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At Austinist: Dorothea Lasky Talks Persona, Confessionalism, Democracy of 7-Eleven, ++

By Harriet Staff

An interview with Thunderbird author Dorothea Lasky has just been published at Austinist. Lasky talks about, among other things, how 7-Eleven is “a more democratic space than a Whole Foods,” and the troublesome terms and suitability of confessionalism. More:

At one point in the book you mention that you’re more comfortable in a 7-Eleven than a Whole Foods. Why do you think that is, and what does that say about you?

Well, I guess I’m trying to get the persona in the book to set up a certain relationship with social class, that ease and a particular place that might be more, hopefully, democratic. It’s kind of crazy to think of 7-Eleven as democratic, but I think it’s a more democratic space than a Whole Foods, to me. I guess I just made a plug for 7-Eleven, but if that gets me extra slurpees than I’m into it. I’d rather have a 7-Eleven slurpee than something else.

That’s actually really fascinating because you brought up the word persona, but then even in the description from your book it uses the word confession. So I was wondering, in the broader context, to what extent is the persona just a version of you versus something entirely fictionalized.

People before have brought up the word confession in relationship to my poems, and in a way it’s a compliment because to me it connects me to some of my favorite poets, among them being Sylvia Plath. But I’ve always really been irked by the term confession just because no matter how much an artist or musician or poet puts their actual experience into their work, I myself feel that it is a slightly derogatory term, the way it can be used in terms of poetry. So in my own opinion, I would love to not take up the term as much as possible. That’s why I always force that the “I” in the poem is not me, because it’s not.

The word does have, in literary circles, a somewhat negative connotation.

Yeah it does, and maybe unnecessarily, but I think that the way that it is used, it can be a put down, and I don’t like that connection to it. I’ve just never really liked that term. And I think that, traditionally, the poets that it has been associated with, I don’t know that it best describes their work, either. I feel like it sums it up in a particular, snappy way, but I don’t think it’s the correct term, so I’m interested to see what scholars will come up with for those poets, and maybe that’ll be a word I’ll like better [laughs].

Sometimes it stands in for “too amateur to separate themselves from their work,” but that’s obviously not what you’re doing. Maybe you will be the one who reclaims that word for good rather than evil.

I guess I don’t totally understand—and this probably can’t be answered by us exactly—but I don’t totally understand why all poets, then, wouldn’t be called confessional. There’s just so many where, if you were to sit there and have a biographical record, you could find a lot of connections. But I just don’t see what the point is of that, in the understanding of their work.

The idea that even the most fictional novel you come up with that has nothing to do with the author’s life is a confession, right?

Yes it is. I thought a lot about how, when you’re writing non-fiction, there’s almost like a morality issue because whatever you’re saying is supposed to be totally true, because it’s non-fiction, while fiction writers have all this freedom to do whatever they want, and it doesn’t matter if it’s actually a true story because it’s fiction, and these writers don’t have the same responsibilities. But a poet gets stuck somewhere in the middle, and I feel that, when you don’t realize the poet’s form and content is kind of a vast persona, or what the poet is doing, it’s like you might be missing some of what’s great about poetry.

Read the full interview.

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.