Poetry News

Dorothea Lasky Talks About Thunderbird and I, Violet (!) at BOMBLOG

By Harriet Staff

Dorothea Lasky talks about Thunderbird at BOMBLOG! There's not much better. "The flavor of sensate mortality is thick on these pages," writes Jonathan Aprea. "...[F]lip through them and read windswept sadness and world-hurt. Read good and evil, confusion and acuity. Read also a howling authority, a life grabbed by its gnarled horns and shown itself in the bathroom mirror." "Well it’s supposed to be [more mystical]," says DL. After an encounter with Rangda, the "evil demonic woman who controls all evil," Lasky talks Buddhism, death, Catullus, kindness, and color. A bit:

DL Yeah, it’s not a mind-blowing or complex idea, but death is an equalizer. It kind of equalizes all ways of definition. It kind of, in a way, extends a kindness to all other beings. Because once we realize that that’s going to happen to us, it’s obviously an ultimate empathy. I mean maybe that’s like that one particular poem. And also, we were talking about the transformation of the I and the other beings in the poem. That’s something that also connects all poets. You know, poets are always all communicating to each other even past being a living being. There’s always an immortal conversation happening among poets or people that are wanting to speak to each other through poetry. Like Jack Spicer. Have you ever read some of his letters to Lorca? He talks a little bit about that. Just how poets would rather talk to other dead poets, because there’s a kind of gentleness that happens when they’re communicating in a poem, and nothing else can get to that kind of kindness between people. And Catullus talks a little bit about this. Do you like Catullus?

JA I do.

DL Catullus talks about that, like: fuck you or I love you or whatever—the poem is the immortal thing, and I’m doing something to communicate with my other brother by putting this in a poem.

JA And you respond to Catullus directly in this book.

DL Yeah, there’s a lot of Catullus.

JA It doesn’t come up as much in Thunderbird, but in Black Life, all of the direct address to different people and using their names and stuff like that, it reminded me very much of Catullus.

DL I don’t know if you saw it, liking Catullus—there’s a reference to Clodia.

JA Oh Clodia. I couldn’t tell if that was that.

DL Yeah, that’s that. That’s her. And in the same way, this book is talking to her because I have a relationship with her as well, being a poet. And she has lots of names in the book. I call her a lot of names other than Clodia.

JA Interesting.

DL We all have a Clodia (laughter).

JA I remember last summer I read some poems that you had published on BOMB’s website. They all had to do with different colors. One was explicitly green, one was blue, and one was orange I think. And color is something that comes up a lot in Thunderbird as well as in your other works. It’s a very visual way of writing. It made me think a lot about color in my own work.

DL I’m teaching a class now about color and poetry at NYU, and I am going to start teaching one through Brooklyn Poets soon. I’m trying to write a book about color; it’s going to be called I, Violet. Those poems are from seven poems I wrote which were sketches, where each color is a character. The whole thing’s about murder. It’s like a horror play thing, and that’s a little chapbook that’s going to be called ROYGBIV. But the bigger book’s going to be called I, Violet—it’s trying to think really closely about what happens when you look at all dimensions of a color. This isn’t a mind-blowing idea of mine, but making an image in a person’s mind is the most important thing you can do, or one of the most important things you can do—a responsibility that you have to engage someone’s imaginative space. I think of it as a physical space where you can decorate and plant things within. So you have a responsibility to do that (if that’s what you want to do—I don’t want to be moralistic about it) and color is a really easy and wonderful way to do that. To connect language with that imaginative space. I guess I think it’s important in that way. And also, I just always wanted to paint word paintings. Because, you know, I would have loved to have had any skill visually. It would have made me happy to work in that vein. I never tried. My mom is a painter and an art historian. But very early I knew I was a poet and that I wasn’t a painter. But it’s kind of that instinct that drives my interest in color poems.

JA They talk about that in fiction, they call it “the fictional dream”: being entrapped in a flow while reading, you know, a movie going on inside of your head. And that is something that I think happens more in your work than with some other poets’ work. It’s accessible to a degree that you can have that experience.

DL I just think color is really, really important. There are so many things that are really important that I think we spend a lot of time acting as if they are not important. It’s just this afterthought in a lot of arenas, that things are certain colors. You know, obviously there are some places where it is important, like advertising or a TV show or something like that. But in a lot of ways, even if people are color-coding, they’re not thinking deeply about those colors. They’re just differentiating between things, “oh this folder is blue, this one is green,” and I think there’s just so much more to be considered when it comes to colors. One of my favorite books is Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. She thinks a lot about blue, and in the class I am teaching at NYU, we’re reading that and William Glass has a book, On Being Blue. There’s another book we’re reading by Daniel Tammet who is a man with autism, but I think very high functioning, and it’s called Born on a Blue Day. So it’s just about that, you know. . . .

Read it all here.

Originally Published: November 29th, 2012