1. Your poetry is about a lot of different topics. In this issue alone there are poems
about a car crash, giving blood, a trip to the grocery store and a fused glass course. How
many of your poems are based on actual experiences?
Many of my poems are based on actual experiences, but only in the most general way: I
play the viola, I am currently taking fused glass courses, people have a hard time
drawing my blood. Every event, trait, interest and habit of mine is on a sort of mental to-
do list: Things I Need to Write a Poem About. I look at everything as material. I love
Alfred Hitchcock movies because he takes normal, mundane situations or objects (a
merry-go-round in Strangers on a Train, a shower in Psycho) and transforms them
into something scary. Some of my favorite poems to write are the ones where I can take
a commonplace object or habit and make it seem extraordinary.
2. When did you start writing poetry and why (if there is a reason)?
I didn’t start writing seriously until my first boyfriend and I broke up when I was
fifteen. I suddenly had a lot of extra time and writing was an open-ended pursuit. At
first I wrote prose poems. I didn’t recognize I was writing poetry, I just knew I wrote
little paragraphs that I didn’t want to expand into short stories. I was overjoyed the day
I discovered poetry didn’t have to rhyme—I spent the day breaking my paragraphs into
stanzas and lines. I didn’t learn about prose poems until college.
Poetry is a productive way for me to indulge my obsessive tendencies.
3. I think the term “dark humor” can be used to describe many of your poems. A
current example of that kind of humor is the Cohen brother’s movie No Country for
Old Men which was not intended to be funny, but had many scenes that were in fact
funny. Your poems can be playful or serious but no matter what, an underlying streak
of humor seems to permeate throughout them all. Do you enjoy finding the humorous
and funny moments that can happen at any time during everyday life?
Wasn’t No Country for Old Men a great movie? When it came out I had been going
through a good movie dry spell, so I was especially excited about it.
Dark humor is my favorite type of comedy. I’m glad when I can find any type of humor
in everyday life. I think people are too serious. I especially love when a serious field like
poetry lightens up and has a sense of humor.
4. In your poem Fused Glass Course one line that keeps getting stuck in my mind is:
“I hoped the whole room would bend/into a Dali painting.” It is a great line because Dali
paintings are very well known, especially one such as The Persistence of Memory with
the melting clocks hanging over a desolate landscape. How big an influence are artists
like Dali on your writing?
I am grateful for the invention of the camera because afterwards art shifted in a weirder
direction! I especially like surrealists because they create a fantastic scene and
complete that scene down to the tiniest detail so the world in their art seems as real as
ours. I endeavor to do the same with my poems. One of my favorite artists is Camille
Rose Garcia. The world she invented is funny, gorgeous, and scary at the same time.
She has a narrative series of paintings called Creepcake’s Bakery. It’s about these
adorable centipede creatures that take over a town via parasite-infested cupcakes and
pies. It’s cartoony and strange but it somehow feels like an actual place.
5. Who are some of your favorite writers? Who/what else has influenced your writing?
A few of my favorite poets are John Berryman, Rita Dove, Sylvia Plath, Li-Young Lee,
lucille clifton, and Frank O’Hara. I recently read Carolyn Forche’s The Country
Between Us for the first time (I know, I know! How did I not read it before now?), and
was astounded by how wonderful it is.
I have also listened to a lot of audio poetry. Hearing a poet read their poems adds
another dimension to their work. I never really paid attention to Sylvia Plath until I was
in college and I heard a CD of Plath reading. I immediately bought my own copy and
played it so many times that my non-poetry-reading boyfriend can still quote “Lady
Lazarus” 10 years later.
6. How would you describe the poetry scene in Austin, TX?
I actually know more about the poetry scene in NJ—I grew up there and I lived there
until 5 years ago.
In 2003, I moved to California, and then to Austin 3 years later. I worked at a video
game company in California, and they transferred the whole branch to Austin. I didn’t
want to move to Austin, but I relocated because I really liked my job. For months, I
sulked—every day I would look at apartment listings in California because I couldn’t
wait to move back.
Once I gave it a chance, I found out that Austin is terrific. There is a lot going on—tons
of literary groups, visiting writers and events, along with weird organizations and quirky
clubs. I found a great poetry group almost immediately.
It also has my favorite museum, the Harry Ransom Center, which houses an immense
collection of literary artifacts and a research library. It is pretty much the exact museum
collection I would want to assemble if they hadn’t thought of it first: manuscripts,
personal letters and photographs of famous poets and other literary figures. I haven’t
been to the research area of the museum yet, but I want to—I hear they have Anne
Sexton’s reading glasses.
The city has a great attitude—it’s laid back, which is perfect for me because I am not a
competitive person. I’m so glad I ended up in Austin. I want to stay here.
7. Anything else you want to say?
Thanks for the interview—this was fun!
|Interview with Valerie Loveland
March 26, 2008
This interview was done through email. Answers and
questions have only been edited for spelling, grammar, etc...
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