Contributor Interview: Lindsay Illich

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.


Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

“The Woman Who Rode Through a Tornado in a Bathtub and Survived” was inspired by reports last year that a woman in Texas did just that. I grew up in Texas and suffered nightmares about tornadoes and once was stranded on a roadside near Caldwell, Texas, as a tornado passed, so the story struck a chord. But the image of the white bathtub also reminded me of a sheet of paper, how it must have been like a magic carpet flying through the sky, how writing is the perspective of power but feels sometimes powerless, a desire both compelling and prone to fearfulness. Like me, the woman is reckoning with seeing herself from such a great height, coming to terms with the truth of it when she lands in someone’s (Marianne Moore’s?) garden.

I began writing “Crossing the Potomac in a Supershuttle Van” at AWP 2017 in DC. Going there so soon after the inauguration, I wasn’t sure how I would feel seeing sights I was so familiar with. But the experience of the city became for me less about the inert structures and more about the people I met and saw, the living tableau that felt like love, a familial love that felt like home. The writer James David Duncan writes about the more-than-human feeling of love he woke up feeling one night, and wrote to the ornithologist responsible for saving the peregrine falcon from extinction, asking him, “Have you felt it?” The morning I woke up in DC, I did.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

From “Crossing the Potomac in a Supershuttle Van,” the last scene where I’m waking up late, it felt like I was waking up in the Edward Hopper painting, “Morning Sun,” in the liminal lines of sleep and awake.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is to read widely from lots of traditions and to read widely the work of living poets. Finding the work that you’ll be in conversation with is as much about writing as the more writerly, craft-oriented elements.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

The older I get the less fun, strange, or interesting I find myself. And that’s fine. It isn’t me who needs to be any of those things–my work does.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

I just finished my second collection, Fingerspell, and I’m revising a novel. I’ve also been working on some essays. And right now it’s April, so I’m writing a poem a day.

Lindsay Illich is the author of Rile & Heave (Texas Review Press, 2017) and the chapbook Heteroglossia (Anchor & Plume, 2016). Rile & Heave won the Texas Review Press Breakthrough Prize in Poetry. She teaches writing at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

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