Friday, June 20, 2014

Q&A with Laurelyn Whitt, author of Tether

What was the inspiration of this book?
I suppose there are books that have a single 'external' inspiration. One source, that called the myriad poems within the collection up, out of that place where they wait. That has not been my experience however, with Tether or elsewhere, although I am open to it. Tether is more a record, or reflection, of where I have been and what I have been responding to over a certain period of time - in this case, over the 7 years or so between the completion of my last collection, interstices, and the completion of this one. 
During this time I immigrated to Canada, and there is a thread in Tether that offers a sustained reflection on the phenomenon of borders and boundaries. Borders tend to be dangerous places, where a great deal is at stake, where much can be lost, and where power - in its many forms - is a significant factor. Some of the poems in this thread focus on how both language systems and natural systems are affected by the indiscriminate breaching, manipulation, and re-drawing of borders. I am especially concerned with whether and how these things survive. A number of other poems in this thread consider the present and future of endangered human languages and cultures, as well as of threatened nonhuman species and habitats.
Shortly before I started writing the first of the poems that found their way into this book, both of my parents passed on. So there is another thread interwoven with the first, poems which are taut with the struggle to live with this.  To move past the sense of suddenly being parent-less, and toward what still holds us together.
So themes of preservation and restoration interweave with those of loss and destruction in both threads of Tether. The collection is an effort to appreciate, and better understand, the tenuous yet tenacious nature of the continuities that bind us as individuals and peoples, to one another, and to the natural world.
What has been the reception from readers and colleagues and your friends?
Hmm. I'm not sure I have a good grasp of this, but let me try.       Since many of these poems have been with me for a while, I have had a chance to get them 'out there' - to editors, for publication, and at readings. They tend to be fairly diverse - in form and in subject matter. One thing I have noticed is that their diversity has been embraced. By that I mean that different people have settled on quite different poems, or groups of poems, that they are especially drawn to.  That has been gratifying.
Which part was the most pleasurable to write? Do you feel lost in the moment when you are writing and are very much in the "now"?
I am combining these two questions since the second seems to me to be a way of understanding what you mean by "pleasurable' in the first. Seeing it this way allows what is painful to still be experienced as pleasurable. Certainly, the kind of full immersion you describe in the second question is part of, maybe the whole of, the great delight of writing. My partner likes to observe that the whole house could crash in on me when I am working and I would remain as I was.
But now I am puzzling about 'most' pleasurable, since I don't have any sense of more-or-less associated with this.  I find I cannot write if I don't care; writing poetry is a way of caring. And for me at least they are simultaneous. Of course I sometimes do write without caring, but I wouldn't call the result poetry.
I will, even so, single out a group of poems - mainly because the writing of them was unusual, and something I hope to repeat. "The Medicine Line" sequence is the first poetic sequence I have written. Having realized after the first poem that there was more to be said about this, and that it built directly on what I had just said, I moved on to a second. Then a third, fourth and fifth. (And I am still not sure I am done with it.) The initial drafts of these poems came very quickly, in (what for me is) a blur. A poetic sequence enables a sustained perception - and reception. It lets you dive and not come up for a while. Long poems do the same I suppose. The other thing about sequences is that the poems in them are often a kind of ideal community - able as individuals to stand well alone but also dependent on one another. In this case I was carried to the form by the subject matter - the sequence being a kind of a compressed history of that particular line on the map. I would welcome being carried away like this again. I may even go there on my own.
What new projects are you working on?
Borders and boundary phenomena still have a grip on me, though increasingly they are being contrasted with, and sometimes displaced by, that of horizons. I am completing a new manuscript that examines the significance of the horizon for us as a species, as cultural and historical beings, and as individuals bounded by communities of various sorts. Horizons surround us with the world. They hold us in while drawing us out, but are not fixed. The manuscript explores how horizons contain us without restraining us, and what is lost or gained as a result. It also reflects on their expansiveness, on how they protect and prepare us. All of this is responsive to and informed by place, by particular environments - their history, cultural dynamics, flora, fauna, geology and climate.

No comments:

Post a Comment