Getting To Know Lori Desrosiers and Her New Book Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak

Available now at Salmon Poetry

Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter (Salmon Poetry, 2013), a chapbook, Inner Sky (Glass Lyre Press 2015) and Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak (Salmon Poetry, 2016). Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry. She teaches Literature and Composition at Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College, and Poetry in the Interdisciplinary Studies program for the Lesley University M.F.A. graduate program.

Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter (Salmon Poetry, 2013), a chapbook, Inner Sky (Glass Lyre Press 2015) and Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak (Salmon Poetry, 2016). Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry. She teaches Literature and Composition at Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College, and Poetry in the Interdisciplinary Studies program for the Lesley University M.F.A. graduate program.

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I was born on Shakespeare’s birthday and my father used to recite Shakespeare sonnets, also Yeats and Keats to me. Both my parents were writers who encouraged my creative interests. My mother wrote and self-published two novels in her seventies. My father taught and wrote several books of Philosophy. He died when I was 28. I was writing songs (I sing and play guitar) for a long time before I started taking my own poetry seriously enough to go back to school for it. I went for my MFA at fifty and so have only been publishing for ten years. I have been fortunate to have some success as a poet and educator. 

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
It varies. I like to write in cafes and libraries, places where there are people around, but also can write at home. Residencies are great when I have a collection of poems to revise or shape into a book. I find the ocean inspiring, or anywhere there is a view. I’m mostly a midnight writer, but also enjoy writing to music or out at a reading. I jot ideas down anytime and anywhere.

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Much of the time I get an idea from a piece of art or music, which eventually becomes a poem. I belong to a couple of critique groups who have been a huge influence. We often respond to one another’s poems. Sometimes a word or a line comes at me suddenly and I have to write it down before I forget. That is particularly challenging when I’m already in bed for the night. On the other hand, it makes for some interesting discoveries in the morning, some better than others.

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
I have been greatly influenced by reading H.D., Walt Whitman, Ruth Stone, Anne Waldman, James Wright, Allen Ginsberg, Maxine Kumin, Josephine Dickinson, David Ignatov, Ross Gay, Joan Larkin, Jane Kenyon, Elizabeth Bishop, and many more. I find reading great poets is the best thing one can do to improve one’s own writing.

Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? What was the process of assembling it? Was it a project book? etc.
Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak is inspired by music - the music of the voices of my family, the classical music I grew up listening to, my own study of voice, violin and guitar. It is also about the passage of time and how the voices of the generations before us carry forward and influence our lives. The title combines the concepts of voice and time, and is also the title of one of the poems in the book. My previous book, The Philosopher’s Daughter had a couple of poems in it that were written in response to song lyrics, and the second book was a continuation of that string of inspiration. 

Read and Listen to a sample poem from Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak here: 

Anniversary

Fifteen years ago
we stood before sunflowers
pushing their seedy faces
up the shed’s outer wall,
our feet immersed in
dandelion clover.

Pledged from this day forward
to plant bulbs in Spring,
tulips, daylilies and irises;
push marigold and daisy seeds
into black Summer soil;
build towers for tomatoes,
grids for zucchini, cucumber, peas.

Vowed to sit in Adirondack chairs,
watch cedar waxwings
devour the juniper berries;
to hang thistle for goldfinch,
suet for woodpeckers
from blue spruce branches.

Today, we take the bulbs
from their dark winter storage

beneath the spades and rakes,
gently place them
beneath the ground,
another year, as promised.