I Was Standing in a Hole the Other Day: an Interview with Jennifer Denrow

By Harriet Staff

Jennifer Denrow, author of two chapbooks and the full-length California, took part in an interview with Whitney DeVos at Sonora Review.

The interview centers around dislocation and Wonder (or the sad lack thereof) as evidenced by these examples:

WD: As regards bewilderment and imagination—how do you see these relating to our position in history, our collective consciousness, etc.? Also, poetry? Any advice for a young contemporary writer?

JD: I think imagination and bewilderment are tops—wonder, for me, is the most important emotion—to be able to maintain wonder and be in the world (in order to be in the world, maybe). I can never know what anything means. It feels like I want to—like the correspondence I try to create with everything that’s outside of me is purposed to result in meaning, but I don’t think that’s it—I think it’s more like trying to understand how everything can mean so much and wandering around inside the suggestion that it does. It feels like an invitation I have to remain attentive to.

In terms of how this relates to our position in history, or in poetry, I’m not sure. There is something in the way things are made—or in the way they are made to be to one another: I was standing in a hole the other day, a hole in the beach, the sand had been moved, etc, and this couple walking by (it was dark) approaches, very suspiciously, and the woman says what’s going on here. And the man says, hey, you’re standing in a hole, why are you standing in that hole, and I said because it’s something i do—and then he said, so you know you’re in a hole and I said yes, I love holes. This was all very mysterious for the couple but for me it felt regular. I don’t know why thinking about wonder and our place within history and poetry made me think of this story but it did.

And, later:

WD: What is at stake for us today, as “Californians,” Americans, humans, citizens of planet earth, attempting to make meaning etc.?

JD: What’s at stake: is it loss of wonder?

WD: I wonder, how we can court/cultivate wonder in a world in which we may Google everything, or in which places we’ve never been look exactly how they looked on “Planet Earth” or in some movie, etc., What can things mean in a world in which the survival of wonder is at stake? How do we create worlds in which meaning is integral? Is the point of art to create a mirror/a two way mirror/a different mode of being?

JD: I know. Wonder is so hard to keep. I was reading this article about David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who thinks about time. He says when we’re young, the world is unfamiliar so time takes forever to pass because we’re learning about the world, but as we age, time speeds up because we’re familiar with what’s here. That’s why it’s so hard—familiarity: it can mess everything up. His research was centered on near-death experiences or moments of fear when everything slows down. The best thing he says is that we’re in a time lapse—that our brains need time to figure things out and then what is figured out is revealed to us. That the brain is constantly making decisions about the information that’s important/necessary for us to have is something I like to think about. What else is really happening? What gets censored? How can anyone tell if what we get is the right stuff—it’s necessary for survival, I’m sure, but is it the right stuff?

There’s a book. It’s called The Truth About Stories and in it is written that “the truth about stories is that’s all we are.” That feels right to me.

Originally Published: August 12th, 2011