Small press book reviews and local author interviews
As isolated an activity as reading is, as soon as I finished Pretty Tilt - the first collection of poems by Carrie Murphy* from Keyhole Press - I wanted to talk to somebody about it. But first I needed somebody else around me to read the book. As much as I share her feeling that it is nice to dwell in a place where you don't have to be on twenty-four hours a day, I could certainly do for a community that is better versed in brilliant new poetry such as her's. That is where you find me today, having the other week posted a review of Pretty Tilt over at the website of Anobium Books, I continue my campaign here at Very Literary. Presenting, an interview with Carrie Murphy:
Pretty Tilt charts an exit from childhood in a fluid, nonlinear. What's on the horizon isn't very clear or it's being acted out, anticipated, and those dreams and fantasies are mixed in with the densely populated present - the present, in the case of the poems, being teenagerdom. I love that the book really successfully avoids being nostalgic and instead really captures the feeling of slippage that accompanies the weird permanence of those feelings and situations that are just supposed to shut out childhood and give way to adulthood. You capture the continuous sensation of slipping fast, which creates that sentimentality that is part of the dangerous terrain of covering that topic, growing up, but you just put the reader there. That is an achievement.
It's funny that you say it avoids being nostalgic, because in some ways I feel like the book came from SUCH a nostalgic place for me! I'm kind of in the middle of my young adulthood - I'm 26 - and I was looking back at the beginning of my young adulthood with equal parts shame and cringiness and passion and sadness and lots and lots of nostalgia for both how much more simple life felt, but also how much more scarlet-colored it felt, more dramatic and in many ways more vital.
I still love teenage things, in a way that I'm starting to feel might be a problem. Like, I still love and watch teen television shows and movies, and my favorite thing ever is when fictional characters lose their virginities. I just rewatched Dawson's Creek on Netflix and I was just like "Really? Three seasons to actually have sex?" Shows like that are full of such juicy tropes that are also really rooted in truth.
Adolescence is very much a place of liminality and a place of collage. There's a lot of slippage - and pastage, if that can be a word - there, and I'm not sure it ever fully goes away, not even after other parts of our personalities and interests have solidified. And why would we want it to, really?
You write a lot - specifically, you tweet - about living in the Baltimore/DC area. What do you think of that region as a home to a writer? Are there many commercial opportunities to draw on there? Is there a big literary presence, or is it removed from that world? Do you feel that works for or against you as a writer? What do you think of - this isn't good journalism, this is my extravagant bias - the unsustainable model of only LA/NYC being worthwhile creative destinations?
I tweet about DC and Baltimore a lot because I hate living here! That's not completely true - Baltimore is my hometown, and it will forever feel like home to me. But I now live in a suburb of DC, in Northern Virginia, because my boyfriend is getting a PhD here. It feels very wrong to me. DC is completely different from Baltimore. And I went to graduate school in New Mexico and really became transformed into this full-on Westerner, as much as three years of writing poems in the desert can turn you into a Westerner - probably not at all, most of them would say. As much as I'll always love crabcakes and root for the O's, something about the world out there feels right to my soul in a way that the East Coast never will again.
Actually, both Baltimore and DC have great literary scenes. Adam Robinson and Jen Michalski and the Artichoke Haircut guys do awesome things in Baltimore, and Barrelhouse is doing awesome stuff in DC, too. In fact, I help to curate the Three Tents Reading Series with my friend Mark Cugini, an editor of Big Lucks. It's in DC, and it's been great so far. So my dislike of the area has nothing to do with the great writers who live here and who have made it their home!
But I do harbor some resentment for the idea that you're a "real writer" when you live in New York, or San Francisco, or something like that. Especially if you work outside of academia. My time in New Mexico made me realize that big expensive cities are not really places where I want to live, so my perspective is very different, but I also think that there are plenty of worthwhile places to live and work and write here in the United States.
I have this same problem in movies and TV, when the characters always live in NYC or LA. Like, really? Because there are plenty of stories to tell in cities all around this country. I guess it's just the fact that lots of creative people do live in those places, but I don't like the idea that that's what you have to do to "make it" or to be considered legitimate. I like smaller communities, and that includes smaller lit communities. Also I perceive this pressure in NYC to be always going to readings and doing lit scene stuff, and I don't want to be in a lit scene all the time. Some of the time, hell yes! But not always.
I do think the perception of NYC/LA and as "the" places to live if you're a writer is changing a bit. At least I hope so!
I love your food blog Plums in the Icebox, and you also write about health for Blisstree in addition to having Pretty Tilt out - are you into writing regardless of the mode and topic? Do you feel drawn to journalistic writing as much as poetry, or is one mode more important to you than another?
I'm lucky that I have been able to cobble together somewhat of a living writing. I'm still working on the whole actual living part, but I do get paid to write. I am not trained as a journalist at all; in fact, the only thing I am trained in is poetry! So I am taking it as it comes. I love doing my health and food and occasional culture writing because it's fun and interesting, not to mention different. I've been reading the internet forever, but I haven't been writing for the internet forever, so I'm always learning about what to do and how to do it. Plus I can learn about all sorts of stuff that I wonder about, like the best apple pie recipes, restaurants, some female celebrity's workout routine. It's awesome to be able to tie my different interests into my writing.
I find that my poetry is minorly informed by my other writing, but it's taken a bit of a backseat since I began freelancing. I've never been really prolific, but now when I have an idea for a poem I have to make notes right away, or it gets washed away in a sea of my random tweets!
What's your favorite venue you've ever been published in? What's your favorite venue you have yet to conquer?
Good question! And a hard one. I love PANK because it's consistently awesome and because it was one of my first publications when I was in grad school. But I love other journals, too, like NAP which just put out the coolest all-female issue, and Two Serious Ladies, too! My dream of life (actually the past year) is to have a piece of writing published in Rookie Mag. Poem, essay, whatever. And how ironic, because it's an online magazine for teenage girls!
Do you have anything you're doing that you'd like to plug or any project by someone else you'd like to call attention to?
For a project I'd like to call attention to, I love the Runcible Spoon, which is a quirky food zine run by my friend, Malaka Gharib. They published a poem of mine in their most recent issue. Also my friends Mike Meginnis and Tracy Bowling do great work with their journal Uncanny Valley. Another friend, Austin Tremblay, has a poetry and nonfiction journal, Owl Eye Review, which people should also check out. My other friend, Autumn Giles, has a great podcast, Alphabet Soup, where she interviews people about food and writing. If it's totally nepotistic to point out what people I know and like are doing, I will add that I love Autumn Whitefield-Madrano's blog the Beheld: Beauty, and What It Means. There's always so much fascinating stuff to ponder about femininity and looks and feminism over there.
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