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Dorothea Lasky Interviews Cassandra Gillig at Los Angeles Review of Books
Stardate: [-27] 00640.00 = Day 1 of Dorothea Lasky’s stead at Los Angeles Review of Books and the inaugural post in her new column called “Five Questions and Five Answers with Dorothea Lasky.” Dip your toe into this newly discovered effervescent universe from a diving board located right here, right now:
HELLO AND WELCOME to my new poetry column, “Five Questions and Five Answers with Dorothea Lasky,” where I (you guessed it!) interview a new poet each column about their poetry, poetics, and other related issues. In it, I hope to broaden the discourse surrounding contemporary poetry.
The first poet I have chosen to interview is the absolutely electrifying Cassandra Gillig! Here is some information about her:
Cassandra co-edits Big Lucks Books with Mark Cugini and Same Text, a revival press started to reprint Hannah Weiner’s Clairvoyant Journals, with Nathaniel Otting. Her poetry album, Sex Beach, was recently released by Black Cake Records, and her mash-ups can be found on her blog or band camp.
Cassandra created a mash-up with one of my poems, “Who to Tell,” and Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” specifically for this column, and I am so honored. The link is below.
Without further ado, here are five questions and five answers:
You have done some really cool mash-ups of poetry and hip-hop songs that places like The Poetry Foundation and NYU Local have written about, where you did things like mix Frank O’Hara’s “Ode to Joy” with Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” to create the new song “Ode to the Best I Ever Had.” I think when I first saw these, I realized we were soulmates. I think a lot of people felt this way, which means something for how important hip-hop is to contemporary poetry. What made you decide to do this, and do you have plans for any future mash-ups?
Thank you for the compliments! My soul is way honored. I originally started making the mash-ups with my own poems. I was interested in the way that you can manipulate an audience’s emotional response to a poem by putting music behind it. Eventually I started working with recordings of other poets because it was more fun (I am a bad poet — no good — it was boring). I have always found that my favorite poets are ones who are so impassioned and invested in the things they are saying that it almost sounds like they’re singing. You’re a good example of this. Poets Dana Ward and Alice Notley are another two that quickly come to mind. Some poets have such a ridiculously good sense of rhythm in everything they write. Actually, people have a natural rhythm that arises during conversation that many don’t notice. Like, some say that iambic pentameter “perfectly fills the lungs,” thus is an accurate reflection of the natural rhythms of human speech. And it’s true if you think about the way that you’re generally drawn to speak. So a lot of poetry is written to a meter that — whether consciously or not — plays into that really pleasing cadence of conversation. Poets are a lot more cognizant of this than other writers, I think. Anyway, the mash-ups made all of this terribly evident to me, and this discovery really ended up being what carried the project along, kept me trying out new poets and new songs. This will be an experiment that goes on for forever, since it’s something that’s very much changed the way I look at poetry. I will keep making mash-ups until I die, or until I get sued. [...]
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