A ventilation / an echosystem: An interview with Carrie Lorig

Carrie Lorig is a total force; everything she writes sprouts the colors of poem. I saw her read on her tour for her chapbook, NODS. (which I reviewed here), when she stopped in Cincinnati. A force. Her first full-length collection, The Pulp vs. The Throne, comes out later this year. I was pumped as hell when she agreed to answer some questions and prompts I’ve had buried for a while. We exchanged edits on a Google Doc, back and forth for a few days, so what you’re seeing here is the ice sculpture of a living breathing interview organism. It became a poem. Go read her poems. If you haven’t read any of her reviews, find them. They blow apart the genre’s atmosphere.

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Mud Schematic: What I love most about your reviews is how surprising they are. Not only do they have the same energy as your poems, but their movement is incalculable (read: Michael Scott fumbling that word up). They reach into the pockets of everything and everywhere, pulling from lectures, songs, your afternoon, a friend’s afternoon, and of course the book at hand. What gravity do you possess that keeps these satellites functioning so well as a single moon? What is it in your goals as you set out to write about a book that keeps the review moving and lets you know you’ve finished?

Carrie Lorig: I possess the gravity that anyone who is engaged in the process of reading does. This is really what I set out to explore, capture, and think through. What it was like to read and to process and then to live after I have finished reading. It is almost impossible to replicate this in the same way that it is almost impossible for the poem to replicate a feeling and its consequences. It is almost impossible, but I can do it / I can try to incorporate the book into my life by speaking of it / of what it was like to read / as it unfolded / as it became intricate folds. As I read, my mind and assembles and it accumulates. It strays and it moves into exact places / exact spaces. That immediacy which is raw and intelligent is also very precious / powerful. Sometimes I feel like we forget that reading is A LIVING. It is an impossible entrance. A wild stillness. That idea is always what is in my tumblr_lx6rf4v0dH1r7p7p0o1_500mind as I begin to think of how I can write a review. What glimpse did I receive of that impossible entrance? What touch did I gather of it and how did it change me / move me / weep me / connect for me a constellation of texts continuing to embed themselves further and wider into my body? Does it make sense that this is the only gravity I feel I might need? That I have read this book and now I must speak to you about it in a way that preserves the energy I felt while I was there / as it continues to radiate. My goals depend on the book I am reading and thinking of writing about. Sometimes I know I am going to write about a book, sometimes I am asked by poets to write about their books. Sometimes I write a review of a book I feel unsure about so that I can learn more about it and how that book situates itself in poetry or language. Like a poem, the review reveals itself to me as I go. You are right that I am always incorporating what is around me and while I don’t plan for that, I always keep my feelers out. What is interrupting my concentration and how does it work itself in / settle in anyway? Also, something I feel I have learned as I’ve gotten older is how my reading has gotten hugely sensitive to association. I study and I study and I can SEE how all these books and words and lines and events in my day speak to each other. That has nothing to do with a religious idea of order, with God’s order. Or for me, it doesn’t. It has everything to do with the compelling nature of orchestration, of touch, of intertwining, of weaving, of lying down and focusing on what passes before you. I ramble too much, though. Or I am worrying about that right now, trying to talk about all this. I couldn’t stop my sentences from extending themselves if I wanted to. It makes the page feel inconsolable to me. It also makes the page feel like my continuous attempt at survival. And maybe that’s where the real gravity comes from? That tension. The truth that reading / language will always be too big for me. It is worth it, though, this tension / this difficulty, because writing reviews about poetry has taught me just as much about poetry / my life as writing poetry and going to school for poetry did. It also, very simply, replicates what most of us want, which is to have conversations about this art and this blood we believe in. I want to talk to you. I want the review to continue. What did Trisha Low just say? “I actually believe that critical writing, an unconscious appraisal of one’s own self and interest through placing oneself in someone else’s poetry, is probably the truest confessionalism there is.” I almost wept when I read that. THERE IS MAGIC HERE / AN UNIMAGINABLE BREED OF WITNESS / A GLOW OF HOUSING. I sympathize with those who dislike reviews, but I would also ask that we not discontinue reviews / that we not insist they are all boring or unnecessary or pandering to the point that we should not bother ourselves with publishing or reading reviews. That can’t be the answer. If it is / then I am not a poet.

MS: There is magic there. And it feels true that there’s a binary of language being too big while sentences, as a reaction, extend themselves, creating a storm with its own clashing energy. Does that even make sense? I’m not sure. But it all reminds me, oddly and maybe incorrectly, of an interview with Matt Hart, in which he says, “For me writing a poem is a process of reactivity—a way of interfacing with, and making sense of, myself, other people, and the world. It’s not the only way to make sense of these things, but it’s the best way that I have of confronting the joys and terrors and routine banalities of being alive.” In other words, some things are too big and amazing to swallow without writing back with an equal ferocity and explosion, just to create some kind of balance. So, is living (inside) language and breathing it in and out, maybe, and maybe like your review-writing, the main energy source for your poems? Does it kill writing’s magic to understand where its sunlight is coming from?

CL: The main energy source for my poems shifts. The main energy source for my poems might just be that I have always sort of processed the world the way that I do, except that now I have this potential to hone and explore that energy and peculiarity with which I look. However, there are also particular projects or interests that present themselves and those are often rooted in reactivity (I really love that Matt used this word instead of reaction!). Something I asked myself working on The Pulp vs. The Throne after writing NODS. (a very sound driven, body driven, emotionswamp driven chapbook) was could I write a statement? It’s such a simple question, but I became so worked up about it. I asked myself this question because when I went on tour with NODS. that was something I felt the audience was asking me / this woman that both scared and excited them with all her noise / cannonbleeding. She could make this clusterfucked darkness come from her blackthroat, yes, but could she S P E A K? It’s very possible I imagined that interaction between me and the crowds, but it became real for me, and I wanted to genuinely respond / to create a space that allowed me to answer the question. I wanted to explore these two sides of being / becoming on my own expansive / loving terms. 1) The soft, inexplicable oil bog (The Pulp) where magic and waves fuck / sing. The cracked open universe / crevasse where my feelings burn / celebrate. 2) A side of me that believes so much in critical articulation, in something slicing out of the water precisely (The Throne) and then echoing. A side of me that is, lol, an all too serious motherfucker interested in crystallizing some of what I see in front of me in a way that is coherent, yes, but also full of a PulpVsThronedemanding malleability / movement. I wanted to keep insisting that the difficult language I know (and a plethora of other emergent women / voices) I create can also have access points for people. I wanted to kill my murderers / the scoffing, white male professor while also insisting academia / intelligence is a cliff we can flood flowers on. There’s so much in and out in all that that I’m collapsing in my own fragrant hole, but I think this kind of in and out, which is also a giving in that refuses to give in, is why I’m currently so obsessed with the gesture of the / (BACKSLASH) in my poems, my thinking, my speaking. I build folds. I build folds and I lie down in them. Every sentence is the book. Every sentence can never be the book.

I don’t think these explorations which can bring me nearer to magic and its ever accumulating roots never makes me feel like the magic is killed or could be killed by us. I don’t think I can believe that magic is untouchable. Or at least not completely. Or magic isn’t eliminated when a shedding results in understanding. I don’t think logic and un-logic exclude each other. And maybe that’s also why I’m so interested in the VS. (THE VERSUS, THE VERSES) as collapsible. Magic is already dead / already alive. Language is already dead / already alive. I’m just here arranging it, like anyone, and this is where I really relate to Matt’s quote in that, I do it so I can circulate through the world with the world its people and flowers and dissolving horizons. I do it so I can see you despite all that seeks to keep us fucking apart. Where that magic is coming from is not as important as being present and attentive and continuous in the impossibility of joining despite / of empathy despite / of play despite / of creation despite (here is my garden of refusal / all wine stained and on fire). Couldn’t this be the thing that circumvents the idea that magic comes from anywhere specific? Maybe that’s how it will always avoid being killed? Or rather, that’s how it can be both alive / dead simultaneously / radically. This is where the word haunting was born.

MS: Having seen you read on your NODS. tour when you stopped in Cincinnati, it was very much an event molded around the body. I mean, it was a physical manifestation and solid exhaling of words rather than just transporting the two-dimensional into the vocal. It was like watching language dancing. And it feels like, reading through NODS. and reflecting back on my experience, the/your body isn’t just making and sounding the poems, but that it’s/you’re tangled up in some total cluster of being all at once: the maker and the subject and the object and the collector and part of the poembody soup. Is this new book a different approach to that cluster, or maybe a focusing in on one piece of the storm? Is the mind separate from the body or are they the same color? Also, “Every sentence is the book” is so totally Hejinian, and I so totally align with that principle. How much is each sentence its own body/its own limb, and how much does that distinction matter?

CL: Oh this is so interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it worded quite like that in front of me before. A total cluster of being all at once / a ribbon which equals maker, subject, object, sea, cliff, flower, grave, collector, part, smoke, dirt. It is twisted or is it a sword / a blade / a cut / a wound? Once I heard Zurita insist that it is not poets that make the poems, it’s the poems that make themselves via revelation (this term is not solely rooted in some kind of religious experience). The poem courses through the poet / surrounds the poet / infiltrates the poet. There’s some complexity in that Zurita quote that gets a little lost, but it also provides a necessary reminder, a la Jack Spicer and his martians / a la Cecilia Vicuna and her red strings, that poets aren’t superior / learned manipulators or removed / hyper controllers of the devotional area. They are a demonstrative material. Poets are inextricably involved, they arrange, they dream, they screamcolor, they error. Poetry is less of an act for me and more of a difficult, constantly changing process through which I gore / gorge (the french word for throat, our food’s word for raw desperation) myself / through which I love / through which I STUDY. I meant it when I said the page is inconsolable to me / its vastness. By vastness, I don’t think I mean largeness so much as I mean duration. And maybe that’s the real thing that The Pulp Vs. The Throne immersed me in, an examination of unfurling dimension. What it is to notice a difference in the way time and its relationship to language works on me. The first half of the book is one poem, “Much Affection from the Bold Part / of the River / Its a Crisis / of Movement,” that needed exactly that much space to suss out its individual parts and layers. The second half gathers out of the first / is made of these long, manifold poemessays that I collectively call Public Excess Channels. There was something freeing / fucked about understanding that the poems weren’t going to resolve themselves in one page or in one day or in one shape. I knew I had to just be there with the words. I knew I had to read and live and listen to Alice Notley weeping and listen to Bhanu Kapil lying down and listen to Edmond Jabes on fire. I had to keep returning. I had to be, as my friend Elisabeth Workman says, capacious in an unimaginable way. The poem functions and accumulates on a different plane, which really allows for the merging of mind and body you’re talking about. Women (and POC) are never allowed to be separate from their bodies. It’s supposed to make us smaller, right? That fact is supposedly our permission to live and also the reason we end up getting killed. But instead, it makes our poems too much for the workshop to deal with, it questions the poetry reading (What if I can’t perform any of my poems unless I get longer than 5 minutes?), it asks the reader to view the poem / the book as a force / an extreme snow, it asks the poem to have versions / variations and performances which create multiplicities, multiplicities which fray and deviate unexpectedly / importantly. There’s so much urgency here. I will not leave it. I think that variation that is repetition of the same thing but also a growth into something new reflects back towards your question about the sentence. This is where I look to Stein and also to Myung Mi Kim / Jabes. A sentence is its own magnolia tree. Its own delicate spring creating gallons. I love to watch them and work on them until they reveal what they are, until they walk / wander with me. (A song by King Krule just came on called, “Has This Hit?” That seems like exactly the question.) But the sentence can also be turned to face the rest, it can also be lost in the rest. The distinction matters, but it also matters that the volume of it can be an oscillation / a ventilation / an echosystem. The sentence is always a beginning / again.

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Find/follow Carrie Lorig at her blog.

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