Where are you from?
Where do you live now?
What’s on your ipod?
I don’t have an ipod! If I did, Dolly Parton & Cyndi Lauper would definitely be on it.
Favorite flavor of ice cream?
What do you drink while you write?
Preferred type of coffee?
Not fancy, skim milk, 2 Sweet N’ Low
If you could have a brand sponsor you as a poet who would it be?
Where is some place in NYC you go to relax and have some reflective time?
I never relax but I feel like I’m always reflecting…or maybe that’s just anxiety.
What are some of the objects on your writing desk? Do you have talismans that you keep nearby when you write? messy or clean desk?
I don’t have a desk! I sit on the couch when I write. It’s usually messy around me. I don’t have any talismans, I don’t think.
It is seen as a taboo in America today, more than writing about sex or politics, to mention god in poetry. How does writing about god, the divine, spiritual or dreams factor into your poetics? Considering this, how do you think your work has been so well received?
When I finished the book I was actually surprised by how much god shows up in my work, given that not only don’t I believe, but I can’t stand the bullying, patriarchal god I was raised with. But, I mean, this is America, god is freakin’ everywhere, and, apparently, in my psyche too — I definitely got some of my sense of rhythm from the prayers I grew up with. I don’t know how well-received my work has been in terms of the divine aspect, but there is a man named Nathan who lives in Chicago who is rather concerned with this issue. He’s a very religious Christian, has been celibate for 34 years, and he is absolutely desperate to save my soul. (I blocked him on social media.) I don’t know why he picked up my book in the first place, except that the title is from a line in the Bible’s Book of Ruth so maybe he was expecting something less sinful.
What are three books or authors that you find you refer to again and again as a sort of poetry root check?
H.D., Virginia Woolf, and, lately, again, Diane Wakoski
How does location/ place affect your work? Does where you are affect what you write?When I lived in France, I ended up writing a French detective poem, now Coney Island and Brooklyn filter into a lot of my work. Wherever I am I find affects what I write: the language, sounds and rhythms of my writing. I have often wondered what this is like for other writers.
I haven’t lived in California since I was 20 years old but most of what I write about is California because I’m still trying to solve it, make my peace with it, etc. I don’t tend to write about New York because I’m pretty okay with it. That said, it does creep into my poems, as do other places I’ve gone, like Paris. I just haven’t gone that many places, so it’s a good thing I’m obsessed with California.
When I worked with teenage girls recently I was so pleased to see that even though they had their iphones and ipads, etc they still carried around and wrote in notebooks and diaries. Do you still write long hand or carry notebooks around?
I always write poetry longhand for the first draft. I usually write prose directly onto the computer, although I managed to write an entire first draft of a novel longhand. I rarely jot down ideas when I’m not at home, but, if I do, it would just be on a scrap of whatever paper I find in my tote bag.
Since I am the founder of Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival, I feel like I should ask this: Do you have any thoughts or experiences on poetry from times you have been in Coney Island?
I wrote a poem called “Coney Island!” It’s one of the few poems of mine that don’t take place in California. It’s about spending the night on the beach at Coney Island with my now-husband when we were first getting to know each other. It was a quite an experience —maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime…
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me to read!
Lynn Melnick reads October 18th at 6:30 at the Center for Books Arts Center Broadside Readings