Recent Work By Donora Hillard


By Donora Hillard


Carry me into your warm room.
I don’t care if there are flying ants or that
you plan to kill yourself before you hit thirty.
You have warned me enough.
I came to you, one vein already open.
You bent your long, broad body in half,
kissed my wrist, drank to that.
We can become something, you breathed.

Note: “Pillar” is excerpted from Theology of the Body (Gold Wake Press, 2008) and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

The poem featured here is from your collection Theology of the Body, which was recently released by Gold Wake Press. Care to talk about it?

As part of a teaching position I once held, I was forced to attend a lecture by Christopher West, who’s considered an authority on Pope John Paul II’s teachings on adultery, contraception, marriage, virginity, and other matters of the body. At one point he said, “Ladies, your bodies don’t make much sense on their own, do they?” I knew I had to respond to that question in some capacity. As such, Theology of the Body contains quotes from the Pope and West along with other religious figures juxtaposed against poems that are unorthodox in nature. It’s my way of saying to those men, Look, what you’re forcing upon people just doesn’t function in reality, especially where women are concerned.

What are you working on now?

I’d like to read from Theology of the Body anywhere, so interested parties should contact me. I promise to wear something nice. I’m completing a poetry manuscript entitled Extraordinary Question and a collaboration with Sean Kilpatrick entitled who else is here and why. I’m coordinating a feminist poetry press with Molly Gaudry and drafting memoir notes about the aforementioned teaching position. Finally, as part of my PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, I’m researching for what I hope will be my dissertation.

Dissertation? I thought that was only for smart people.

Yes, but I’m trying. I was originally going to write my dissertation on aphasic text, fragmentation, and the (in)accessibility of memory after assisting an Alzheimer’s-afflicted individual with piecing together his memoir. However, I’ve been focusing more on movement in my work, especially contemporary dance. I recently discovered Billy Bell, who moves in a way that’s almost inhuman (he’s the child character in the Mia Michaels-choreographed group piece, and he choreographed the solo piece on his own) and concluded that such movement is profoundly poetic. I’m attempting to exemplify a similar freedom of movement in the language of the manuscripts I’m finishing.

My research emphasizes the intersection of writing with other art forms and the conviction that writers can glean as much if not more material from observing and practicing dance (specifically contemporary, which breaks genre boundaries) as they can from reading. After all, what does strong writing do but have a sense of musicality and rhythm? I’ve also noticed a distinct sense of revision across various dance pieces.

Do you have anything else to say regarding academia?

Transitioning from completing my MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry into a PhD that’s critical in scope has been troubling for me at times. If there’s someone reading this in similar circumstances and perhaps you’ve published a book and none of your classmates know what it is and you believe you’ve been labeled the “crazy artist” or the “dumb blonde” (even though my hair’s now blue / black) and all you can do is scowl and scribble while your colleagues speak with conviction and skill, come to Detroit and I’ll buy you a whiskey sour and there will be smoke and a jukebox and we’ll sway in unison.

Well then. What else?

Cleaning the house, dancing, learning to cut my own bangs and dye my hair with some success, reading Avital Ronell’s body of work, and running.

What’s on the nightstand?

Anne Carson’s Nox, black lacquer, a Civil War-era glass eye, a sickly vintage-looking lamp, and Sephora cosmetics such as NARS blush in Orgasm.