Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Lauren Gordon
This week we reviewed The Fiddle is Flood by Lauren Gordon. This stellar lady also took the time to answer some questions for us. Let’s see what she and her adorable pup Buttons have been up to!
Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your art.
I currently reside in a smallish town outside of Milwaukee called Waukesha, although I grew up in Southern California as a valley girl in training. I moved to Iowa in my early twenties for a guy, and the Midwest has informed a lot of my poetry – as did my eventual divorce from that guy. The poems in my chapbook “Fiddle Is Flood” began as an experiment a few years ago and were influenced by a small, untouched prairie across the street from my porch in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin where I relocated. It was such a foreign terrain to me; I went from Moonflowers and low tides to wild mushrooms and mud. “Fiddle” is definitely centered on the pastoral.
Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?
Becoming a mother changed a lot about me, and consequently how I work and what I work on. I think it even changed my brain. My daughter is an endless supply of source material. Louise Gluck’s “The Wild Iris” was important to me as a formative work; I read it as a non-traditional undergraduate going through that divorce. TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland” is another I return to again and again.
Buttons the Magnificent!
How do you generate new ideas for your work?
I read. I read poetry or I read the newspaper, or I read essays about poetry. It’s best when the ideas happen organically as a result of taking notes or just being present, but I don’t always have the energy for that. Sometimes prompts are helpful. It seems a lot easier to drum up ideas than it does to actually craft them. I am hyper-vigilant as a result of how I grew up, so being observant and present is key to my process.
When have you been most satisfied with your work?
This is surprisingly hard to answer. I don’t know if I ever feel satisfied. I usually feel that it is finished or unfinished, or junk. And sometimes I am not sure between those three options.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
That’s trickier to answer. A piece is done when I have gotten some distance from it and can come back to it without seeing anything I want to change. That’s a process that takes anywhere from three months to five years (so far).
What has been your biggest failure and what − if any− lessons were learned?
Failure seems like a loaded word. I regret compiling my first chapbook without spending more time publishing individual pieces. I regret not publishing more when I was in my MFA program. I think I squandered opportunity because I did not understand it. I have learned to slow down my expectations for when a work is complete, and I have learned to not compare myself with other writers. I am learning to take the time to find journals and presses that publish work that I respect and admire – and also that are run by decent human beings. I’m more interested in the kindness and generosity of spirit and art than I am in “name” or quantity. That’s a newer lesson for me.
Tell us about your commitment to the writing community. Outside of your work, what else do you have going on? Or what do you see starting up in your future?
There is a nice group of poets here in Waukesha that I occasionally get together with for workshop, and I’m lucky to have a few friends who believe in my work. That seems important. I’m not sure what the future has in store. My daughter will begin school this next fall and I will need to secure some kind of work – I have no idea what will happen. I have been teaching a few writing classes here and there through the University system for Continuing Education. This summer I’m attending a residency held by Tin House and I am hoping it will generate some new work and give me a better idea of what kind of path to carve out for myself. It’s unsteady footing for me right now. I would just like to create and publish better poetry. Oh, and maybe make some money. I need that stuff desperately.
What is your biggest pet peeve with the writing community, trends, etc. today?
I’m not sure I have a pet peeve – I have observations, but I try to keep them free from judgment. Well ok, here is a get-off-my-lawnism that I am totally guilty of: let me never read another poem that says “what I mean is” or uses the words “bone” or “ghost” or “bird” or “lover”.
What are you working on right now?
Barely anything. Motherhood. I’ve been at a creative standstill for about four months now. I do have one full length manuscript of poetry that I am sending out right now when I can afford it. I also have a chapbook that I am sending out. I really should be publishing more individual pieces from it… Other than that, I am crafting new poems very, very slowly. I am revising another full length manuscript. Slowly. I’m working on keeping my garden alive. I write a book review once a month for Damfino Press, and occasionally I write pieces on motherhood and poetry for Radius Lit.
What are you reading right now?
A combination of trashy romance novels from the library, a brochure for the upcoming state fair, and a few books of poems I hope to review in the next few months: “rel[am]ent” by Jamison Crabtree, “The Well Speaks of its own Poison” by Maggie Smith, “How to be Another” by Susan Lewis. I just bought “The Jitters” by Anne Cecelia Holmes, too.