Many thanks to Megan Roberts, author of Matters of Record, for tagging me to participate in Next Big Thing, an expanding blog project of author interviews.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My older sister Chelsea, to whom the book is dedicated, scared the hell out of me when I was little with these ghost stories about a butcher who had built our house, so I guess the idea was planted then. What surprised me was that as I got older, other people around the little town where I grew up began to elaborate on some of her stories: for instance, when I was waiting tables many years later at the Lumberton 68 Family Restaurant, one of my older regulars asked where I lived, and when I told her, she replied, “Oh, the old slaughterhouse. I looked at that place when it was on the market in the ‘80’s. You know the butcher used to drain the blood in that creek?”
So I guess you could say that the collection is part history and part ghost story, though sometimes it’s hard for me to tell those threads apart.
I should also say that the more I looked into the history of the place, the more bizarre the stories got—so much so that they would not all fit in the chapbook. In the full-length collection, readers can expect, in addition to the butcher poems, some poems about an elephant, Helen McGregor, who died while traveling by foot through the area with the circus in 1832.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm, I think I’d pick Winona Ryder to play my sister. Anthony Hopkins would make an excellent butcher, and Natalie Portman could play the ghost of his wife. For the parents, I would pick Kathy Bates and Jeremy Irons.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
These poems were stitched together with human hair and highway lines in haunted landscapes.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The oldest poem in the collection (“Stray”) is from 2007, and the newest (“Dressing the Hog”) is from 2012. So that makes something like six years. I would add, though, that I did not begin to think in terms of “a manuscript” until around 2009, and it took a couple of years more to muster the courage to write the poems that dealt with the theme of incest.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, I would say I was initially motivated by my sister’s death and a cathartic impulse, but I don’t think that counts as inspiration exactly. Some individual poems, on the other hand, were definitely inspired by people I know & love (shout out to my ever-supportive husband, Gerard) and by other writers, teachers, mentors, and peers who encouraged me and showed me how it’s done (I’ll save the complete list for a full-length collection, but for now, I’ll just mention a few: many thanks to Dorianne Laux, Michael Colonnese, and Robin Greene, especially).
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I attempted a poem that contains two dirty jokes.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither–it is being published by Longleaf Press.
The writers I tag will post their own interviews on March 20, 2013:
1. Kelly Michels, author of Mother and Child with Flowers (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press)
2. Rachel Herrick, author of A Guide to the North American Obeast (Forthcoming from The Institute for Contemporary Art.)
3. Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, author of Everyday Chica (Longleaf Press)
4. Michael S. Begnal, author of Future Blues (Salmon Poetry)