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We Are All Mad: An Interview with Cynthia Cruz

By Harriet Staff

Over at The Rumpus, Lisa Wells conducts this interview with Cynthia Cruz.

Wells begins with this introduction:

Most people in love with poetry have, at one time or another, opened a journal and felt disgusted or baffled by the poems inside, and wondered why the hell the editors chose them, and speculated subsequently about nepotism and clique adherence, and what about my own poems if this is what it’s come to? We have at least this much in common, even if the very poems that fail to move you are my favorites and vice versa. We keep coming back to the journal because occasionally it introduces us to a poet who grabs us, moves us, and the discovery gets us high.

That’s how I found Cynthia Cruz, in 2006, in a hand-me-down copy of the American Poetry Review, two poems that later appeared in her debut collection Ruin. I read, Woke on the highway, / Thin in my dead brother’s clothes. / I was gone but still dreaming. // A desert city strobing in the distance like sex and fell instantly in love. Her poems were spare, fierce, dark little packages that managed to feel both mystical—almost like fairytales—and contemporary with their references to drugs and Greyhound stations. The speaker in those poems was consumed with guilt and self-loathing, precariously navigating her ruined world, the forfeited kingdom of childhood. She seemed, in my grim 24 year old brain, to speak directly to me. Ruin was the first book I’d ever ordered before it was released. That was six years ago and I am seriously giddy about her second collection, The Glimmering Room, due out from Four Way Books this October.

Here’s a taste of the interview itself, where Wells asks Cruz about the madness in her work:

In both books there’s this thread of imagery that seems almost hallucinogenic. Sometimes it’s drug-induced, like in the poem “Molotov” (I got my dream pills. // They’re wrapped in tin foil / And it’s going to be alright) Sometimes it feels more spiritual, sometimes mad. Can you talk about the madness in your work? Or is it religiosity operating there? Some marriage of the two?

Cruz: To begin with: we are all mad, it’s simply a matter of where we are on that continuum. My mind is what saved me, as a child. Thank God, I was able to vanish into the world of my mind. But, conversely, it can also be a dangerous thing. The mind can play tricks. Was Joan of Arc mad? Simone Weil? Glenn Gould? Where’s the line between bravery and honesty and genius and madness? Sometimes it overlaps. I suffered from anorexia for many years (from the age of eleven) and that is quite certainly a kind of madness. My mind told me things that quite simply were not true. I had to fight against my mind.

And then, as you say, there is the spiritual. Back to Joan of Arc and Simone Weil: mystics or mad women? Virginia Woolf? Was she “mad” or driven mad? Finally, I am not content with the idea that people who suffer from madness of any kind ought to be marginalized. Nearly everyone I know in New York City is on one kind of medication or another for anxiety or depression or what have you, so again, it’s a matter of where we fall on the continuum which is really, in the end, just luck.

Full interview here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.