At its most magical, poetry should leave us breathless and scrounging. Too often, we (both editors and and poets) ask for work that grabs us by the lapels, that makes our bones shake and our teeth sing, but are unable to articulate just how we got there. In the interview with M. Eileen, our first issue’s featured poet, we discuss the ways in which language can be carefully crafted to catch in the throat. Before you go any further, check out [it would be heroic] and Stranger. They’re not to be missed.
Jacqueline Boucher: Both “[it would be heroic]” and “Stranger” seem to be engaging with a sense of urgency in two very different ways. Can you talk a little about the approach you took to crafting tone in those pieces?
ME: Urgency is incredibly important to both poems, more specifically an urgency to escape. Where I started with “Stranger,” with that first stanza, takes me to a very real moment and the feelings rush me like a wave. So, in writing the piece, the tone is a result of wading through those emotions, searching for the arrangement of word that will best express the feeling. With “[it would be heroic]” there is not only escape, but a sense of time running out and of physical movement, so using clipped phrases and broken images seemed to me most true to that experience.
JB: The way that “[it would be heroic]” plays with the instability of language is fascinating. The anaphora of “run run” begins to feel like the moment in a horror movie where the final girl trips over a branch. And that ending! How do you feel yourself playing with language in that piece in particular?
ME: The instability of the language very much reflects the instability of the state of the speaker. I saw a birds-eye view of a chase for one’s life and the view closes in throughout the work. I wanted it to feel like that catch in your throat when the girl does trip over the branch, as you said, and I explored to what extent imagery and interior monologue would be involved. I saw the experience as very fragmentary, glimpses of scenery and flashes of memories, and tried to reflect that in the language.
JB: I was drawn to “Stranger” because I felt a visceral discomfort at the idea of forces and people who are unseen or just out of reach. What’s at play in this piece for you?
ME: I strongly believe in readers taking whatever they need from the poem and it speaking to them in their own emotional language at that immediate moment, as happens with any form of art, so what’s at play for me, certainly, is not what must be at play for others. In general, “Stranger” is an opening poem to a series about a dangerous force. I’m touched that you do feel that visceral discomfort because that was an important personal goal in creating the work. I sometimes think it has that “I want to go home, I don’t want to be here,” feeling, but it’s a foreshadowing piece—it’s just the start.
JB: Who are you reading right now?
ME: I love modernist literature, so I’m always going back and rotating authors. Right now, it’s H.D.
JB: What’s your favorite bone?
ME: I would have to say patella. I’ve cut my knee severely, numerous times, and never has my patella completely given up on me, shattered, packed its things, and left. A true fighter.