until about a year or two ago, and look what he’s done to me. I was WAY behind.

You’re kind of a pop culture junkie.

I guess I am. I think I always have been.  I’m obsessed with the Golden Globes and the Oscars.  I sort of grew up that way – trying to see every nominated movie. In terms of TV series, I don’t think I really became a TV groupie until shows like Carnivale came around, and Heroes. And, of course, some of my favorite 1990s Brit shows like Absolutely Fabulous and Coupling.

Do your students read your poems?

Yeah. I’m sort of grateful for the hand I’ve been dealt with poetry. I’m not drawn to topics that are overtly sexual or too mature.  When students google me in the computer lab, it’s really funny.

You’re a teacher, a freelance writer, a collage-artist, a poet,  and a curator of  the COUPLET, a poetry and music reading series.  What’s next?

Time will tell.  I’m grateful for the surprises in my life, good and bad.
I certainly never thought people would meet me at readings and be like, “Oh yeah, you’re that poet that writes about TV.”  I do but it’s not ALL I do.
Just the other day, a new Game of Thrones poem was published online at MAGGY, and my mother said, “Well, that poem has you in it, right?  You’re in there.”  And it was a great observation. I am in there. I’m not afraid to say that. I’m in all my poems. At the back of everything is my heart.
It’s funny, but I’m just glad I found something new to write about after my first book, Domestic Uncertainties.  It felt good to turn to the light, and by light, I mean the soft glow of the Internet, and the TV.
I’m presently working on putting together my second full-length collection of poetry, which will include all of these television poems.  Definitely more poetry, but I’m also thinking maybe I have a young adult book in me.

Who is your poetry nemesis?

James Franco.

What’s your guilty pleasure?


OK, I’m Don. What are you having?

Gin and Tonic. Bombay Sapphire.  I’m a gin snob.

LEAH UMANSKY is the author of the Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream (Kattywompus Press, 2014) and a full-length collection, Domestic Uncertainties (BlazeVOX 2013). She is the curator of the COUPLET Reading Series, and writes for Tin House and Luna Luna Magazine among others. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY Magazine, Poetry Review, MAGGY, and The Brooklyn Rail. Flavorwire named her #7 of 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013. Read more at leahumansky.com.

2 responses to “Leah Umansky: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Shelley says:

    BBC Life on Mars? Ashes to Ashes? More British shows….

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