Poetry News

'It’s very difficult to be a funny poet': An Interview with Patricia Lockwood

By Harriet Staff

Poet and Twitter extraordinaire Patricia Lockwood took part in this interview at Connect Savannah. She talks a bit about her Twitter sexts and her poetry.

Here's a taste of the latter:

The daughter of a Catholic priest, Lockwood grew up as part of a strict religious family in Indiana and Missouri. Both precocious and a self–professed nerd, she started writing poetry at the age of 8. “I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I had a fossil collection. I was extremely lame.”

As a teen, things got a bit more serious. “You have a sort of insane self–confidence that what you’re doing is genius work. And obviously it’s not. But if you persist in that belief for a period of like 15 years, that gives you the sort of swagger that’s necessary to sit down every day and write.”

Young Patricia entered one poetry contest after another, and as the years passed, and her work took on a more surreal tone, she got published in The New Yorker, The Awl, Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary and other prestigious publications.

“I was always very ambitious, even psychotically so,” she explains. “In the sense that when you’re 16 and you have this manuscript of awful poetry, and you’re sending it to contests, clearly you want it to be your destiny that you eventually have a book published.”

Which leads us to Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, a whimsical, ambitious and supremely enjoyable work, from which Lockwood will read at the next installment of Seersucker Live, Oct. 19 at The Book Lady. The event is sponsored by the Poetry Society of Georgia.

“It took me a long time to incorporate humor into my poems,” Lockwood says, “because when you start writing at 8 years old you think poetry is very serious. Later on in life you’re like, wait, I tell a lot of jokes — why do I never tell jokes in poetry? Let’s try to weave those in together a little bit. It’s more difficult than you would think. It’s very difficult to be a funny poet.”

But a “funny poet” she has become. Lockwood believes her “style,” if such a word applies, is setting up her works like jokes.

“I’m using the exact same format, but I’m subbing in a bunch of serious words like ‘death’ and ‘trees’ and ‘the sky,’” she laughs. “So the punchline is designed to make you feel chills as opposed to giggle, if that makes any sense. It’s a bait–and–switch.”

The feature precedes a reading Lockwood will give alongside Aaron Belz. Full article, plus reading details, here.

Originally Published: October 11th, 2012