“I feel like my poems could be used against me in a court of law.”
Interviewed By: Kaveh Akbar
I’ve been excited about Mr. West since I heard it was coming. I’m a huge fan of Kanye, so I was really excited about that, but I think I expected it to be more of a novelty. I didn’t anticipate being so moved by it.
Yeah, I feel like maybe that’s why it’s been getting the attention it’s getting, it’s playing with that expectation. And people are like, “Oh I like it. I guess I should tell other people. That was a surprise.”
It subverts your expectations in a way that is hard to do. You tend to know what you’re getting when you buy a book, whether it’s going to be a book that makes you feel happy, a book that’s going to make you laugh, a book that’s going to make you feel solemn or whatever.
Right. And part of me is like, did we market it wrong? But I don’t think there’s any way to market this where you would know what you’re in for.
Totally. The Evie Shockley blurb on the back (“The work is tender without being sentimental, funny without being cruel, and obsessive without being exploitative. It is a study in nuance and it is strangely moving.”) does a good job getting at what the book’s about.
When I discovered Kanye West, the first time I ever saw him it was this old Roc-A-Fella DVD I had. This was years and years ago, before “Through the Wire,” when Kanye was producing Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint,” and it was just a shot of him working in the studio. I’d never seen him before and the camera just cut to him with a “Kanye West, PRODUCER” caption or something. And he stares directly into the camera and says something like, “If I’m ever one-tenth as good at rapping as I am at producing, I’m gonna be the greatest rapper ever.” And I remember thinking, “whoa, who is this guy?!” And then not long after, “Through the Wire” came out and completely took the top of my head off.
If I’m remembering correctly that was the night he had that car accident in 2002. They were there filming, he was there really late—that’s what I’ve read. I did all this research years ago but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that clip where they’ve talked to him in the studio, working on Jay-Z’s song, and they said that was the night the car accident happened, which launched him into saying, Alright I’m done, I’m in front now, not just behind the scenes. And that is why I think “Through the Wire” was out so fast, because he had all those operations and his jaw was wired shut and he wrote the song and got them to record him while he was all wired. That’s why his voice sounds so funny.
Wow! I mean I knew about his jaw being all wired up in that song but I had no idea the accident was same night that clip was filmed.
It’s crazy that they have footage from that night. (If I’m right about that.)
Yeah! I guess all I’m saying is I’ve been fascinated by him since. I think Kanye as a character and human being and artist is endlessly mesmerizing. I really love him with this chilling lack of irony, and I feel like you and I are very simpatico in that regard.
But I have a lot of trouble trying to relay that fact to people without it seeming like a winky thing—like the way that people will say, “Hee hee, I still listen to N’SYNC,” or something like that.
Mmhmm. It’s been really weird trying to explain the book to strangers. I was at my son’s swim class the other day sitting next to the grandmother of a different kid in swim class and she mentioned, “you said you were going to be doing all this traveling.” So I explained about the book. And what I’m finding is that people are familiar with him for just a snippet of time. She was only really familiar with him for that chunk of time around the Taylor Swift incident, right after (Kanye's mother) Donda’s death. She was like, “he just always seems really miserable.” And I said, “well, for a while he was.” I mean anyone would have been after the death of their mother, except he had to do it in public.
Then somebody else I talked to was more familiar with him via the Kardashian show. Everybody seems to have these snippets of him and then they make claims—they try to talk about him en masse and it’s like (I don’t say this to them) but you can’t do that. Even I feel like I only know snippets, which I’ve pieced together into a very large snippet. It makes it hard to discuss the love that’s involved in the book. People realize that pretty quickly once they read it.
It’s not reducible to a succinct pitch or a blurb or anything like that. You really have to read the poems to understand what’s happening.
Yeah, and I’ve been talking to some friends about reading books versus poems and some of my friends are writing these pretty serious projects type things but they have overall concerns and it’s just like, oh my gosh, part of me wants to say, think about it, think about it all, but wait until the end. Because a poem, which is what we have to think about because that’s what we write individually, isn’t capable of what a book is capable of and thank god books are capable of more. I’m just really excited about it as a form, a book of poetry, and what it’s showing itself to be capable of. It’s kind of an amazing moment for me, realizing this. I went to two grad programs and at the first one I wrote a book that will never be a book.
You’re talking about when you were at Texas for your M.A.?
What was that book?
It was a bunch of lyric poems about Texas. I made up all these narratives about this anonymous woman who kept getting herself into trouble, like real trouble. She drives up on a volcano somehow and her car disappears and she’s trapped on the volcano. You know, things like that, really strange things. And then in the middle of the program both my mother and my grandfather were diagnosed with brain tumors within weeks of each other, so then the second half of the manuscript is about that. So, it really couldn’t be a book. People were very nice to me, handing in that thesis. I’d actually stuck all of the tumor poems in the middle so it didn’t look like they made up half of it, but I was just trying to cover it up, this drastic change in my life that kind of broke everything.
Well, this book was born from your dealing with your loss of your grandfather and your mother had that tumor and that was at the same time as Kanye losing his mother. And you talk about how you had that connection with him, how that was sort of the impetus for the creation of this book. You were able to grieve privately in these poems while he was on the most public stage possible while he was dealing with his grief. Your grief is tethered to Kanye’s.
Yeah, so it’s odd to try and talk about something that happened five years ago and then grew over those five years. Because I’ve realized that some of the things that I’ve said about how it started can come off as flippant, you know? Like, if you took it as if that drove me the whole project through, you know? There’s a difference between what started the project and what continued the project. Our tethered grief worked through both stages—the spark and the continuing.
What I’m really grateful for is that I did undertake this project in an MFA program and that it was my second program. I can’t imagine having accomplished something of this length, that I had to be this persistent with, without a community watching me. Some people seem to be critical of the MFA and the MFA-resulting-in-project-book, but for me it was really crucial to have it. It was like being stuck in an incubator and so maybe that’s the best time to undertake the hardest project. I really do think this is the most difficult writing that I could’ve done at that time. And then talking about the spark… One of the sparks was just my love of hip hop. This isn’t in the book, but my husband’s really only listened to hip hop his whole life.
Haha, yeah. I guess it is in the book a little! So when we first got together I made him a mix of all of what I’d been listening to. I didn’t know much about his music tastes yet and when it came out what they were, I was like, “oh my god, my mix is a hilarious joke.” And he was like, “no, no, it’s like the soundtrack to Garden State.”
He kind of ruined, in that moment, my entire interest in the indie music scene—which, I think, was coming to an end anyway, but it was especially funny for it to happen like that. Anyway, then he made me a mix, which I still listen to, with Cee-Lo and Blackalicious and Outkast. It blew my mind. I kept going back to “Dying Nations” by CunninLynguists, and all these songs that were changing me. They were actively changing me and what I was doing in poetry.
I felt like I wasn’t allowed to write about my daily life. That I like TV shows—I was supposed to hide that. I thought my poems shouldn’t be about anything that made me out to be young. So I realized that was bogus, which is my favorite word to use for that. It was all bogus. It hit me really hard all at once and I didn’t know how to break out of this mindset.
Then I was in this class about chapbooks and we were forced to write a linked poem chapbook. I wrote about TV shows and I had a great time. And I was making all sorts of jokes about Temperance Brennan’s sex life on “Bones.” I realized I was writing maybe the most feminist work I’d ever written even though a large part of my life is being a feminist. And I discovered I could write linked things, which I never thought I would’ve been able to do. I discovered I could write outwardly instead of looking inward. And I was just kind of shocked at what I could accomplish while looking out. And I thought, so what am I going to do—I only have a year and a half left—let me try something for my whole thesis. I didn’t want to do the whole thing about TV shows. When I wrote about TV shows I could only get one poem out of an entire series.
It wasn’t necessarily a sustainable mode of writing for you.
Yeah, definitely not. But I noticed when I was writing all of these poems, I wasn’t really writing about Fringe or Heroes. I was writing about the cheerleader and I was writing, you know, I was writing about one person. So I started trying to focus on one person and instantly I thought of Kanye just because years ago Noah had given me 808s & Heartbreaks as a Valentine’s day present.
That’s a wonderful gift.
Yes, he gives great presents. He’s already told me he’s got my birthday present this year but he won’t tell me what it is. But anyway, I started looking up articles about Kanye and that was when I came across that sentence in an article in the New York Times about Kanye that said something like in Kanye’s world big things and small things were the same. Then it said specifically, his mother dies, the president calls him a jackass, it’s all more data for the live stream. And I understood what he was saying, especially in context, but it still seemed like a cold, horrible thing to say.
It seems so emblematic of the way that people reduce Kanye to this cartoon character who is incapable of processing things.
I wonder if that’s something a journalist needs to say to himself or herself to justify their handling of public figures? Like, this isn’t just how I feel about all of these events in Kanye’s life, this is what Kanye’s world is like. And that is just not true, that cannot be true. That’s a flattening thing.
Flattening is a good word for it.
What happened from there was, you know, I ordered every book that had to do with Kanye and I read everything. I read all these articles and I set up a Google News alert and I watched all of his videos and I watched any Aziz Ansari bit that involved him. I was kind of an internet crazed person for all things Kanye. Every time I went towards him, something sprung out. And part of it is because of the workshop model of graduate school and part of it is pregnancy, because in pregnancy you look things up by week and every week there is something new. Oh, lungs develop! Oh, eyes! It’s really bizarre. So when I had that weekly thing pulling on me, I also had the workshop’s weekly pull, and then I just watched Kanye, and it was like the world was turning in a way to make these poems spring out of the tension as it was wrung. It was wonderful.
I was meeting with Julia Kasdorf (an amazing poet who still works in Penn State’s undergraduate program) every week. Julia was the one for me who would always ask what I should do, what I might do, what I wasn’t doing. I’d written a bunch of poems about Kanye in covering some points of his biography and talking about him and the loss of my grandfather. I hadn’t really gotten into talking about any of the race stuff yet. And she was who told me, you have to do that, you can’t write this and not write about that. I was pretty much thinking, I’m not sure my voice is of value in that conversation as a white person.
Those are some of the most interesting moments to me in the book, those moments of self-awareness of your being a white woman writing about a black man and his black mother. There’s this line in “Dear Donda,” “When you thought of white women I wonder if you thought of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun.’ // This isn’t time for a racist joke. / It’s my fear coming out. / That I’m going to be a worthless voice.” You’re writing through that anxiety because obviously you can’t not deal with that in this book.
Right. And it’s funny because you can’t not deal with it in this book if it’s going to be a book. So I kind of didn’t acknowledge it when I was first writing it. I was 26 and I was just like yeah yeah yeah, I hear you but I’m just kind of writing my poems right now, you know? I didn’t acknowledge yet that it could be a book.
Sure, I get that.
So part of it was this big movement over that year of beginning to wonder how I could speak to race, how I might contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way and how the book might step in the right direction and not overstep ever. And figuring out what that meant in a race conversation I’d never had before. Even “Dear Donda,” that poem started just as—you can see it published online as just that first section—
Oh really? I didn’t know that.
Yeah, and when it was going through the editing process it was something that was pointed out as a weak spot in the book. I think the only reason this poem turned into what it turned into was because it was at the end, when I was older and I’d spent a lot more time thinking about these things and reading about these things. It’s reflective of the process of the book.
It’s kind of terrifying to be on this side of it now, where I want to be the best speaker I can be on these things and I don’t know if I am, you know? The book does a good job but I’m a different person than the book. It’s a whole weird thing, but I’m nothing but humbled and honored to be at all involved in the discussion of race in America.
I think that’s one of the real strong points of the book, how it feels sort of non-static and alive and like it’s being written by a person who is actively discovering the experiences that she is writing about. “Another way to say beautiful things I’ve learned tonight…” Throughout the book, you are constantly learning about Kanye, learning about his music, about pregnancy.
And then by the end of the book you have a living son outside of your body who you are getting to know and you have that poem called “I No Longer Have to Look Up Dates like your Birthday.” There’s this very real sense of knowledge acquisition and of you being someone who is learning all of this as you go which is one of the things I love. It’s like a sort of glimpse into—I feel like “obsession” sounds pejorative but you do get obsessed with Kanye and you get obsessed with your creating life and bringing life into the world and these obsessions mingle with each other. It feels like those obsessions are really alive and we can feel them growing and we can feel them changing and morphing and becoming knowledge.
Yes! Well first, I’m super excited that you saw that in the book because that’s totally how I organized the sections. I mean some of the things are organized by date because they have to be. But what I wanted to do, especially the first and last sections, was show the building of the relationship with Kanye and then, now that I’ve built the relationship, what happens now?
It works brilliantly. I want to talk about the poem “I Want A House To Raise My Son In” because I think that was the first moment where the book really blew me up. You write, “I’ve made Noah promise he will save me over the boy / if it came to that. // I’ve told no one this.” The way that you grapple with that specific anxiety, “I’m afraid that I’ll be a horrible mother because / I’m a horrible woman,” and then move to “can I write anything after that?” That is exactly what is in the reader’s head when you say that. How could this poem possibly continue?
And then the poem ends with you lying in the grass with your son, and it’s one of the most uniquely affecting moments in poetry that I have encountered in a new book of poems in a good while. I have sent that poem to a billion people, been dazzled by it again and again, and I still don’t really understand it. I can’t even formulate an intelligent question about this—can you just talk about the poem?
Yeah, I can definitely talk about it. So this is a poem that I didn’t want to publish ever.
Sure. I can understand why.
I really admitted things I’ve thought I would never admit and I’m very uncomfortable with it. What happened was I let it be for months, and then I let it come out online.
Yeah, in a batch, so I knew it would kind of be one of many. And I didn’t automatically get a sign from God that I was the worst or, you know, whatever huge fear in me of God striking me down. I believe in God in a very different sense I think than most people, but whatever version of him might strike me down, I was pretty sure that would be when it happened. So when it came out and no one mentioned it, I felt utter relief.
And that’s when I think I was finally like, okay, this can be in the book. But still, even when you started talking about it, I was like, oh, he noticed. That’s definitely my first reaction—oh, someone noticed it, aren’t there other poems we could talk about? But I’m glad that it’s having that effect. Certainly it’s the effect it has on me. It was the hardest poem to write and I still don’t like that people know these things about me.
Even the part that you quote is kind of dangerous—I didn’t think that was the most dangerous part of the poem when I wrote it, but now, after there was that big New York Times article about all the ways women have been taken through the justice system after suffering miscarriage or a problematic birth experience, be it injury or death… now I realize that maybe that’s the most dangerous part. I feel like my poems could be used against me in a court of law. It’s like, if I ever had a bad pregnancy, you know what I mean? That’s kind of terrifying. Luckily I don’t think we’re having another baby. I think we’re fine.
What a mortifying fact of the world to have to carry with you into writing a poem.
It is. I think every woman is feeling that right now. You know I have a bunch of friends who haven’t gotten pregnant yet or are thinking about getting pregnant and it must be a little bit different than it was for me four or five years ago. Even though I’m sure that some of these things were true, were already happening, it didn’t have the same sort of spotlight it’s gotten recently if you’re paying attention. I guess not everyone is going around reading the articles. And hopefully, sometimes I hope, my friends haven’t, I hope they didn’t see that article—just because it—I can’t imagine—growing a child is stressful enough, almost entirely because of its impossibility.
And also because as you get older, you know more people, which means you know more stories. You know that people can bring a child to term that hasn’t grown a brain. And some people would say then they should grow that baby to term and have a birth experience. And others would say not—they can have an abortion—but that’s a late term abortion, later term than people like to think about. People can’t imagine the million scenarios where it is the right thing to do, and it’s kind of a problem of the imagination. I named an easy case but there are others, less easy to determine, and that doesn’t mean they are any less right, you know, anyway. All of this.
So I obviously had a strong reaction to the poem, but I’d like to hear you talk about the value of publishing a poem that makes you feel so conflicted, that you don’t necessarily want people to speak about.
I was realizing so many of the poems had pregnancy in these small moments, but I kind of skipped over the pregnancy too, especially in earlier versions of the book. My birth experience was somewhat traumatic. It took me a long time to admit that to myself because we both came out healthy so I didn’t think I was allowed to say that, you know? How could it be traumatic if everything turned out fine?
But I now realize it certainly was—my epidural wore off and I had to stop in the middle of labor and advocate for myself for it to be re-done and it was scary. Moments of helplessness and moments of trauma—that’s what I felt like even though we all were fine. So what I realized is that I was having trouble writing about this, but I did have this poem and I thought, this is going to be the thing I’ve been avoiding that the book can’t avoid. Just like how I couldn’t avoid race, I couldn’t have a book that covered my pregnancy without really talking about my pregnancy. So, I mean, it definitely became clear to me that it was a crucial moment.
And I, you know—I was talking a lot about Jesus because it’s Kanye’s connection, which is kind of funny for me as a Jew. I mean, I love “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” the musical, but that’s about as far as my connection to Jesus goes.
But that’s interesting too because Kanye talks a lot about being a vessel for God and being a prophet for Jesus and he’s very devout in that way. And you do honor that in interesting ways throughout the book when that’s not necessarily your experience of understanding your own spiritual self.
Yeah, so I thought this poem was important for that—this is a poem where I talk about being Jewish, culturally Jewish.
And you write, “I would’ve spit and peed / on the Torah if I had been a child in the Holocaust, / if it would’ve saved me.” Which is another fascinating, weird moment that is true to the experience of lots of people, probably, just like the line we talked about where you admit what you said to Noah.
And that moment where you realize you thought this way as a child and you thought that in this way you would’ve saved yourself, by denying the Torah and your Jewishness, and then realizing, as an adult, that that would not have saved you. As a child you’re acting on an impulse, that you don’t even want to complicate, of saving yourself. And it’s only as you get older that you’re like, oh right, I would’ve been killed. Regardless, I still would’ve been killed.
And I’d never written about any of these things. But I didn’t want to tell anything that wasn’t true in this book. That was sort of my private pledge to Kanye and against the media—that I would tell the truth. There’s just so much misinformation out there. I’ve watched the media mess up the facts of my book already.
There’s a little blurb people keep taking from that WHYY Newsworks interview about me starting and writing the book in Havertown. When the interviewer came to my house and we did the interview we talked for ten minutes about Penn State, but that didn’t make it in and somebody else was probably writing the copy, and then the copy gets published all around in that blurb form, so it’s not a lie, it’s not malicious, it’s just not true.
Right. I guess if we’re talking about media not getting the book right we can’t not talk about the New York Times review. Andrew DuBois has a lot of good things to say about the book, but his primary issue was that you write about Kanye’s circulatory system and his skeletal system. He says, “the problem is not as dire as if say one were to take Michael Brown’s autopsy and repurpose it,” which is a direct shot at Kenneth Goldsmith. But to him, it “seems presumptuous and creepy” that you would do it nonetheless.
And it seems to me that you address that issue directly in the book. In “Dear Kanye,” you see a dead branch on the sidewalk and you say, “my mind is so quick to see these dead pieces of trees as lonely parts of the body and my mind tries to connect the stone grey arms to you.” You explain the process by which your mind made these connections in a way that has nothing to do with like Kanye’s being a black body. It’s almost the opposite of the aggressive soullessness of Kenneth Goldsmith reading Michael Brown’s autopsy. It has everything to do with your very personal obsessions with the body and with Kanye West and the convergence of those things with your changing body and the body growing inside of you. It just seemed like a colossal misread.
There’s so many parts to the review that are almost funny to me. You know, I feel like I put so much into the book and then what I couldn’t fit, I put into the notes section.
Which is great, by the way. The notes section is like a great little chapbook itself.
Thank you. But I still missed things! What I missed is that my mother is a science teacher, and not just science, but for a very long time AP Biology and Anatomy and Physiology. And I took AP Bio with her. And then I even talk in the book, in “Kanye’s Circulatory System,” about tutoring a sixth grader who was going through the body systems, and so I had to relearn them all again. So to me, that was like, of course, those poems would happen!
I think, I get the “creepy.” It is creepy. Body systems are creepy. I think that’s what I enjoy about them—it’s got that creepy element just because bodies are weird. But the “presumptuous” seems bizarre. I mean we are humans and we all have the same body systems. Sometimes I don’t quite know what point the reviewer was making. Which is okay.
That specific poem ends in one of the most touching moments in the collection—“you miss her and I miss him but surely I cannot say if, when you think of death, you, Kanye, think of the heart.” That’s such a gorgeous rending moment and to shrink it to this question of, are you allowed to say these things about another man’s body? It seems deliberately reductive.
It’s not really what it’s about.
No, not at all, and it seems so obviously not what it’s about that there almost has to be something more happening than just a casual misread.
And it’s not like there aren’t other poems in the book that are about writing about a black body where I come at it more directly and not through body systems. I think it would be a problem if there weren’t other poems that were addressing it, you know? If they were pointing to this glaring hole in the manuscript. That’s not the case.
But the heart, man. I have this weird connection to the heart where I just can’t believe that this is the thing that makes us live. I mean obviously there are lots of things that make us live but this constant something, it’s kind of bizarre. And I had a heart scare (not really) but I had chest pains and arm pains (which I think was all muscular), but when you have all those things happen and you’re, I guess I was 26 or 27, they run you through the gamut. So I had every heart test done that I could have, including one where you get to listen to your heart in a way that you never hear through a stethoscope. And the heart is a terrifying sounding thing. It bubbles and pops and gurgles. It’s truly disgusting. We love this lub dub sound. We put our heads on our lover’s chest and go, oh my. And that is not what it sounds like. That is a lie of the heart. That is a lie of the muscle buried in the chest cavity, the muscle-ly, bone-aly hidden heart.
So it’s just what I think about, especially lying next to a toddler, at that point I guess, an infant, who just feels like he could die at any moment for exactly zero reasons. That’s often what I would think about—having faith in this odd little muscle. It’s just so strange. I mean, especially the circulatory system. That’s what I was thinking about with that poem. A lot of parts about the Times review, the misreads, were a little, you know, a little bit heartbreaking. But there have been so many great reviews.
Yeah, there have been a lot of great reviews. I think that’s been the only one I’ve seen that was predominantly critical.
What I do love about it is that they just gave it to a guy who loves rap. I mean they didn’t—it seemed to be a motion, a gesture, on a larger scale, like, anybody can read this book. I really loved that part. They didn’t go seek out a poet or a poetry critic, they just found someone who they thought would like the book and they gave it to him and they printed what he wrote about it. Part of me likes that.
Danny Caine wrote a great one for the Los Angeles Review books section. I guess I should say for our readers who will not have seen the book—almost everything Kanye says directly, all of his lyrics and most of his quotes are greyed out, they are obscured behind grey boxes. And in talking about that, Danny Caine says, “the only voice obscured is Kanye’s. Whatever copyright struggle led to the black bars pays off. After all, one cannot simply listen to the voice of God.” And I thought that was a really smart way to look at it.
Yeah, this is one of the reasons why it was really great to work with Wesleyan. They really understood the project and the direction we might go with it. And so at the outset, it was like, go seek all copyrights. And that’s what I did. I had a date by which I had to get the manuscript back to them in its final version. And what I found from that is—anything that I needed to do through a company or lawyers, you know, we either heard back no or we heard back nothing. And then it became this decision of like, okay, well do we edit them out, or what else can we do? I didn’t want to edit them all out completely, they were doing too much work.
But then it was someone at Wesleyan who was like, let’s redact them, and I was like yeah, let’s redact them! The book to me is like a conversation with America, and this was the first time I was hearing back from America in a real way. And America said no, so of course I wanted the book to reflect that. There are a lot of different feelings about how copyrights should be approached, a lot of people that I talked to that said, don’t ask for permission, the mistake you’re making is asking, no one’s going to sue a poet. That might have been true—I don’t know.
When I first encountered them, that was my thought. I was surprised that you would have to get permission to use lyrics.
Yeah, especially because I never used too many. But there’s copyright on all those things. I mean—is it worth suing over? Probably not. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, and I mean, because this book is about Kanye and this interaction between art worlds, part of me wanted to draw attention to it. So I did edit out a bunch of quotes so that it doesn’t look like a terribly redacted file that you’ve just discovered. But I wanted to leave some and I wanted to write about some of it in the notes section. That was another funny thing, the New York Times kind of makes fun of me for that, I don’t know why, saying, she was in it for the money. Well, obviously not.
Haha, you’re publishing this book of literary poetry for all the fame and fortune that tends to bring.
Yeah, crazy fame and fortune. Crazy fortune.
Alright, we’ve been talking for an hour now, and I want to try to wrap things up. Do you have anything you want to leave your readers or people who might be interested in the book with?
Hm. I don’t think so. Thanks for having me. This was really fun. I kind of got the feeling from reading your other interviews and from talking with you that this would be really great, and it was.
That’s wonderful for you to say. Thank you, I feel the same way.
You don’t have to include this in the interview, but I’ve been hearing back from people who are women around my age. And they are like, thank you so much, I really connected with these poems and this book. And then any time I hear from a man or a black man or a teenager or an older person, I’m like, holy shit, really? That’s great.
You just don’t really know how it’s going to live as a book. There are a ton of pregnancy poems in there, motherhood poems. The poetry world has this weird thing where they’re like, no one gives a shit about your pregnancy poems.
Or you get ghettoized into this realm of like a family-writing female confessionalist.
Yeah, and you get told you’re going to get rejections that say, I’ve been seeing a lot of mother crap lately. So for that not to be the response at all is really wonderful.
Absolutely, I think this book is a fine example of pregnancy and motherhood poems written in a totally new way.
Yeah, thank you. It means a lot to me. Really this whole past month has been bizarre as strangers read my book. Like really? Strangers are reading my poems?
As the poems leave your private world and enter into the public sphere, they change.
Yeah, yeah. And even catching people on Twitter. I was in a conversation with people on Twitter the other day and they didn’t realize—one of the women had tagged me because she knew I wrote the book but one of the women didn’t know that, and so halfway through the conversation she was like, Are we in a Twitter conversation with the author?! It was the best Twitter moment ever.
That’s hilarious though! That’s such a good nature-of-publishing-in-2015. That’s wonderful.
Yeah, it’s really great. And there are hundreds of people who are reading the book who will that never ask me about it, will never talk to me about it. It will just be something I’ve written and something they’ve read.
Interview Posted: June 15, 2015
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