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Why is there a fish on your book cover?
I like the idea of shooting fish in a barrel, or even a stream. The feeling that I am constantly overdoing it, living with a sense of desperation and the easy way out, which is often messy.
Grateful for the way we once walked through the pines
you, apologizing to the boughs and needles with your gentle heels noticing the light warming one side of the conifers
capturing the way moss sneaks to live on in the dark bark,
tiny holes, vacant homes, thanking the ferns
harmonizing the body with the poplar
I tried to live this way
I am from plywood and Datsun noise
skate ramps and shitty forts
you are from purple milk thistle and where storms are born running high in the Santa Lucia green
With black nightgown whipping
I watch you fall in the coastal fields-
a credit card flopped on a poker table
laughing like it’s all going to be okay
Terry, you have a new poetry collection titled Ruin Porn. What’s the story behind that title?
“Ruin Porn” is a term coined by Detroit writer/photographer Jim Griffioen in Vice Magazine; he critiques the aestheticizing of destruction, which he saw firsthand in many artists’ responses to the devastation within the city of Detroit. By focusing on the “beauty” of abandoned and crumbling buildings and neighborhoods, we ignore the human and economic costs to the communities.
At the same time, we are in the midst of profound disintegration of our society and our culture—the dissolution of gender roles, fragmentation in social relationships and in the psyche, degradation of the environment and of civil society, and the decay of the spirit. I can’t imagine what else to be writing about. “I cannot turn my eyes away…”
Biologists demand a garland
of children, but I have neglected
any theory of origins.
My oven holds another cake,
fluid with cream, a complex miracle
of light and language, Miles Davis
on the radio, friends coming by.
Meaning-filled, the rich batter.
What I’d like to get Romeo to understand
if he weren’t already dead is that
all I do is check my mail.
I do not keep an altar in my bedroom—
candles flicker not around my temporary tomb
I am not allowed to keep a pet in this apartment
so I was thinking icons might actually be someone to talk to or
ask things of
and Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten so young
smoking a cigarette against that orange sunset
February 13, 2018
I saw Elizabeth Ellen before I’d read any of her work. There was a photo of her on a flyer for a book tour during the fall of 2014, and it piqued my interest so I googled her book Fast Machine. The search result provided several dozen more striking pictures of Elizabeth and I remember thinking, who is this chick? I found her website and read everything I could find written by her online. My obsession with Elizabeth Ellen was born.
When did you start writing poetry?
I started writing poetry in high school as a way to deal with my depression. I realized much later (at the age of 30) that I was a lesbian, but back in high school all I knew was that I felt different and was unhappy. Most of what I wrote wasn’t very good—it was just a way for me to process my feelings. I continued to write poetry in college and I still have notebooks full of poems I wrote over thirty years ago. Interestingly, some of my poems from this period of my life are about same-sex attraction. In my own hand writing! And yet my mind was not ready to accept (and celebrate) who I was.
Because everything is in motion:
bone, ivory, shell. And blood
doesn’t hold on to anything
but itself. Because there are worlds
of ant and whale, girl and boy.
And some infinities are larger
than other infinities. Because iron filings
can reveal invisible lines of force.
And my mother’s last words were:
help me. Because my father loved
Lincoln’s general—the one who drinks
and still wins the War—and the past
is a fine skin that does not protect.
For Anthony Madrid
When my footsteps dream me down a street night to the art gallery,
I am wreathes of conjecture among all my salty, caustic alphabets.
In the bright, warm gallery, plastic is the new black is the new gold.
My act is strict. But if anyone asks, it was I who let in the birds.
I’d rather have dogs, but here, birds give my gestures meaning.
They are my only mirror, while I play at godliness in the sun going.
When I am full-bright, in my gate, art goes and goes.
Its path my path parallel. We touch our hands and weep.
Lauren Haldeman is the guest. Her new poetry collection, Instead of Dying, is available now from The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. It is the winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry.
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Since the prospect of a conversation with myself bored me, I decided to talk with my good friend and fellow poet Jackie Hymes—thanks, Jackie!
How did you come to write poetry? Or, what drew you to poetry?
Like most writers, probably, I’ve always been a voracious reader. And I’ve been fascinated by poetry pretty much as long as I can remember. My parents always had plenty of books in the house, including some old literature anthologies and poetry collections from when they were students. I remember I enjoyed reading through Robert Frost in particular, and also Anne Sexton and this collection of Romantic poetry. Keats in particular seemed to have this interesting charge that kept my attention. It didn’t occur to me that poetry was not a popular interest.
It wasn’t until early in college that I realized there were contemporary poets who worked seriously on their craft and sort of made a living from it (though we all know how that works). Though I flirted with other areas of study like mechanical engineering (I wanted to work on cars), I was always most passionate about reading and writing–and I found in poetry an intellectual and emotional challenge that captivated me.
Fast-forward some years and I couldn’t imagine not writing poetry. It’s such an integral part of my life and I think that will always be the way it is. It’s in my blood; poetry as an art seems to want something from me, though I’m still not sure what.
In the dark corners of my apartment
I see my brother, thin and tall
like a flesh-covered bridge,
standing in a shadow he’s somehow come to own.
I can hear his voice, see his broad shoulders
at the jail telephone,
one hand holding onto the aluminum cord
and the other pressed up against the wall,
his rough knuckles white like brick.
Why write about the Souplantation?
For a decade of my life, it was the place that was most home.
They looked like they had lost their best friends, their soulmates, or firstborn. As if they’d been unjustly incarcerated when their wife was pregnant, spent sixty years on death row before being executed the day before DNA exonerated them posthumously. Like they were closeted in a family full of well meaning, but misguided Bible thumpers. Like they were in the midst of a session of interrogation; complete with bamboo shoots under the fingernails and water boarding.