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
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:
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:
morning, school bitches,
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.
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.
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
ZEST IN A HAPHAZARD ELSEWHERE
something different – a spring feeling!
grooveking, anyone can tap my heart
doublemercy pushing kiddo,
& 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
thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your new collection.
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