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St. Louis Magazine Talks to Patricia Lockwood

By Harriet Staff

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Up today at St. Louis Magazine is “Six Questions for Patricia Lockwood!” You know you can’t get enough of the “one-book poet to social media starlet,” as Aaron Belz has it. And if you’re in St. Louis, she’s reading there on Monday night. But then back to literary formation:

3. Let’s move out of the spotlight and back into the shadows of literary formation. What made you want to be a poet in the first place?

Man, who knows. The call is as distinctive as a kazoo, nothing else sounds like it. You know it’s going to make you a nerd to follow it—the worst of all nerds, a kazoo nerd!—but you just have to go. I knew poetry existed and that seemed to be the quarter the call was coming from, so I went.

4. Which poets or works do you consider primary influences?

It was the metaphysical poets and the Modernists for me, along with the time-traveling lyric assassins like Dickinson and Rilke. There was the Bible too, of course. The rhythms were so fine and firm and went from argument to seduction and back again, sometimes within the same verse. The Bible is one long woo, really.

Then there were the outside influences, which for me came in the form of comedy and comic strips. Gary Larson and Jack Handey were just as important to me as any poet. Hell, you could learn how to write poetry from CATHY if you wanted—there was no more mortal figure than Cathy, locked in the prison of her bikini body, in eternal rebellion against it, sweating.

5. It seems no topic is off-limits for you. Your wit skewers cherished figures like Emily Dickinson and Benjamin Franklin, challenges traditional notions of sexual and national identity, and playfully deconstructs social media. Is there any topic that you’re reluctant to approach?

The closest I get to tackling a topic is to fall on it by accident, so I don’t spend much time considering which topics are approachable and which are not. They’ll either trip me or they won’t. Within the poem, I don’t feel much of a sense of taboo, just because it’s a very open space. If it occurs to me, I write it down. It’s never out of any desire to shock, it’s just out of a desire to see what happens next, what happens after that, and how far it can go. Historically I’ve been shy about writing directly about myself, but when I did, I found that I had the same what-then, what-next, keep-going impulse. It’s a narrative impulse, at heart, to see a story through to the end.

Read it all at St. Louis Magazine.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.