1. How has your writing changed?
I move between two main styles or ideas when I am writing: the magical/ surreal and the literal/ autobiographical. I started with The Book of Orgasms, or the magical style. And I progressed to the more autobiographical style with my book, Southern Comfort, in which the pronoun, I, plays a starring role. Now I am moving back towards the magical/surreal poems with my latest book, Why God Is a Woman, which is about an imaginary where the women rule, and the men are the second and the beautiful sex.
I also have a book of poems called Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? in which I have taken the questions, comments, and notes that students have asked my husband, a professor of physics, and made them into short poems like this one:
I think it’s very unfair that you ask questions
about accelerating in a car.
I am not like those rich students
who drive to school in their nice cars.
I don’t even know how to drive,
and I don’t expect to be learning any time soon.
2. What are you writing right now?
I’ve been working on another book of orgasm poems. I decided one wasn’t enough. In this collection, all of the orgasms are written in the style of poets I admire so much, I wish I had written their poems.
3. What poet should we all be reading? And what is your advice to young poets?
Nicanor Parra, the Chilean poet, has a silly poem called “The Nobel Prize” in which he says he should get the Nobel prize for reading. He writes:
I read everything I get my hands on:
I read street names
and neon signs
and new price-lists
the police news,
projections for the Derby
and license plates . . .
and he goes on. But I think that is what young poets should do. Read. Everything. Ads, horoscopes, the news, cereal boxes, graffiti, you name it. Incorporate them in your poems.
But you also asked what poets one should read. And my answer is, find a book of poems, and fall in love with it. Or at least fall in love with one poem in a book. Read the poem again and again. Let it be like a lesson, a spell, a song, so it enters your blood stream. But which poem? Which book? I think everyone has to make his or her own choice.
Because what I love today is different from what I loved yesterday. And I think it’s the love that matters as much as the object of love.
Today, for example, I am in love with The Star Wizard’s Legacy by Vasko Popa, the Serbian poet, who wrote wonderful sequences of poems about things like little boxes and pebbles and games. I love his imagery. His poem, “The White Pebble,” for example, ends: A white smooth virgin body/ It smiles with the eyebrow of the moon. And I am also in love with Mark Strand who begins his poem, “2032,”
It is evening in the town of X
where Death, who used to love me, sits
in a limo with a blanket spread across his thigh
waiting for his driver to appear.
But if I had answered this question yesterday, I might have talked about Carlos Drummond de Andrade. But today I am not in the mood for Carlos.
4. Where when do you like to write/do your best writing?
I usually write in the morning. And only the morning. If I write into the afternoon, I start to destroy everything I wrote in the morning.