Monday, August 12, 2013


I don’t remember the argument from last night,
what caused it.  I like science, the little I understand,
but I like the idea of the soul too. There’s the delightful
shiver that accompanies pissing outside at night. 
Shooting stars. Five of them. I’ve never said,
“Chris, are you ready?” and then shot
a helpless young man five times in the face. There’s that.
The old words are best: gnash, knot, troth.
Overcast now.  My wife's laughter is lovely.
Tonight it’ll really be something.

Friday, August 9, 2013


JC: The poems in Lemonworld and Other Poems suggest a singular lyric voice, so singular in fact that they strike me as issuing from a persona, a unified psychic source. What could you tell us about this voice? How would you like us to envision the speaker of these poems? Or is this simply too heavy a way to read your book?  

CF: Must a unified psychic source be singular? I don't think so. Comprised of multitudes of uniqueness, probably, but not singular necessarily. & must that which is singular be a persona? Definitely not. The voice of LEMONWORLD, though, was actually very specifically designed to be a sort of mesh-"I" for a unified psychic source -- the website Lookbook, in particular. I was really attracted to the way that fashion brought a global population of relatively young, sartorial-minded visual and writerly types to a focus point. I wrote the book during a time of great political unrest in Egypt; I was really affected by it, and my distance from it. I noticed a sort of bleed between the news aggregating sites I was reading and the fashion teenspeak and that seemed really significant to me. There are no heavier topics than teenagers and war, I think. 

JC: Reading your collection, I found myself thinking not only about persona, but also about location. Where might this ‘Lemonworld’ be found and what would it look like: is it urban, rural? Is it suburban? Is it some combination? Is it perpetually bright there ? I couldn’t help but think of a boardwalk yogurt stand. You know: the kind of place that seems charming, at first glance, yet by the end of the day, as early evening approaches and the debris gradually accumulates outside its foundation, appears a somewhat sad, seasonal, soon-to-be shuttered place.

 CF:  I worked at a boardwalk ice cream stand on the Jersey Shore the summer before my senior year of high school. Sometimes I feel like that experience infects a lot of my writing. Persona and location were two things I was thinking a lot about when I wrote it. I had just moved from the Blue Ridge in Virginia to Indiana, which was the flattest, vastest place I'd ever been. I wrote the whole first draft just outside of Miami, on my sister's bed. And I felt eternities away from horribly real tragedies. I felt both placeless and steeped in location. I was very consciously trying to conjure an alternate space in which to house my self, temporarily, and it seemed important to stow it with the many-tongued utterance of a universal: tragedy.

 JC: The style here interests me. These poems possess a quality of recklessness – is that a good word to use? – or a heedlessness – perhaps a better one? You attended graduate school, and have your MFA. Which means an exposure to theory and examples from an inclusive literary canon, yet these poems seem, in some sense, antithetical to those concerns. Is Lemondworld & Other Poems a book of oppositional gestures? Poems written against the serious, often overwrought products of the typical MFA workshop?

CF: In some ways, this was a reckless book; in others, it's some of the most careful work I've done. I wrote it very quickly, total immersion-style, and in that way it felt and feels reckless. That being said I literally did nothing else for weeks. I'd go running and to Bikram and cook and write these poems and that's it.

My MFA classes were far from typical. I never brought these to workshop, though -- the only people who saw them before I sent them out were my advisor Johannes Goransson, my friend CJ Waterman, and my sisters, who were 16 and 10 at the time. I wrote the poems for my 16 year-old sister, specifically, so I guess in that sense they're anti-"Workshop." It bothers and always has bothered me, the way the connection between poetry and teenage girls is thought of as somehow auto-kitsched, because the interest of the teenage girl is fleeting and superficial. In part, the brevity of the poems is a comment towards this. I wanted to write serious poems for that demographic, poems that addresses their concerns without sacrificing a complicated relationship with craft and form.

There is something oppositional behind these poems. It has nothing to do with MFA programs or the socio-political/pseudo-economic landscape of contemporary poetry.

JC: Some of the poems here are rather hilarious. “Quite Possibly Rock & Borrow Rose” comes to mind. The ending defines a certain contemporary attitude: 

good morning, school bitches,

f**k me, I am famouse!

We labor over endings of poems. The workshop encourages this in us. What you give us instead is a mixture of Franco, Gomez, and Korine. The poem shows us a way which isn’t the way, according to some, but is nevertheless a perfect ending. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see this phrase tattooed on a bicep or forearm one day.  

CF: That would be a baller tattoo. The Exeter Book Riddles are a major major influence on these poems. I think those poems are hilarious, almost in a mean way; they have swagger. It's deciding to smoke a cigarette when you're fucking someone and they really don't want you to stop.  

JC: Brief poems, many poems. The use of couplets, words strung together reminiscent of the wordplay of E. E. Cummings, iteration reminiscent of Milton’s “O dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon’, pop culture references, drug references, love poems, and poems of direct address – thus my sense that there is a consistent persona behind these poems and even a locale – a version of the protected garden? – a ‘lemon world’ , fragments that suggest the Sapphic, a slightly 60s vibe (think Richard Brautigan and Lou Reed), a kittenish, playful tone at times, a great lonely sadness at other times. How would you correct my approach to your poems? What would you tell me, as I begin to read these poems again, that my serve as a corrective to my misunderstandings, that might help me experience them more accurately than before?

 CF: Oh good lord. I don't think there's an accurate way to understand a poem. I'll just say some things about each of the things you've mentioned: I read a few e.e. cummings poems in this really great two-semester seminar I took in college called Modern and Contemporary Poetry. We read the Norton anthologies and a lot of criticism and Lifting Belly in its entirety. I love that line of Milton and I love pop culture. I'm not sure how I feel about references but what would a person be like if they were never referential to anything, ever? They would be an intolerable narcissist. Drugs, love, and direct address are three things I believe in. When I was a teenager I painted a bust of Sappho as a chorus girl in a modern adaptation of West Side Story and forced my mother to display it in the front hall of our house. I have a Lou Reed playlist on my Spotify but I did not make it.

Today I was lying on a futon in the mountains watching the Perseid meteor shower and thinking about sadness and a wild kitten jumped into my lap. 


a body is a car accident. like, a cardboard box is the bloodiest retraction. windowsided backbreaks are the preeminent tragedy. the age is lemonade. this is the horizon of modernity. a woodcut is plastified; the input is trimmed. masquerade! there is an age. like, who even uses sentences anymore.

JC:  This is certainly one of my favorite poems. It’s incredible in its critique of our modern world, our ‘lemonade’ age. But modernity, which is canonical by now, still exists on the horizon. The woodcut really is ‘plastified.’ I’ve seen them, and they really are monstrous. Input, input everywhere, but not a drop to drink!  Have we really reached the end of the sentence? Are we on the verge of ‘whatever will come next’?

CF:  These are the questions. I ask them all the time. I have a hard time with the idea of the modern world. Sometimes I think it's a total ruin. Especially when I'm in nature, which is where I am now, and I think about the urban landscape, all that comes with it, and everything you lose.



something different – a spring feeling!

                    grooveking, anyone can tap my heart

doublemercy pushing kiddo,

photograph me to nowhere

                   & triarevolution in a sea of pastel cups.

JC: Which is a delightful poem!  I find its echo of Cummings rather wonderful, and the employment of the word ‘tap’ truly inspired.  

CF: I aspire to incite delight! Truly. I have this troubador theory about my fundamental self and that it is probably why I feel best in acts of wooing, acts of charm: singing and poem-writing and everything power-ballad, arriving astride a horse. 

JC: Is there a poem here that seems utterly essential to the book, that single poem without which the book would not have been written? Perhaps there is a group of poems, a central few?  

CF: The whole thing went off inside me at once. I remember its genesis as nuclear; immediate. 

JC: Carina, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your new collection.

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