An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling
Leah Umansky: Reading Vow, is like peering into someone’s secret past. A woman is said to be married. Her fiancé dies. She is left, bereft and almost-helpless. It reminds me much of Jane Eyre (for what would Jane be without her Rochester?). On the other hand, it reminds me of Charlotte Bronte herself and the way the Bronte Parsonage was both her home and her fortress. She died soon after she was married, too. With this said, how does your poetry lend itself to allusions? Do you find these books and stories are intrinsic to your life as a writer, or do you seek out these connections?
Kristina Marie Darling: That’s a great question. Most of my poems arise out of my life as a reader. I’ve always been intrigued by Marianne Moore’s use of the term “conversity,” a word she coined to describe the dialogic nature of poetry. With that in mind, I envision my poems as a response to the work that came before my own. By that I don’t just mean poetry, but also fiction, visual art, and literary theory. I’ve always thought it was the writer’s job to not only revise and modify earlier texts, but to forge connections between different texts. With Vow, I definitely sought to explore the relevance of these nineteenth century women’s texts to contemporary debates about language, gender and received literary forms.
For me, Vow represents a corrective gesture. In much of nineteenth century literary culture, women’s writing occupied a marginal space. For example, the sketchbook – which consisted of songs, notes, poems, diary entries, and a mixture of many other types of writing — was considered a predominantly female literary form. More often than not, literary forms that were marked as female were relegated to a private space. When writing Vow, I was interested in taking this marginal space, which women’s writing so often occupied, and making it a focal point.
LU: I’m interested in the speaker of these poems. I know you just founded your own feminist press, Noctury Press, so I know you have a clear relationship to gender in writing. What is her connection to the self? She’s strong, yet impressionable. She wants answers. She wants direction. She wants. What governs her? Is it desire? Is it loneliness? Is it the story inside being the bride? Women are expected to be so many different roles, besides being a woman.
For example: She “doesn’t know how” to use her wings.
She “doesn’t know how” to wear the dress.
She tries “ascending,” but says “it’s hard to know.”
She says,“a locked room, but what else?”
KMD: I’m very interested in the notion of the palimpsest, a text that is written, erased, and written over again and again. This is exactly how I envisioned the speaker of the poems in Vow. She is inscribed and reinscribed with many different roles, expectations, and normative ideas about gender. These range from the complex culture surrounding weddings — the white dress, the ceremony, and the other accompanying rituals — to the myriad beliefs about what a wife should be, and what constitutes failure as a wife. The speaker of these poems definitely feels that she has failed as a wife, and as a result, she has been buried alive by the many normative ideas about marriage that have been inscribed onto her. She is motivated by the desire to erase this palimpsest, and find out what’s underneath the words and beliefs others have imposed upon her marriage and her identity. With that said, she is also interested in carefully documenting everything, for herself and for other women in her position.
Read the whole Interview here
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