Poetry News

Simone White Talks to Andy Fitch About the Makings of Dear Angel of Death

By Harriet Staff
Simone White

Woah: Andy Fitch talked to Simone White for the Los Angeles Review of Books blog! Here's some gist: "What happens when your dissertation explodes, as you give birth, as a relationship ends, as you keep depicting yourself 'thinking and writing at the same time'?" An excerpt from this conversation, which also revolves around White’s "hybrid scholarly-poetic project" Dear Angel of Death (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018):

As you outline Dear Angel’s origins, should we also describe its format, and how that too goes about engaging something like a lineage? Should we introduce your various roles as poet, scholar, personal presence in this book? How does that all speak to tapping this broader (but also closely knit) ongoing conversation you found? How did your dissertation end up exploding into this particular formation?

That’s interesting. The essay itself develops through methods of poetic composition. You can’t easily place it in American literary-critical history, although in some ways it’s about American literary history. And by saying the dissertation “exploded,” I mostly mean I started investigating new questions (I had been deeply engaged with Emerson as a philosopher moving around questions of individualism, and with legal philosopher Duncan Kennedy’s work in relation to Emerson’s). And I also mean that after I wrote those first two chapters, I got pregnant. I don’t mean like I suddenly got full of lady magic. I mean I stayed flat on my back for a couple months. But I already had begun to cogitate and stall. I felt old to be pregnant, and it all had become incredibly disruptive, and annoying really. I had this true and deep ambivalence around getting pregnant. I felt stuck with my dissertation, but also desperate to get out of graduate school. Anyway I had some time to cogitate around what to do next, and decided that if I ever finished this dissertation, it would happen in some manner more relevant to my work as a poet.

And so I’m really glad you’ve picked up on how this piece gets so closely written. I stayed so close to these texts. This essay lacks literary-critical distance. It buries its nose in a few texts. At first I thought I would only cite maybe three or four different texts. I wanted to stay that close, and preserve its immersive investment and its partnership with these authors or personae as critical objects. And you’re right to sense an investigation of the conditions which make that individual kind of writing possible. That all got started from the first months of my child’s life, from this very dark and difficult place, this very complicated knit of a personal situation and desperation to work through questions of rebuilding my critical work.

Part of what does feel Emersonian here is the sense that we’re going to find this overall essay’s meaning through the experience of sentences. Or more broadly, in terms of this project’s self-positioning...

Please read the interview entire right here.

Originally Published: April 16th, 2018