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Page-Turner: Rusty Morrison Interviews Margaret Ross

By Harriet Staff

Margaret Ross

At The Conversant, Rusty Morrison of Omnidawn interviews one of their newest authors, poet Margaret Ross. A Timeshare, Ross’s first collection, was the manuscript selected by Timothy Donnelly for Omnidawn’s First/Second Book Contest. Morrison asks Ross about her relationship to craft, form as a kind of realism, writers/artists who have influenced her work, and more. An excerpt:

RM: I’d like to talk about the seriousness of so much of the subject matter in this text. The assertions made by this lyric subject are by turns examined and subverted in writing that reflects both personal and social critique. Though I experience great equipoise in the technical prowess of the work, there is an equal sense of impending threat in the subject matter. That convergence of subject matter and form produces a writing that I can’t put down. Rare to call a poetry book a “page turner” but A Timeshare is that for me. Could you talk about the marriage of subject matter to form, and the choices you made regarding the vaulting range of subjects that constellate into the matter in this text? If it’s appropriate, you might talk about the title of the manuscript in answering this question.

MR: I think form is a kind of realism. The pressures its shape exerts in a poem are mimetic of pressures exerted in life by other formal structures—days, years, lifespan. Shared forms we inhabit whether we want to or not, and each a share of something larger.

Writing, I was interested in the regular stanza as a mimesis of clock time: this system of uniform containers which holds the trivial alongside the serious. The equipoise feels like part of the threat—that eerie mathematical equivalence of the hour in which something terrible happens and the hour in which nothing does. I know stanza means ‘room’ but I think of it as ‘minute.’ Regular stanzas can seem the temporal measures to which everyone’s subject. Then sentences counterpoint the stanza’s cold absolute with a warm measure determined by breath and thought and feeling. There’s a lot of enjambment—in an earlier draft of the book, not a single line was endstopped—and the tension between stanza and sentence to my mind reflects similar tensions in lived experience. I can’t choose how long my minutes are, but I can try to choose how I fill them.

That fundamental conflict inscribed in the form is the common threat propelling the subject matter. So the poems are about choice and stricture in daily life, and the way the limits and extent of each shapes relationships, to individuals as well as to collective bodies. The vaulting comes, I think, from wanting to depict real time, which can feel sinisterly intricate. It gets back to the multiple scales in the question above—where to live from. What to see. How to proceed from there.

Read it all at The Conversant.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 by Harriet Staff.