A few days ago, poet and old friend Amy Lemmon invited me to be part of her week-long blog tour, and, once I understood what it meant, I accepted. I’m in a bit of a fog these days, what with it being summer, the wife and girls on a trip, and a recent binge of Queen + Adam Lambert concerts I’ve taken in over the past weeks. The blog tour means I answer questions about the most fascinating subject in my life, which is me. So here goes. I include Amy’s bio at the end of this post, but I just want to make a special plug for her book ABBA: The Poems, which she co-write with another fabulous poet, Denise Duhamel. Those poems rock in a way only collaboratively written poems about a Swedish pop band can.
On with the interview.
1. What am I currently working on?
I’ve been tidying up some essays and memoir pieces, some of which will appear in some form in Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief and Other Unlearnable Subjects, due next year from 99: The Press. It’s my longest book to date–perhaps too long, which means I’ve been going through the manuscript with a laser-like focus that’s maddening and exciting at the same time.
There’s another, much freakier book I’ve been working on, a collection of 1,000 aphorisms, still untitled. I’ll probably end up publishing that myself.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That’s a very counter-intuitive question, if you ask me. If anything, I feel as if I am trying to find my traditions, people who are related to me writing-wise. In that sense I am very much under the spell of T.S. Eliot, whose essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” I read when I was 20 years old, shelving books at the Rutgers-Camden library. As far as nonfiction writing is concerned, I am trying to be more like others, or to connect and emulate with writers I love: Joan Didion, Meghan Daum, Sloane Crosley, Chuck Klosterman, Elif Batumen, Gregory Wolfe, James Baldwin, Katie Roiphe, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Sean H. Doyle, Emily Gould, Phillip Lopate, Wayne Koestenbaum, bell hooks, Joyce Maynard, Daphne Merkin, Nick Flynn, Stephen Elliott, Dave Hickey, If I could touch the hem of any of their writing garments, I would be ever so happy. But here’s the thing: I don’t write like any of them. I think I’m more in line–and keep in mind this is all delusional ambition–with writers like Nora Ephron, David Rakoff, David Sedaris, If I bring anything to the table, it has to do with the specifics of my experience and passions. Growing up as a blue collar Catholic in New Jersey informs everything I do and write.
3. How does my writing/creative process work?
I’m not really sure. It might begin on pieces of paper in notebooks or scraps of paper, a blog post or tweet, or grow out of some obsession I have or ideas I can’t get out of my head. One thing is for sure: it’s all about my ass in a chair and my hands on one of my old IBM Model M keyboards.
I don’t write for hours on end–we have two daughters who need attention, attention I want to give–and so it’s more of a structured, scheduled activity. I’m OK with that–without some schedule, I go a little nuts.
More about Amy Lemmon below. Check out her website, Saint Nobody, here.
Amy Lemmon is the author of two poetry collections—Fine Motor (Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Press, 2008) and Saint Nobody (Red Hen Press, 2009)—and co-author, with Denise Duhamel, of the chapbooks ABBA: The Poems (Coconut Books, 2010) and Enjoy Hot or Iced: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation (Slapering Hol Press, 2011). Her poems and essays have appeared in The Best American Poetry 2013, Rolling Stone, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Court Green, The Journal, Marginalia, and many other magazines and anthologies. Awards include a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship, the Elliston Poetry Prize, the Ruskin Art Club Poetry Prize, and scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, West Chester Poetry Conference, and Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She is Professor of English at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, adviser to FIT Words: The Club for Writers, and Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Ducts.org. Amy lives in Astoria, Queens, with her two children.