Featured Poet Interview: Shapeshifting with Laurie Byro

Shapeshifting with Laurie Byro:


An Interview for Triggerfish Critical Review by Steve Parker

It’s difficult to keep up with Laurie Byro. Aside from the fact that her poetic output is prodigious, even in a single poem it can be difficult to keep up with who she is being next or what reality she has now moved into. Judging from our recent email contacts around the interview below, I suspect this chameleon reality is entirely representative of Laurie in daily life. She doesn’t make this stuff up for her poetry, she just goes a little deeper.

The interview sparked off a blizzard of around two hundred and fifty emails from Laurie, all of them written with line breaks as though they were extemporé poems, all of them intertwiningly co-operative, cheeky, playful, iconoclastic, show-offish, self-doubting, angry, funny, storytelling, at times a little ranting… none of these things ever too far away—and likewise the poetry itself never far beneath the surface. I got the impression of a compulsive communicator, constantly creating, constantly wanting to share. She reminded me of some enchanted creature from mythology who might just break uncontrollably into poetry or song at any moment. All she has to do is go deeper into what she’s doing already, and then it just happens.

The closeness and connectedness of that slight shift into poetry reminds me of the post-Jungian idea from Nick Totton that whatever needs to happen is already trying to happen. Sometimes, perhaps, to write poetry, as with many other of life’s processes, you do it best by allowing it, by getting yourself out of the way, letting the archetypes speak. It doesn’t look like it takes much for Laurie Byro to let it happen, to go deeper. Where she appears to do so, taking us into the myth-world just below the surface, her poetry feels to me to be at its most natural and spontaneous. It feels as though she has just lapsed easily and quite naturally from a conversation into a dream; the dream itself still part of the conversation; the continuation of conversation by other means, as though ordinary language would not suffice to deepen the conversation—so she changes gear, recalibrates, goes deeper… 

I first encountered Laurie Byro’s poetry with her 2006 poem, Wolf Dreams, and it’s still one of my favourites. It’s a startling, visionary, luscious romp through shapeshifting, sexuality, cannibalism, hallucination, dreams, even love—it weaves  its delightfully shocking and voluptuous images into an intoxicating fairytale that even ends with a classically delivered moral twist (and, no doubt, a wry smile from Laurie). It’s a pity Angela Carter didn’t live to see it; she’d have loved it too.

But even here in the wolf-world we are never too far from home with Laurie Byro, never in the truly alien, either thematically or linguistically, and one suspects that’s how she likes it: her figures and tropes have their power and appeal because we recognise them, not least in ourselves. Those semi-human fey forms have far more disturbing and transfiguring local potency when glimpsed in the mirror or behind the bookcase than they do on the surfaces of other, more distant worlds.

When I first scanned Wolf Dreams, my initial take was that it was a little more narrative than I generally like, but then I realised it had slyly grabbed me by the orchids (from the Greek orchis), and wouldn’t let go… I loved it despite myself.  Appropriately enough, there is an old myth about orchids and wolves, which claims that wild orchids grow where wolf semen falls. I can’t help thinking that the Laurie Byro who wrote Wolf Dreams would entirely get that idea.

[Laurie Byro’s poem, Wolf Dreams (which won the Interboard Poetry Competition in January 2007) can be read here.] 

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SP: Hi, Laurie, and many thanks for doing this interview for Triggerfish. I think Yeats might be a big influence in your poetry. Do you believe that fairies exist, and do they steal children?

LB: Love Yeats, love Blake. I know I’ll be taken to task for this, but fairies are real in the way they are real to each person. Like ghosts. I do a lot of walking in the woods. I catch things out of the corner of my eye. I have made fairy houses. So… lock me up now.

SP: No need for locking anyone up. I get Arthur Machen and Yeats, and I may have seen fairies too in an orchard, but I’m probably too embarrassed to say so publicly.

LB: We can play truth or dare or whatever. You own up to telling me about the fairies, I’ll tell you mine. It’s American. I think England and Ireland grow more fairies. America has a mixed bag of fairies, ghosts, spirits.

SP: Haha now you’re interviewing me a bit too. But ghosts and spirits and stuff… Who knows what travelled to America in the belly of the Mayflower and all those other ships? Maybe some fairies and other spirits stowed away in a lifeboat. Some language definitely stowed away. Do you agree with William Burroughs that language is a virus?

LB: Well first let me tell you my Clinton Road story. This is a road where Native Americans hung out. There have been all these reportings of UFOs and all that. A man built his wife a castle in the middle of the woods, and it was taken over by Newark. My story is simple in its way. I was driving on this road to a local shopping mall. I felt ‘pulled’ to stop my car and walk into the woods. Running late, hadn’t eaten, I felt the need to stop the car. I did. I walked into the woods, and when I reached a place I felt had ‘called me’ I stopped. There was a half-buried skull. It was obviously an animal skull [it turned out to be a beaver]. I tore it out of the moss growing through it and put it in my car. I felt this was bizarre but I did it. All the way to the mall I felt the ‘presence’ of something in the back seat, I could almost HEAR animal sounds. I ignored it. Went to the mall, got into a major altercation with a former friend (unexpectedly), forgot about the skull, even after I got home. Suddenly remembering it I called a friend/sister into this kind of thing. She said, “The skull is a spirit, trying to send you a message; if you figure out the message, you’re in. Don’t return it until you feel safe to do so.”

Kept it on my porch like Georgia O’Keeffe. Turns out, people born in May are born under the sign of the beaver. The message of the beaver is to “watch your back.” You decide. It made a believer out of me. Another friend said, “Well, if people can believe the Jesus myth, what’s so strange about this story?”

On we go then. I really dislike William Burroughs. Of the Beats, other than Ginsberg, Gary Snyder does it for me. Adored Richard Brautigan in his day. Killing himself was not such a great idea, I guess. I wrote a very early poem about that, when they found him. Do I agree with Burroughs that language is a virus? Interesting question. If I am thinking he means, the art of language is contagious, well yes, I think one thing leads to another. I study Shakespeare because I want to get closer to my own language. Didn’t Merwin say “you want to really know your language through translation” from his meeting with Ezra Pound? Shakespeare is enough of a struggle at translation as I am likely to get haha.

SP: Could you say a bit more about what you think Merwin means by that, or what it means to you?

LB: Merwin said to understand one’s own language, you should translate. That was the advance from Ezra Pound. You really learn how to fool with YOUR language that way. You know that for you it would be sneaked, for me snuck? It’s like when I told someone I was so “knickered”— I was trying to be English and meant ‘knackered’. He said, “You are the most unknickered person I know…” Another time I told a lawyer someone was plagiarizing me and then I said, “like quim pro quo…” Haha, he’s like, “She must have been something!” Later on I cringed alone remembering and said to myself “QUID, you damned idiot!”

Yes, I think Ezra and Merwin are right: it expands your capacity for playfulness and also, I dunno, simple clarity?

SP: Thanks for the clarification. Okay, one of the things I feel like I get from your poetry is a sort of world-view that feels to me quite pagan and also quite feminist. Those are a couple of the words I think of, but I’d be interested to know what words you might use to describe what feel to me like the spirituality and feminism in your poetry. I went back and re-read your Wolf Dreams poem, and that seems like a good example of something quite proud and primal and unashamed, which I think comes through in a lot of your work. Could you talk about all that a bit?

LB: Love to, but let me call my father. Now HE (who is 84 years old) years ago said he wanted Hillary Clinton to be president. I said “Dad, you would vote for her?” He said “Vote for her, I’d campaign for her!” I said “But dad, some people call her a bitch.” He said “That’s because she is smart and strong. I like her because of it, and you have that in you. You’ll make enemies because of it. We can’t care about that.”

HE may be the feminist here, but thank you for saying it.

I don’t belong to a church, so organized religion is not something I believe or disbelieve in. It just never worked for me. I’ve been involved in 12 step progams for 24 years and I would like to think that is where I get my spirituality, as you put it. There is a lot of wisdom in the rooms, and for me, one of the things I objected to was the God thing. We say “higher power” and whatever that is for us. I was raised Lutheran, and I think that has made it easier to be my own person than some other religions. Luther left the church because he felt you could talk to God directly. I feel like that is why I am in the woods so much, I like to do as Mary Oliver has said – “do my work” – and that means just noticing, engaging with the animals and breathing it all in. The smells, all of it.

I was sort of raised on this stuff. I remember being 10 years old and telling one of my friends, a boy from a ‘town’ and not where I lived, a rural area, “We have to go home now, I smell cucumbers and that means copperheads or bad snakes are around.” I looked it up as an adult, they say it IS true. So the folks tales I learned had served me well. We also were told the mate of a snake will drag off the dead body. When I was a kid our dog bit a copperhead in half and my mother put the dog inside and ran to get the neighbor. Mom was a city girl from Brooklyn. The neighbor was VERY much one of the country folks if you know what I mean. He said “before sunset, the snake will be gone.” We laughed, went back home, and the snake was gone, both parts, and nowhere near where it had died close to where we found it. So I dunno, I would like to think of myself as a humanist, but the Christians would say that’s a bad word.

[Regarding feminism] I suppose it would depend upon your impression of what feminism is. I think we are discriminated against, it’s better now but not perfect. Yet, I do think, as in the Plath/Hughes thing, that feminists like anyone else can rally around a cause they have no business factoring into. Merwin, who knew them both and objected to the part he plays in that drama, won’t speak of her because he says it would make for bad karma. I guess I’m splitting hairs about your word “feminist”. It sort of is like “Christian”, it’s a slippery word, isn’t it? But I thank you. I like to think I write “feral poems”, and I think that is what you mean by all that. My poems don’t always behave themselves. We can agree on that.

SP: Yes, ‘feral’ is pretty much the main word I have in my head when I think of your poems, so that works for me. You’ve mentioned Merwin here and there. Is he an influence poetically as well as philosophically?

And since you’ve mentioned her too, is Sylvia Plath an influence?

Have to ask this also: Is Robert Bly an influence? I can’t help feeling like there could be some connection. For me that would seem to be some exploration of wounding/wildness/physicality/shamanism/the whole feral thing…

LB: Merwin is definitely an influence.

Robert Bly is in a way, I read a lot of Bly in my day, but he lost me with the chest thumping back to ‘maleness’ that he did in the 80s. How men have lost their “father” and (I think) “mother” connection. See I was paying attention, but I felt the “male movement” was sort of a tired deal or something. Like: the females have done it, the Gays have done it, let’s hurry up and get back into our “maleness”? like WHAT is that? Here I’m saying I’m a humanist (so gotcha Laurie!), but I guess I don’t like these shaman types telling us what to believe in. Merwin is simply the wisest poet I ever met. Just to SPEAK to him—he was talking about the fact we have bears on our porch, and the bear hunt, and telling me to listen listen listen. To everyone and everything. I can’t imagine that advice coming from Robert Bly. Whenever someone takes themselves too seriously? I object to that. I don’t have the answers even to YOUR questions. Haha I mean, does my answer help? Seems like you give me a question and instead of an answer, I give you back a question. Maybe I’m simply contrary?

Plath is not an influence except that she wrote humorously and bravely. I like to think I can do that on occasion. Hughes would have been more of an influence in his way, I think I am more “Hughes-like” in the way I write. Every so often someone will say “THAT is a line that Plath would have written”, but overall, I think I have more of the Hughes reverence for nature and comparing animals with human behavior and all that. Plus, he was more into the occult I believe. She had those good New England roots in her. The only thing I find I think in a like way as Plath is that she didn’t like “waste”, so if she couldn’t get a bureau of drawers out of a poem, she got a toy or a chair. She liked completeness. Recently I was working with someone on a project and he didn’t like how it was going and the poem I had given him to work with me on. So I changed the poem around and made it something else. I didn’t want to throw it away completely. Sylvia and I had that “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”, and I think that just comes from not having a lot materially, so we all have to not “waste” anything.

SP: Questions can make just as good answers in interviews, I think. How about we go there a little? If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you most want to be asked?

LB: I dunno, maybe where does our creativity stem from?

In my case, I think all writers/poets have to have a healthy dose of narcissism, coupled with trying to figure out not what we know, but what we don’t know about others and about ourselves.

I would like to think I can take a hideous situation such as the poem “Salt”, and I would like to think I can elevate pain into beauty/art. When I wrote “Salt” (still the victim) I worried that folks would think it incestuous, the love I have for my father. Weird, huh? I think most little girls are raised to adore their dad, to want to marry them, all that. But shame factored in a lot in my childhood memories, so I immediately felt that upon completion of that poem. I actually don’t feel safe talking about it. Isn’t THAT odd? Time to move on, I think.

I also was raised from classes on thinking of poets as being “light or dark”, and I dunno, like Frost is definitely a dark poet despite what folks belief. I think of Edna St Vincent Millay as more joyful than that, despite the sonnets, the sometimes sadness there, I think of her as light, as joyful, celebratory. So I’m pleased when folks don’t focus on me as a “dark poet”, and see the sense of play in my poems. Is that how other people see it, do you think?

Like Doc Williams, even Ezra Pound went “outside” to get the poetry. Others went inside. I think about craft a lot and how the real poets who know/knew what they are doing do/did it. I dunno if I’m allowed to give a book a plug, but I was just discussing this with a poet at a seminar. She’s got three books out and is a PhD, and when she mentioned the poet “Tony Hoagland”, I said “The best book on craft I’ve read is Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft by Tony Hoagland.” She agreed.

SP: I think you can plug as many books or writers as you want, Laurie. It all gives people an insight into you and your writing. I think poetry readers/writers are often keen to have books recommended, especially if they rate your work. And thanks for talking about uncomfortable stuff. I feel like your poetry is full of courage and self-examination, actually. To stick with the craft thing a little, one of the things that stands out for me when reading your poetry is your use of line-breaks (and I mean enjambments between strophes here too). They often seem unexpected and exciting, and shed new light upon the words at or around the breaks, while still feeling organic and ‘logical’. Could you say something about how you go about line-breaking?

LB: My line breaks were always a sore spot with me and I once asked the divine Ms. Pastan about them: how “does she do it”, and her reply was “It’s a mysterious process” haha, and so thank you thank you. Sometimes there IS a natural break, a complete thought etc, but sometimes, I like to break after a verb to give it a jazzier feel, and sometimes other than being silly and separating a noun verb etc, I will simply break on a more interesting word so give it more importance in the line. I agree with Ms. Pastan it is largely intuitive, it is one of those things hard to teach to others. Merwin (in my opinion) is a master at it. I study the ones who know what they are doing.

[Note: There ensues here a short tangential interlude about Facebook, Greek mythology and extinct sea creatures, during which Laurie sends the following poem:]

Athena’s Owl

When the rape fails and the semen lands
on a different Goddess, the owl descends
and talons clutch a fiery lump of sky. We lurch
in our breasts. We all have had them: phantom
fur and teeth, something sprouting where it
wasn’t supposed to be. In my feathers, I descend

on a wrathful group of men. They’ve cut
their hair and when cormorants and wrens vie
for these trophies of blond ribbons I whisper “sing back,
sing back” to the sirens who will pounce on their bodies
hiding just beneath the waves. We are starved, near

madness, deserted by Jesus lurking among the other
sailors who never donned white. Your luck comes
disguised, old and smelling like a beggar.
I want to stake out the grey of your eyes, tear
the limp strands of your pony tail. We gallop to
these messages that are thrust inside our balls,

stitched with gut, then passed around like Trojan horses.
We grow crooked. We are warped in our coats. We burst
with the secrets in our bras. We want to be Athena’s owl,
ready to do battle, fearless but stupid pecking from both sides
of our mouths like a two-headed rooster. We are perfect freaks

of nature, our mothers gathered up their chicks, brushed out
our shiny forest brown hair. They offered us up to the draft.
We take whatever help we are given. Heaven or hell—
we are doomed to be somewhere in between.
We are chained to survive our best cells, we are stuck
and riveted, screwed on some warrior’s damp shoulder.

LB: Okay, I just took the goddess quiz on facebook: that makes it true then right? “You are Athena, Goddess of War and Wisdom. You are very serious and cunning. A born strategist. You are strong and independent, allowing no one to hold you back just because you are a woman. When someone makes you mad, you deal out fair punishments: Allowing the punishment to suit the crime. Wise beyond your years, you can sometimes come off as a know-it-all. You are very curious in nature and have a deep love of culture.”

SP: Okay, that takes me to stuff like Pallas Athena arguing, in The Oresteia, with the Furies, against the idea of the blood feud; explosions; Discordianism; Robert Anton Wilson calling Eris ‘the chick what done it all’. Can poetry be part of warfare? Can it be terrorism?

LB: One thing I did want to say about this question is this: each time I go to a reading/event I bring something with me? Like last time I was being bothered by someone so a witchy chick/sister gives me these talismans – I dunno “sulpha powders” and smudge sticks and an amethyst crystal.

Anyway, [someone] calls me after the meeting to say she’slost her power” and she had. BUT I carried to the event tonight a little book “Poetry as Insurgent Art” by Ferlinghetti.

Right? so to ME, I dunno, it’s like when Ginsberg calls Whitman a “courage-teacher”. A lonely old courage-teacher. Well, Ginsberg is that for me, Ferlinghetti. I suspect when Allen Ginsberg read Howl that night in Ferlinghetti’s book store it was almost an act of terrorism. Almost. See poets do it stubbornly. It’s like the broom maker who makes brooms while bombs fall. He keeps making his brooms. That is a very political act. When I told them at Dodge about quitting that job (I had one before I quit, took me two weeks to give notice) it was that fast, they said that Ginsberg would have applauded me that. What can I say? I was stupid and naive to think that my little protest would make a difference in the world. It didn’t, it doesn’t.

But it’s a sense of empowerment. Doctor who removed my thyroid (cancer) comes into the room today and I welled up and he said “what’s wrong” and I was like “I dunno, I’m grateful to you. Poets are the town criers right? Well, so I am crying.” So poetry as INSURGENT art is an exciting idea for me. That was my talisman tonight.

Love it. There is a famous poem about violence inside the mind or something like this. A protest. So I guess, an explosion maybe, but I think of poetry as more of a protest.

SP: To stick with this theme, Laurie, one of the things that lifts your poetry for me is that it seems to have an edge and an attitude, some anger at the back of it. I don’t feel like I’m reading some fluttery idealist who has never known any pain. I wouldn’t be very interested in poetry that didn’t have those depths. What is all that about?

LB: In order for me to see the world, or understand it or I dunno, I have always sort of categorized things. I know when I go for my cognitive tests, I get told that it’s a sign of intelligence. If they made me memorize things, I’d automatically do it in sections— tools, flowers… like that. So in my mind (dangerous) I look at some of the poets as dark/light etc.

Outside inside… Like obviously, Ezra Pound or Doc Williams went from the outside “in the metro, the red wheelbarrow”. There may be poetic words for this, I dunno. But like Frost is a dark poet. Despite his poetry which can be joyful. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” I listened to Hass talk about the placement of that comma for an hour. That and “a chair, the chair, my chair…” Hass is one of the best poet/teachers I have ever heard speak.

As to me? Dark poet. Someone told me years ago, “You have two topics, sex and fairies” haha… whatever. Don’t they say the only thing poets write about is sex, death and I dunno? The third… But I think I am edgy because I have gone through some hard times.

There is an expression in one of my groups when we talk about the difference between spirituality and religion. In my group we say the difference is, “religion is for those who want to avoid hell. Spirituality is for those who already know what it is like.”

SP: I’m not sure if this is related to your poetry group exactly, but I noticed somewhere online that you had been appointed the poet laureate of Allendale. How did that come about?

LB: The board got a few letters about me and poetry, and a woman, Pat Finn, was saying how when she was out at a party (she’d been in my group for poetry a few times) folks were saying what a “happening” (haha) it was. I did themed events, had folks come in to read to us translated poetry in the native language, and we would cook, things like that. The fact it started on 9/11 all those years ago, “bonded” everyone. So Adam Keeble and Joy Kondo got it in their heads to talk to the Mayor about appointing me Poet Laureate. They surprised me and we had a reading planned, and the Mayor was there. It was quite an event. Members of my group gasped with delight, I was told about this the night before with no time to prep, so I didn’t tell them, but folks had brought flowers anyway. They threw me a giant party, I was grateful to poetry for enabling me to be its voice.

SP: Some of your poetry seems very classical to me, both in its structure and in the choices of themes or characters. Do you relate to that, and if so why do you think you’ve chosen to do it that way?

LB: Maybe because my brother died so young. Someone said that I write about that a lot, searching for an unavailable male person.

SP: I thought you were more exploring the mysterious shape-shifting stuff of human and/or animal connection rather than it being that specific to your history, but I didn’t know that history then. Do you buy this idea of searching for unavailable or lost males, or your brother? I know we all write stuff in the cracks and shadows that we don’t necessarily know all about, but do you feel consciously that you are somehow resurrecting or evoking your brother or some principle of a male figure that is out of reach?

LB: I agree with you, that I think for me poetry has been transformative, making me think about me and the world in ways I had not thought about.I hate to reduce it to exploration of oneself, but didn’t Motion recently say that he thought of himself as a “war poet” and then chidingly, “but currently I have no war…” Well, I hate thinking of poetry as that selfish as a perpetual journey to find out what a person is about. But for me, that has been part of it and when people say things that make me think they identify? I’m thrilled, it’s like the reader is a travelling companion then. What poet doesn’t fall through the sleeve of their own ego, just as Walt did? A poet who cannot get self-involved is pretty much a lousy poet, yes?

SP: Is it really true that you have a crush on Andrew Motion?

LB: Andy, my Andy!

SP: I guess that’s sort of a yes or a no! Okay, while ‘stalking’ you for this interview, I had a look at some maps of Allendale and the surrounding area on the Net, and I noticed there are all sorts of historical and Native American names dotted about your landscape. What does all that ghost-topography mean to you?

LB: Yes, Apshawa, Macopin, all kinds of Indian names and folklore. I went to school with these tribes names sort of echoing around me.

It had an effect, it had to. We spent summers looking for arrowheads in these woods.

SP: You mentioned in an email that someone had suggested doing a thesis on ‘The Persephone myth in the poetry of Laurie Byro’. My take is that you seem to explore lots of different aspects and archetypes of femininity, and various female hero/heroine myths in your work, but I was wondering if perhaps Persephone stood out for you as especially relevant to your own mythology?

LB: Persephone is a bit of a loser. I mean she has all these unresolved conflicts? Her mother is the real bitch/control freak, but Persephone doesn’t take charge of her own destiny and she’s a runaway….The poem I wrote about that goes back and forth that I am Demeter and then Persephone, and then mom/child on and on. I think they are the same person, just parts of young and older women. Lots of longing and escape and control issues going on in these two. Haha. Right? I’d rather be Athena or Aphrodite. I have grey eyes. My friend from Kentucky made me look at the Athena stuff at the Parthenon when I visited her. That was brave I think. Never had met Maggie except through workshops and by phone, and after 9/11 I called her and said, “Make me your famous pasta dinner, time for this bird to fly.” I was a travel agent and getting I dunno wary of it? Mags and I had a great time, and she let me sleep in her daughter’s bed, but she could have been a murderess.

I’ll stick with Athena.

SP: I get that most of these goddesses are different aspects of the feminine, in some ways perhaps eternally, or else at different times in life, or at different times in history. Do you think maybe some of them represent female roles that are now obsolete, at least in the West? I don’t mean that so much in a historical or political sense, but more poetically and personally. I suppose I am asking whether you use classical myth-figures to represent characters or characteristics that you find either useful or not useful in your own life, or in the life of society.

LB: Yes, after reading the books about the “goddesses within us,” written by a psychologist [‘Goddesses in Everywoman’, by Jean Shinoda Bolen], I quite identify with what she is saying and that is, that we can use classical myths/personalities to illustrate to ourselves and each other how we are different. Remember Hillary and those cookies? Boy did she get in trouble, but clearly she leans on Athena and work and learning as opposed to Hestia or Demeter, which is more mothering, keeping the hearth etc. And no, I think that is one of the differences that we are trying to incorporate with women having “the worst of all worlds,” meaning, we are still chiefly responsible for child-rearing etc. I have to tell you when someone hands in a resumé that says “during the mommy years” I cringe because I have YET to get a resumé “during the daddy years,” and I have no problem with women choosing to stay home, or men, but I think trying to say “the work we do at home is important” and then phrasing it that way for an employer, is counter-productive and distracting. So I do not think thinking about people in the way you are saying is outmoded, just different aspects of the entire being.

SP: Are there any new poets out there who are exciting you right now?

LB: Okay, your side of the pond, new/moderns, well, ahem, in no particular order and off the top of my head:

Ian Duhig, Selima Hill, Pascale Petit, Andrew Mo (ok, Andy my Andy!) Don Paterson, Robin Robertson…

For various reasons, I like them, and yes Carol Ann as well, but I could imagine wanting to meet or have a tea or whatever the hell you guys do. You guys. Very New Jersey.

I’m friends with Ian on Facebook, and I just gushed to him about maybe being the only person/library in America that owns his Lammas Hireling. It’s just the way it is. I had to inform them after “In the Blood” came out of ahem just what they should be reading, the library consortium I mean.

Here it’s more difficult because I just love them all, mostly. There are a few that I do not identify or relate to as well. It would be easier to name those. I have come around in appreciating some. As I told you Kay Ryan and I had a pleasant conversation last week. The week before I wouldn’t have said I was a huge fan. She writes these perfectly complete and complex little boxes like a poem within a poem, within a thought, within a pebble. Like little Russian Dolls or something. I am such a flawed poet (and I don’t mean others are. I’m taking credit for this, but others are messier?), I can’t describe it. But Kay is more perfect than most, she’s very clean in her work She is a great reader and I think likes to make fun of herself for her tidiness in her work, she’s as funny as Collins almost but only in her delivery… But I admire Gluck and I am reading Mark Strand’s latest. These poets are messier? HE was so kind to our group. Galway Kinnell was as well. So many. If they are nice to my Poetry Circle, we instantly become stalkers. I told you this, the average age is maybe 75 in that group. When we do a living poet I can email or telephone I usually begin by saying, “Hello there, thanks for speaking to me about such and such, and know I am not stalking you.” One of my 85 year old members said, “Now, Laurie, why would you LIE to that nice poet?” I don’t mind being a fool for them. Hass is also a great teacher, as is Merwin.

But my group is the real deal, a great diverse group of strong people. Each one of them has more than one interesting story. I don’t tire of them. And one day, we all WILL be arrested for haha stalking.

SP: It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you, Laurie. Many thanks for the interview.

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