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Susan Lewis Interviews Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.

 

 

SL: Reading The Sun and the Moon is a bit like dreaming to a beautiful and haunting soundtrack. The book makes use of incantation, repetition, iteration and reiteration to create a mysterious and ceremonial solemnity. And then there’s the celestial bodies which inhabit the narrative, not to mention the astronomical clocks looming over everything. Can you talk about the etymology of this book, and how it might relate to astronomy, dreams, music, or the supernatural?

 

 

KMD: That’s a great question. I’m very interested in relationships that are haunted: by the past, by landscapes, and by one’s own imagination. The Sun & the Moon is essentially a love story, one that’s haunted by celestial bodies. The book takes the astronomical clock as its central metaphor, depicting astral bodies that are forever orbiting one another, and forever distant from one another. Their union is haunted by a sky filled with debris and dead stars, the remnants of what once was a burst of light.

 

In its own strange way, the book is very autobiographical. I believe that poetry can be autobiographical, and deeply personal, yet still imaginative, unruly, and strange. For me, creating an imaginary world like the one found in The Sun & the Moon is almost more personal than writing down what actually “happened,” since the reader sees and experiences what (for me) was the emotional truth. After all, there is no objective truth to be had, not even for scientists.

 

SL: I very much agree – the notion of the “personal” is so much roomier than that of the “confessional.” I’m fascinated by the poems from The Other City, which I am pleased to be publishing in a future issue of Posit. They seem to address an ‘other’ version of what might be considered ‘ordinary’ reality: weddings, elementary school, daily civic life, etc. I also love the prose poems which you recently published in The Tupelo Quarterly, from The Arctic Circle. Can you tell us a bit about those collections, and when and where we might get the chance to read them?

 

KMD: Thank you for the kind words about my new poems! The Other City is still a work in progress. The poems are a bit different from my previous work, since they use sound to forge connections between ideas and images within the text, and essentially to create narrative continuity. I think of them as an engagement with Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, as well as the work of more contemporary writers: Hanna Andrews, Thalia Field, and Inger Christensen. A couple of the poems are forthcoming in Laurel Review, and I’m thrilled to have several pieces in Posit. I hope to have the manuscript ready to send out by the end of the year.

And The Arctic Circle was just released by BlazeVOX Books. In this collection, you’ll find a newly minted wife, the ghost of another wife, and a man whose true love was found frozen inside his house. I hope you’ll check it out! It’s perfect for Halloween, after all.

 



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INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN LEWIS INTERVIEW BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING

 
INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN LEWIS
INTERVIEW BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING


Kristina Marie Darling: Your newest collection, This Visit, was recently released byBlazeVOX Books. What would you like readers to know before they dive in?


Susan Lewis: This Visit is a four-part investigation in couplets into subjectivity, ephemerality, and above all mortality (as the title suggests). The sections are intended to bounce off of, as well asecho, one another. The first offers a series of poems titled “My Life in . . .” (Dogs, Sheets, etc.) which play with plasticity and porosity of identity/identification. Section two contains another series of what I think of as abstract epistolary poems (Dear Tomorrow, Dear Subjectivity, etc.). The poems in the third section are the most lyric of the lot, written in orderly, left-aligned couplets. The fourth offers meditative experimentswhose leaps and non-linear connections are evoked by the space (and breath) incorporated into their more open and irregulartextures.


KMD: I admire the ways your poems use sound to forge connections between ideas and images within the text. In many ways, you make the reader question their fixation on the semantic meaning of words, and ask them to hear instead the music inherent in everyday speech. What does sound make possible for you within a poem, and within a narrative?


SL: You are quite right about my interest in challenging readers’ expectation of transparency from verbal artifacts – a function, no doubt, of language’s ubiquity and utility. Forefronting the sound of words – in conjunction and counterpoint with their meaning – is one way to bring them to the reader’s attention as the aesthetic material of this art form. The music of language is also a way to awaken the reader’s attention to unexpected, hopefully resonant connections. The dance between sensual effects and “meaning”can generate a lot of energy.


KMD: Your new collection, This Visit, is formally distinct from your previous books, State of the Union and How To Be Another. You've shifted gracefully from prose forms to lineated verse. What unique opportunities does lineated verse offer for the writer?


SL: Well, I still love the prose poem – with regard to the line, I am definitely polyamorous! Where I see the prose poem as solid, compressed, and powerful, like an atom to be split, or a fist– I view lineated verse (in the writing as well as the reading) as lithe, sinuous, and (potentially) lacy, like a tendril or a fingertip. One opportunity lineation offers is the integration of breath/white space (depending upon whether one is considering the aural or the visual experience of the poem) into the fabric of the poem. Just as the absence of breath/white space gives prose poems a certain power and concentration, its presence in lineated poems offers an extra material to work with. To the extent space and breath invite the reader to stand back, contemplate, and muse, lineation can be conducive to a lighter, more suggestive touch. Even in more blocky presentations, lineated verse declares to the reader, in no uncertain terms, that this is a poem! – a piece of art rather than ‘simply’communication. Not to mention lineation’s visual dimension – whether it involves periodicity or unpredictability, stability or disruption. And then there’s the vast plasticity of the line (and break)! (Hence the inherent defiance of the prose poem, whose prose blocs seduce the reader to “relax” into reading, only todemand that they interact with the work on poetic terms).

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in Poet's Quarterly

  

Review: The Visit by Susan Lewis


Mary Kasimor
This Visit
Susan Lewis
BlazeVOX
Paperback, 104 pages
978-1-60964-169-6
http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/new-releases/this-visit-by-susan-lewis-384/

In Susan Lewis’ latest collection of poetry, This Visit, she informs the reader of the paradox of being alive in the poem, “Severence:” “the world too beautiful/despite these flaked years.” She repeats this throughout the book, reiterating her passion for existence through metaphors and sleight-of-hand magical language. Lewis creates a landscape of language that shifts meaning and then doubles back to remind the reader of what her main intent is in this collection. I believe that a poet writes from a sense of urgency; that is, a poet looks for the source of life and the meaning of life by writing poetry, and Lewis is accomplishing that in this book. She writes these poems as means to explain and explore the complexities and the fragility of human existence. She explains the inevitable in the poem, “My Life in Microbes:”


But (you say)
      some of my best friends are—

to which I nod:
      decay


It is a simple response to read and enjoy This Visit as a book that is filled with word play, puns, and intellectual maneuvers. However, there is much more to this collection of poetry than one finds in the first reading. Lewis gives the reader a sense of urgency in her poems, even as they come across as being delightfully clever. There is a seriousness written between the lines of these poems, and Lewis is very serious in her intentions in This Visit.


Lewis’ title, This Visit, suggests that someone is going to or has gone “to see” another place on this earth or in someone’s psyche. It can be agreed that we are merely “visiting” the earth and that our visits are temporary and may be occasional. As humans, we try to hang onto life as we know it and as we see and experience it with as much surety as possible. But regardless of our urge and desire to stay, it is only temporary. We try to convince ourselves that we will continue to live forever, and we posture and present ourselves in that way. Lewis tells us this in the poem, “My Life in Sheets:” “strapped & / balanced/ in their come-hither / wrappers, misconstrued & /moribund, mould’ring in / chat chat chat…” As humans, we are firmly entrenched in the idea of always being here, on this earth, but as humans, we also have memory, and we realize that is not how existence continues. It discontinues and is tenuous and fleeting, and it is not at all secure and eternal.

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Susan Lewis interviewed in The Review Review

 Sophisticated Contemporary: a Chat With Susan Lewis, Editor of New Online Magazine Posit 

Interview with Susan Lewis—Editor of Posit



Celebrating their third issue and working hard on their fourth coming out in November, 2014, Posit is a journal soliciting accomplished pieces that have an immediate and direct impact on the reader. Posit publishes poetry, very short fiction, and visual arts, and takes in submissions through Submittable. 

Interview by Martin van Velsen

Posit is a journal very much in between established genres/formats and cutting edge or perhaps thought-provoking. First of all does this characterize the journal accurately and if so how did this come about?

Yes, very much so. We are all about publishing work we can’t NOT publish – work that commands our attention and continues to reward it with layers of implication, innovation, and artistry. It’s worth pointing out, though, that subtlety can also take our breath away. We’re not all about shock value. Posit’s goal is to provide an aesthetically pleasing showcase for carefully curated, highly innovative work that is not circumscribed by affiliation with any particular poetic movement or aesthetic clique.

For any journal featuring pieces that are perhaps a bit hard hitting, thought provoking or perhaps even shocking is always a risk. How has this worked out for the journal so far? 

Well, so far we feel rewarded rather than punished for taking those particular risks! We’re thrilled and grateful for the response we’ve gotten to our first three issues – as gauged by reader responses, of course, but also by the number, quality, and style of the submissions we’re getting. As a result, our next two issues (Posit 4 and 5) are already closed, and we’re on the way to filling issue 6!

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Susan Lewis interviewed in Words in Place

 

Interview with Susan Lewis: Is it Poetry, Prose Poem, or Flash?


Susan Lewis lives in New York City and edits Posit. She is the author of How to be Another (Červená Barva Press, 2014), State of the Union(Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2014), The Following Message (White Knuckle Press, 2013), At Times Your Lines(Argotist Ebooks, 2012), Some Assembly Required (Dancing Girl Press, 2011), Commodity Fetishism, winner of the 2009 Červená Barva Press Chapbook Award, and Animal Husbandry (Finishing Line Press, 2008).
Gay Degani: I've read many of your poems – especially your prose poems – but before we get started with discussing that subject, I thought my first question should be more about you, for me and the readers to get to know you. Can you tell me a little more about what brought you to writing? I noticed from your extended biography that you went to law school. Being a lawyer means lots and lots of writing, did that play any part in your decision to turn to writing?

Susan Lewis: It’s true that law involves plenty of writing – and reading. That was probably why I thought I might be better suited to the field than I was! I’d been a bookworm since I was tiny: a bit sickly, I was always reading. I was also taken all over the world (school be damned!) by my parents, who were globe-trotting Hollywood producers – and spent a lot of time in planes, trains, cars, and hotel rooms – reading. 

By the time I was a teenager I had powered through the canon. As for writing, when I was six or seven, I fell in love with a slim volume of poems by Basho, and started writing Haiku, Tanka, etc. I kept writing poetry, plays, and short stories until I went to college, where I studied – and therefore wrote – literature and film criticism. After which I wanted to be “relevant” and “engaged” in social justice – hence my foray into law. The fact is law taught me plenty about discipline and accuracy. But it was not a great fit. I’m no warrior – I’ve always loathed competition. And intellectually, I’m more intuitive than methodical, preferring insight to argumentation, implication to explication.
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