why are you doing a self-interview?

Rich asked that I do a self-interview which really feels kind of weird asking myself or responding to my own questions. But I’m always asking myself questions, so I guess this is a part of a natural process for me.

Obviously, with the title, ‘Waxing the Dents,” one might think we could have a lot of car poems here, maybe, but really what is the internal connection between those words and the title poem?

Well, let’s just say there is a tracing of the track, so to speak, between the disconnect, damage and  brokenness of relationships, mainly as found in my own relationships between Fathers and sons and men in general due to what I perceive to be our lack of intimacy skills.

As the last stanza in the poem says,

He thought the fact that we’d
gathered there, under a
blazing, burnt August sky,
proved we had passed that
place on the road where
father and son kill each other
for fun, rather than spending
a long, silent day waxing the
dents in what men made to
carry them both far away
from each other.

Who are you?

Hi, my name’s Kate. I’m a writer from the midwest living in Brooklyn. My loves are my dog Banjo, herbalism, motorcycles, Bob Seger, the color blue, tequila, collaborative art, and jackalopes in non-specific order.

Who exactly are the Girls Like Us you refer to in the title of your collection? Are you suggesting that men shouldn’t read your work?

Originally the title was “Girls Like You” which is a phrase I’ve heard many times over the years, both as compliment and critique. Either way, it was such a reductive statement, often derogatory: “Girls like you can’t be trusted” or “Girls like you aren’t worth my time.” The idea that I – or any of us – is just a type bothers me. I like to believe that my pain and suffering are unique! But then I started thinking that there is comfort in knowing I am not alone in my experience. #Metoo brought a lot of old hurts to the surface and helped me recognize the power of community. That there are many women with similar difficulties, who have faced similar challenges and internalized society’s misogyny in similarly self-destructive ways is actually a good thing. Instead of feeling shame over being a “girl like me” I wanted to take ownership of myself – the good and the bad. And I wanted to commiserate with other women rather than compete with or shame them.

I definitely want men to read my work! I hope that some of these poems might provide perspective that will help men to take into account and understand the undercurrents of misogyny that have run through our culture for decades.

Devices

By Elizabeth Hazen

Poem

Rhyme relies on repetition: pink drink,
big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank. Alliteration

too: Peter Piper’s pickled peppers, silly
Sally’s sheep – silly trumping smart because

the lls create consonance. Assonance
repeats vowel sounds: hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.

There are many hats and selves in this collection, “Still-Life With God.” In fact, you have a poem, “My Persona,” where you say, “My persona /is filled with / bird song. It carries smiles in a jar.” So where do you place yourself in these poems as a speaker and as a writer?

I think people often mistake the fact that ‘the voice’ of the writer/speaker is not always the poet. My poems exist in many voices, sometimes my own biography, but very often, I am taking on a mask or a persona of another. I’ve always loved Elizabeth Bishop’s poems for the way she acquired many selves. Ultimately, these beings are all some part of me, in some incarnation—well, because they are my creation, out of my psyche, sometimes from memory, sometimes from my imagination. I am not beholden to anything but ‘the truth’ the poem tries to excavate.

 

I find your title quite confusing. Can you explain it?

The toothless house is an image that came to mind when I was working on this book, which is primarily about parenthood. I imagined that the experience of raising children was akin to being a krill swallowed whole by a blue whale. One minute you are just swimming along happily minding your own business, and the next minute you are in the belly of the whale. Blue whales do not technically have teeth, they have baleen, which are similar to the bristles of a brush. Though one’s house isn’t technically a jail and bristles aren’t technically teeth, escaping intact in either case would be quite difficult.

I know that is a ridiculously convoluted (and probably scientifically inaccurate) metaphor, but there you have it.

Parenthood has turned out to be the best experience of my life, but this book is about the first years, which were like knocking up against the bristles, both physically and emotionally.

I saw a long line of cars.
I saw a big white house.
The ground was mottled
and abraded like
the back of a buffalo.
I saw a chicken coop,
a muddy ditch,
the padded cell
of the sky.

credits: CameraRAW Photography


Do you believe in ghosts?

No, but I believe in being haunted.

 

Would you consider yourself an immigrant poet?

Yes, I would. But who isn’t an immigrant? And I don’t just mean that tired old explanation of we all come from someplace else if weren’t not true native americans. I mean more that we all came from that before-time, before the alpha, when it was…what? Womb-darkness, star-fizz, spiritual-shampoo. We’re all immigrants having arrived at this particular existence. We don’t know what we really all are, so why the hell do we insist on labeling other human beings anything other than human beings?

You were born and raised in the Bronx, what brought you to LA?

For better or worse, I really didn’t think about it much, I just did it. I had a best friend who moved out here and I was curious to see the city that Bukowski wrote about. I was only writing for a few years at this point, still trying to find my voice, but I thought throwing myself into a whole new strange world and starting from scratch would give me the kick in the ass I needed.

To be quite honest, it damn near killed me. Writing was the only thing that kept me going… that and booze, lots and lots of booze.

What does it most often look like around you when you write? Do you have a zone?

I like a big desk and a bulletin board. I decorate my writing space with earthly treasures and many different notes that help guide me through my process. I also like to have space to get up and dance while I work because moving my body makes it all better. I like to be in complete solitude while I write. The best is a room with a view of nothing but landscape and a nearby wall that I can tape paper and images to. I’ve been lucky enough to conjure this at various times in my life and am in awe of the privilege. I seek out solo retreats in Joshua Tree and Humboldt County. The natural world, as opposed to the urban, is a consistent part of my practice.

What was the genesis of this book?

Save Our Ship was inspired by “The Diverse Vices of Women, Alphabetized,” a renaissance alphabet intended to instruct women to avoid sensual pleasure, particularly that of speech. I overheard my art history colleague, Theresa Flanigan, mention her work on it, and my poet-spidey-sense tingled: I knew I could use it. I began by writing against it, but the result was too one-note. Meanwhile, I had become increasingly obsessed by the climate crisis and sixth extinction. So feminist rants were joined by environmental freakout poems, with some more quotidian poems mixed in, I hope leavening the whole with some humor. My elevator pitch is: “#MeToo meets Global Weirding, in abecedarian form. But in a good way.”

When did you first think about talking to the dead?

As a child first without thinking, it seemed normal to have a cast of characters always in my head separate from the voices we all carry. They have their own languages. But with intention, not until my brother suicided; then I thought there must be a way to tune in and reach specifically, blood of my blood and coded the same as we are. I spent two years meditating while writing BASIC PROGRAMMING creating a visual narrative that involved walking 108 steps, one for each isolated inhale or exhale down a spiral staircase to the underworld where I could shed this coil and find him. If I lost count going down or my focus wavered, I would get up from the mat. And when I finally reached the bottom, I realized I didn’t know what to do at that point. You have to know how to get back up safely.

photograph by Emily Raw

Here’s a way to start a self-interview. How are you not yourself?

How am I not myself? I’ve had to cut out dairy, I moved twice in a year, I’m trying to leave academia. I hardly recognize myself.