kmd-jg

 

What are three things you want the reader to know about GHOST / LANDSCAPE?

KMD: In the poems, you’ll find a bank robbery, a lock on the door, and a freezer we keep forgetting we keep in the basement. One (and only one) of these things is real.

Now that you’ve entered the landscape, don’t follow the paths that seem most clearly marked. They’ll lead you further away from the guesthouse (and the truth about the ghost).

Lastly, and most importantly, the conference we keep referring to was really an elaborate cover-up. Even the panels were just for show.

JG: Things keep changing, you know? One moment the news is on, and it’s such very bad news from so many quarters (1). And then you’re shopping for new shoes (2). Both of these things are honest and true things about living in the world (3).

I was reading something the other day (you might’ve seen it; it was passed around facebook) arguing against the current conception of empathy, that it’s too easily swayed by individuals in crisis and not enough by long-term goals. And it reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Riker gets turned into a god, and loses his capacity for empathy. Like most things, it’s a negotiation.

I tried to phone you, but we’d reached the very edge of the meadow. Now a felled tree, some thistle. It all reminds me of a book I read, the one where the field only seems endless.

In the book, everything’s haunted, even the flowers. Especially the flowers. And the chapters aren’t numbered, so you forget exactly where you are, and where you placed the key to the room that holds all of your things from childhood.

kristina-in-edinburgh

Tell us about Fortress. Describe its architecture.

Fortress is my newest book, which was just released by Sundress Publications.  It’s a book-length engagement with Elaine Scarry’s classic work, The Body in Pain.  Fortress begins with an erasure/excavation/rewriting of the first chapter, in which I erase pain from the book.  What’s left?  The small blue thread, the fragile arc, and faint music.

The collection also contains several prose sequences, which engage with the work Romantic poets who experimented with opium.  These “painkiller poems” depict a landscape filled with dead poppies, and consider what it would look like if seen through the eyes of a female speaker.  Underneath all of the dead flowers and burned meadows, though, Fortress is really a love poem.

There are also housefires, red lilies, and a spooky house.  I hope you’ll check it out!

Minor Plot (I)

He hired a woman to look after the garden.  Not the dead poppies, but another garden on a separate piece of land.  They planted seeds in neat little rows . Days passed. When she gaped at the enormous primroses, he began tearing them from the ground.

melancholia

After passion, what is left? A jewelry box, a locket, a silver button, the silences between these objects. Each of these items sings to one another and it is this chorus that unifies Kristina Marie Darling’s haunted and haunting collection, Melancholia (Ravenna Press). Containing definitions, prose poems, footnotes, and a noctuary (a night journal), the book seeks to define, contain, and understand the aftermath of a failed courtship. In the opening fragmentary epistle, Darling establishes this with a delicacy that is maintained throughout the procedures of definition that bind this book:

He mentions only the opulent red lace on her garter,
forgetting its cluster of violet ribbons. Their intricate
knots unraveling as she ascended the tiny staircase.

*

She remembers that year for its lengthy periods of
mourning.  Her elaborate displays of miniature
portraits and lifeless clocks.

*

Thus his presentation of the bracelet, with its dark
green ornaments and lock of tangled hair, seemed
unusual, even mythical.

*

Now the century as gilded.  As a field of blue lilies.

*

She kept the bracelet in a locked drawer to preserve
its luster.  The silver chain tarnishing on a red velvet
pillow.

*

The violet ribbon on her garter was dyed black at
the end of the season.  Only then did she consider
the gradual change in her attire.  Its darkening lace
and starched taffeta sleeves.

*

In the winter months, lilies continue to bloom under
glass.  Her insatiable interest in hermetic methods of
preservation.

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?

No comment.

 

Are we to take that as an affirmative, that you really do have a broken heart?

No comment.

 

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.

 

arch.  As in the curved part of her foot, which was adorned with a slightly more delicate fabric.  Near the end of the decade, diminutive heels also emerged as an appropriate accent.  This unraveling of decorum became the source of her great persuasive abilities.

coquette. One who chooses attire without considering its inevitable interpretation.  In this case, her shoes were intricately laced and visible beneath the hem of a blue silk dress.

desire. Synonymous with the strange or unknowable.  Consider the graceful arc of her ankle, its glistening rows of lacquer buttons.

emboss.  To impress upon.  At the time it was expected that the floral pattern around the toe remain hidden from view.  This widespread anxiety gave way to a preoccupation with her evening slippers, their endless variety.

instep.  In some circles considered the most seductive part of the Adelaide boot.  For a series of illustrations, see Appendix B.

slipper.  A reminder of the lakeside.  Her luminous hair.

tapered.  Defined as a shape that fades or becomes narrow.  Along the coast such embellishments became increasingly popular, and so her attire fell out of fashion.

Tell us about Compendium. I hear that it’s written in mostly in footnotes and glossaries. Seriously?!  Why would you do a crazy thing like that?

Let me just start by saying that Compendium is a very strange collection.  The book juxtaposes prose poems in the style of a Victorian novel with mock-scholarly attempts to deconstruct these types of books.  I hope that the collection blurs the boundaries between scholarly and creative work.  Throughout my writing process, I tried to show that poets and artists can make useful observations about literary tradition, and that this isn’t something that’s limited to scholarly writing.  For me, every poem is an act of deconstruction.  This is something that I tried to enact in many of my formal choices in the new collection.


Are these hybrid pieces really poetry?  Why do you consider them to be poems?

They’re definitely poetry, at least in my assessment.  For me, what makes something a poem is not a particular use of form, but rather consciousness of a greater poetic tradition.  I feel like learned a great deal from more established experimental poets, such as Jenny Boully, Kim Gek Lin Short, and Kristy Bowen.  I hope that Compendium contributes to the literary conversation that they’ve already begun.  For me, the dialogic quality of poetry is what makes it so exciting.


Why are you drawn to these forms, as opposed to more traditional ones?

I’m drawn to footnotes, glossaries, notes, and other unusual poetic forms because readers tend to bring a great deal of expectations to them.  For me, frustrating these readerly expectations is great fun.  It also presents a unique opportunity to question the judgments that we tend to form about literary texts before engaging with them.  With that in mind, I try my best to open up possibilities that have been foreclosed by the reader (i.e., a glossary can’t be poignant, a series of footnotes could never be beautiful, etc.). For me, this isn’t something that’s limited to footnotes and glossaries, but appropriated academic forms seem especially well-suited for this type of endeavor.


Why did you approach Cow Heavy Books with this project, as opposed to a publisher who focuses exclusively on poetry?

At the time, I admired Cow Heavy Books’ fiction titles, but didn’t know that they were starting a poetry series.  I had sent Compendium to Mud Luscious Press and the editor, J.A. Tyler, suggested Cow Heavy.  It turned out to be the best rejection I ever got!  For me, Cow Heavy is a great choice for a hybrid text like Compendium.  During the writing process, I thought a lot about audience, who the book might appeal to.  Since the work emulates and parodies works of fiction, particularly Victorian novels, I hoped that it might appeal to a broader audience than exclusively readers of poetry.  With that in mind, I think it’s fantastic that Cow Heavy is known for choosing books that blur the boundaries between genres.


I see that there are several artist colonies listed on your book’s acknowledgement page.  What role did residencies play in your writing process?

Without the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation, Compendium probably wouldn’t exist, or it would be in a state of complete disarray.  I’m incredibly grateful to these organizations for providing not only time and space to work on my book, but also the opportunity to exchange ideas with writers, visual artists, and musicians.  For me, this was the best part of visiting these artist colonies.

As a poet, I’m not exposed to as much visual art, fiction, or contemporary music as I would like to be.  When I try to explore these disciplines on my own, I never know where to begin.  Having practicing artists to guide me toward work that might be instructive for my poetry was really a fantastic opportunity.  When I resided at Ragdale, for example, I met a very talented printmaker who uses maps, catalogues, and other received documentary forms to explore autobiographical subject matter.  I found this tension between the cold precision of documentation and the vulnerability inherent in the personal narrative absolutely fascinating.  It’s actually something that I’ve since started to emulate in my footnote and glossary poems.


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a fourth manuscript, which uses imagery and rhetoric from Romantic poetry to explore Julia Kristeva’s writings on melancholia.  The project is called Melancholia:  An Essay, and it appropriates academic forms—such as footnotes, glossaries, and dictionary definitions—in an attempt to construct a narrative of personal loss.


Do you feel that your work as an editor informs your poetry?  How so?

Most definitely.  As an editor, I get frustrated that many writers who send in submissions shy away from strangeness, unusual literary forms, and other aesthetic choices that would make the reader experience discomfort.  For me, frustrating the reader’s expectations of what a poem should be is incredibly interesting and exciting.  I think of my writing as a small but earnest attempt to bring these aesthetic concerns into the dialogue that contemporary poets are taking part in.


Who are some people you’d be interested in collaborating with and why?

I’ve spend the past few summers at artist colonies and have met some amazing people, many of whom I’d love to collaborate with.  In terms of poets, I’d have to say Kara Candito, C.M. Burroughs, Sam Taylor, Julie Babcock, and Melissa Range.  But I’d also love to work with a visual artist.

A couple of years ago, I started on a collaboration with a fashion designer and practicing artist, Max Avi Kaplan, and this was extremely productive for my poetry.  After seeing Max’s wonderful artwork, images crept into my poems that I would have never considered using before.  His work, which draws a great deal of inspiration from Victorian material culture, was actually a powerful influence on Compendium.  Some visual artists I’d like to work with in the future include Jessica Kreutter, Erin Harmon, Austin Furtak-Cole, and Michael Gellalty.


Who are some of your favorite poets to read?

More and more, I find myself reading experimental poets, but also writers whose work is completely unlike my own.  By this I mean individuals who use more traditional literary forms, but also those whose work deals with political subject matter, social issues, or the contemporary cultural landscape—things that I tend to shy away from in my own work.  I think it’s important to broaden one’s horizons, because the best poets are always learning from other writers, and their work is constantly growing and changing.

Right now, some of my favorites include Sabrina Orah Mark, Donna Stonecipher, Rae Armantrout, Brandon Shimoda, Anne Carson, Eleanor Stanford, Joshua Clover, Eileen Myles, Brenda Hillman, H.D., Lorine Niedecker, Bin Ramke, Daniel Tiffany, Simone Muench, Kent Shaw, Sandra Lim, Brandi Homan, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Kathleen Rooney, Daniela Olszewska, Zachary Schomburg, and James Shea.


What is your favorite non-poetry book and why?

That would be H.D.’s Asphodel.  It’s worth reading for the ghosts alone.