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.
Re “The Open Window”: My friend Pat Duffy and I paused on the steep stairway to Samuel Menashe’s Greenwich Village apartment and wondered that a man in his eighties could manage it on a daily basis. Samuel, who wrote short, gemlike poems, had recently received the Poetry Foundation’s Neglected Masters Award. Seeing his apartment brought to mind his poem, “At a Standstill.” I saw the kitchen “Where the bathtub stands / Upon cat feet.” Paint on the walls peeled in layers. As we talked, the three of us shared coffee from a single mug. I commented on an enormous painting on the wall—an underwater scene with Klee-like beauty. Samuel stood up and began rhapsodizing about the light from a door-size open window that played on the artwork and was otherwise revitalizing, until I experienced a vicarious sense of transcendence.
Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?
I like the lines in the poem about the small, innocent fish near the open mouth of the big fish. “The painting has a playful, / mosaic quality: near the open mouth / of the giant fish, small fish rise, innocent / as bubbles.” A little later in the poem I re-view the painting and grasp that the huge fish is actually swallowing a little one, which ties into the later “fish-eats-fish world.” Perhaps if I could see the painting again, I would envision it yet another way—maybe the small fish is escaping. The painting becomes a place where innocence and danger coexist. The changes in light repaint the artwork again and again and lead to an accelerated sense of the passage of time.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
As for daily writing habits, what works for one person might backfire for another. For me it’s important to keep writing, even when I’m not in my most inspired state. That way I stay in practice, and it allows for surprises. If new material doesn’t seem worth developing, I work on revisions of unfinished poems that needed to “incubate,” until an unexpected metaphor jumpstarts a new poem. Poetry stems from lived and felt experience, but it’s also important to read widely. When we read we vicariously expand our experiences, as well as consciously or subconsciously absorb possible new approaches to expressing ourselves.
Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!
I do artwork as well as write poetry. Especially because my work as a copy editor occupies a lot of my time, sometimes art and poetry compete for my regard. At other times visual arts and poetry feel like very different aspects of a connected force and work together harmoniously. When this happens I picture a colorful fluid slowly flowing back and forth within a glass tubular infinity symbol, keeping me in balance.
What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?
For many months I’ve been trying to put final touches on another book-length manuscript of poems that I had considered to be complete. I keep writing new poems, and reevaluating which poems belong in the manuscript. At this point, I need to focus on organizing the manuscript—not my favorite part of putting a book together—and accept that new poems can be the beginning of a future book.
Laura Glenn’s book of poems I Can’t Say I’m Lost was published by FootHills, her chapbook When the Ice Melts by Finishing Line. Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Boulevard, The Cortland Review, EPOCH, Green Mountains Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Poetry, etc. Also a visual artist and freelance copy editor, she lives in Ithaca, New York.