Interview With Dorianne Laux

Most of what I had read were novels, though I choose to respond in poetry.   

What advice do you wish you had gotten as a teen?

       I wish someone would have told me to revel in it, to remember the strength and beauty of my body, and to read even more than I did.  

Tell us about a time when you were brave, or bravery was required of you, or you saw someone else being brave.

       I once jumped off a cliff edge into the ocean below.  Only the boys were doing it, and I felt some nascent feminist urge to create a moment of gender equality. When I hit the water, it felt as if my bowels were being thrust into my chest cavity, and the waves preceded to crush me up against the jagged rocks.  The boys dove in and saved me, so there you go.  The bravest thing I ever saw was my sister, standing up to my father, knowing he would beat her.  I was never that brave.  

How do you start a poem? Give us a window into your process.  

       There is never one certain method or way into a poem.  If something strikes me, a sound, an image, a phrase, a smell, a gesture, I begin with that, and only that.  Often, I'll begin with the language itself, a jar of words, shaking out a handful and spreading them out, and starting there, with a constellation of words, how to connect them beautifully.  I might find a quote that gets me thinking, questioning, wondering, wanting to respond.  A texture, a color, a story or memory.  And often, whatever got me started, drifts away, and the poem emerges on some far shore, whittled down to the essence of itself, like driftwood or beach glass.  

 

What is your motto for getting through the tough times?

       Keep reading and writing, keep trying, be willing to fail.  It isn't easy to write a poem, it's not supposed to be easy, and failure is a gift, it is the way we humans learn and why those few successes are so sweet.  As poets, we have nothing to lose, little to gain, which gives us a kind of wealth and freedom. Poems take time, and the blood and bone of life.