When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
Poetry wasn’t really a conscious decision for me. I was always fascinated and a little obsessed with words and language. And when I was a miserable, sullen teenager, I remember trying to use those things to create an alternate reality where I felt less miserable.
I don’t really understand poetry as a purely external pursuit—that is, waking up one day and deciding to write poems. What sane person would do that? Poetry, for all its loveliness, is full of rejection and poverty and misunderstanding. Why would anyone who could choose not to do it, still write poetry?
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I have spurts and splashes and times when normal, everyday things occur in my head as poetry. Those are crazy, amazing times and I wish I could harness them! But they are wild horses. They will not be tamed.
I’m a copywriter for my day job—I could argue that a lot of copywriting is short poetry, a la Coleridge’s definition: “poetry: ‘the best words in the best order’.” In that case, I would say that I write poetry every day. But I don’t think that’s what you’re asking! In any case, copywriting is good practice for poetry—and you get to see results and impact a bit more often.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Most of the time, they begin with words or phrases I’m attracted to because of their sound, as opposed to their meaning. Sometimes something I’ve heard a million times suddenly shifts in meaning, or all of a sudden seems to have some kind of music.
I love taking words and phrases out of context and watching them shift. The corporate world has been great for that. It’s full of this rhetoric. Things like “robust,” “ducks in a row,” “take it to the next level”—they’re maddening & ridiculous when you have to listen to them all day! — and then oddly lyrical or full of possibility when you take them somewhere else and think on them.
And sometimes it’s just pure sound. I never stop being enchanted with them, and different ones placed next to each other create something lyrical. (examples: “exalted Tiepolo colors,” ; “snow flees like eloping brides”
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
W.S. Merwin, Federico Garcia Lorca, Rebecca Byrkit, Jane Miller, Anne Carson, Barbara Cully, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, songwriters Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch.
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 is a project book? etc.
The title’s significance is a bit of a combo platter. To begin with, I’m fascinated with what goes on in anyone’s head when he/she’s quiet for a long period of time. How do a person’s perceptions of the world, emotions, and other people, alter, change, or stay constant? Introverts and/or highly-sensitive people, or anyone who spends a lot of time internally reassuring themselves and weighing out what is “reasonable,” —what happens when they stop trusting or being able to access their centers/baselines?
And because for many people in the Western world, Sunday is a day set aside for reflection, I wonder what that feels like to other people. Sunday is a day when fears share the table with peaceful thoughts. Sometimes they happily co-exist. Other times they go at it like dysfunctional relatives. It’s often a surprise. And every Sunday, things change again.
I want to say the overarching themes in the book are self-reliance and navigation, and say that’s it, but that feels too large and boring to me. Let me list a few others: extreme landscapes, anthropomorphizing landscapes, online dating, long distances, and recovery from online dating. Also a bit of jet lag.
Assembling any book, I think, is a lesson in what makes sense. That is to say, it’s internal, intuitive, one poem feels right next to another, or it doesn’t. It can take ages, or no time at all. This one took about 13 years, so….
Andrea reading "Silent Toast," a poem from Sunday With The Sound Turned Off:
To your better synaptic self, the math of all
that longing: just give your word each year
you are asked, even if you have to rehearse it.
Even if the smells of cut grass & seawater
conspiring to make you whole, fail.
(It is only that they have chosen someone else).
Give your word, swear it is nothing personal.