HOW IT BEGAN: All I thought about when writing this book was whether the poems were honest in their investigations. While there are many poets I love, I don’t always think of their collections as a whole. I think instead of beautiful, sonic, individual poems and strong lines. I like it when a poem visits me unexpectedly while I’m doing the dishes or sitting around trying to figure out a feeling. There’s an emotional connection that a good, powerful poem can make across timelines and spaces. I often think there is so much more to that poem than the poet who originally wrote it. I think a poem is sometimes a conversation that was so powerful it was meant to continue.
My veil is fried tongue & chicken wire, hanging off to one side.
I am a Mexican American fascinator.
—from “Do You Speak Virgin?”
With this collection I tried to honor the power that language carries by writing first, then seeing what might go together. I like to explore the feelings between feelings, the relationships that aren’t exactly linear. That led me to an anachronistic project through which I wrote from the perspective of a young woman trying to understand love, loneliness, and desire. At times Greek myth, Victorian life, and the Southwestern landscape all arrived in the same poem. I was questioning what has changed and not changed about the power dynamics of relationships. The book shaped itself in the spirit of that transformation.
INSPIRATION: How a delicious, quiet dinner can make a conversation with a friend go on for hours until, by the end of it, life seems a little nicer. The titles of most surrealist works. Bodies of water. Art nouveau. Thrift shops. Victorian curiosities. Old love songs. New love songs.
INFLUENCES: Elizabeth Bishop, Larry Levis, Louise Glück, Sharon Olds, Jack Gilbert,
Franz Wright, Dorothea Lasky, Sylvia Plath, Anne Carson, Lorrie Moore, Andre Dubus.
WRITER’S BLOCK REMEDY: I’ve decided I don’t always have to be writing. I let myself live and try to let go of the pressure to always physically write. In some ways it feels like I’m collecting feeling. That’s not to say I don’t sit down and try regularly to get something on the page, but it might not look like a poem. It might look like writing in a journal about what I’ve seen and heard that day. That process helps me feel more willing to listen to what’s possible rather than predetermine what I think I should be on the page.
ADVICE: Try to write authentically and read as much as possible; make notes on all of your favorite first books, and love poems more than publishing. Love poems.
AGE: 32. RESIDENCE: Houston, Texas. JOB: I work in communications, marketing, and development at a nonprofit. TIME SPENTWRITING THE BOOK: Seven years. TIMESPENT FINDING A HOME FOR IT: A coupleof years.