Friday, January 10, 2014

INTERVIEW: LYN LIFSHIN


Name?
Lyn Lifshin

Location?

I am still a resident of New York State but living much of the time in Virginia near a pond where I spotted the first goose trained to follow the ultra lite plane in the shape of a goose that became the film FLY AWAY HOME. This film (which Dr. Slade always said should have starred him instead of a little know Hollywood actor, added  FATHER GOOSE, a smaller documentary film by Bill Lishman, the Canadian sculptor and artist who designed the plane, in its release.

 I had never  lived so close to wild life. The geese were so close. At night I could listen to the  night walking back from ballet past the pond and at midnight when I couldn't sleep.  I was charmed by them wandering so close to my living room I half expected to find their feathers in the hall. One day I saw a banded bird and wrote down the bird's number and the day I first saw her. She seemed more tame than the others. When the film came out and I saw it, I wanted to know more about these loud huge birds. The next day there was an article in the Washington Post  about the collaboration between Lishman's art work and Dr Slade's (Professor Emeritus from Johns Hopkins) scientific experiments. The phone number for Airlie was in the paper and I called and left a massage. The phone ran all thru the night begging me to call back: whatever time it is, call us immediately---

I had seen the first bird that followed the plane as if it was a mother goose and returned. I was invited to many events at the center. I wrote hundred of goose poems, some became part of my observations of the pond and the plants and wild life: NUTLEY POND. BUT I was known not as a writer or poet but as "The Goose Girl" who discovered the one and maybe only returning goose.

How long have you been writing?

I was told that  riding on a back road in fall, I said it looked like the trees were dancing. my mother who named me Rosalyn Diane because she thought it sounded like a perfect theatrical name if I wanted to go on stage as the actress she always wanted to be, then perhaps I could be a poet. I was younger than three at the time. Then, I skipped from first grad to third grade, never caught up with arithmetic and compensated by writing many poems, one of which years later was shown to Robert Frost who wrote on it "Very good poem sayeth  Robert Frost. Bring me some more. But I didn't, didn't feel i had anything worth bringing        

Do you have a specific writing style?

Except for once saying I wanted the  thought being thought out, with all the breathlessness, and raggedness of that spontaneous thought in process, not a finished thought (Wyatt versus Sidney) I don't think I have a specific writing style.

Do you write as a career?
 Yes
Do you write full-time?
Yes

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

Impossible to say

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

To be interesting

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

I hate typing and I get very restless and bored doing it. I am also not great at keeping track of things. I hate looking for things, poems-- I am not good at this and I don't like doing it

       How do you react to rejections?

 As Yvonne, the poetry editor at MS Magazine said at the time, if I get a rejection, I just put it in another envelope and send it out again. Sometimes i wonder why a magazine that has always taken my poems suddenly doesn't, but I know editors change, biases change. I don't dwell on it. Not even a very nasty, unprofessional rejection or letter takes my attention long. Everyone has their own opinions!

       How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication? of course I am very pleased, very.

       What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer? 
Part of me says it is impossible. Or get some job there is a need for? Do we really need all these doctorate of English schools where no one can get a job so they teach at more similar schools and have to hire their students. I could never have started in an atmosphere like now exists. Even then I felt I had to get a PH.D in English so I could always teach. (Ha) It is hard to be optimistic and enthusiastic if you need work to survive. Or win the lottery.

       What is your favorite book?
too many to select one
       Who is your favorite author?
    too many

        If you could have dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
I will have to think more about this-- some Argentine poet who would rather tango all night, not read his poems
        What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer?
I simply hate typing-- I get exhausted, bored, frustrated and which that I'd written at the computer but I still write in spiral wire note books by hand---- 60 plus going back as far as 1990--- so if I run out of ideas I will have more than enough to type for some years

        What is your favorite word?

have been accused of over using several words: rose, hair, blur and probably others

        What makes you laugh?
Today, nothing
      What makes you cry?
today, it's a secret

What is your preferred drink while you write? Peach herb tea or water

Beach or Mountains?  definitely not the beach. Maybe the mountains but I can live with out it

Cats or Dogs? Cats, definitely and preferably Abyssinians

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Rolling Stones

Jimi Hendrix or Frank Sinatra?both on different days and moods. at one time I didn't care at all for Frank Sinatra but I've give in  a little.

Shakespeare or Bukowski?both--- I started my PH.D on 16th century British literature and loved Shakespeare plays at UVM where there was a great and active company and I kind of started my writing phase when I found an envelope that had been sliced open, some of the mail man's lunch insie and sealed up again so I checked it out and it won me over

     Please tell us about some of your readings with famous writers.

I started giving poetry readings sometime after the beat poets were esp in vogue ( though I did teach and read with Ken Kesey-- we were to be featured for a long weekend with James Dickey and Dickey got sick). So we taught and did many readings and workshops together--lots of fun....Another time I was in residence at Yaddo Artists Retreat-- it was early spring, one of those damp upstate NY Saratoga days before the whole place opened--- Diane Wakoski and John Cheevers were there and he suggested we build a fire and Diane and I read. It might have been my first . In a cozy room I guess a bottle of vermouth Diane brought down--- no place is special at Yaddo--- velvet apricot chairs, ghosts of long gone poets. Diane read a poem--maybe the one about how she learned to live with her face--not sure. Then I read the ONLY long narrative poem I had. Cheevers had praised Diane's poem but when I finished he said WHAT KIND OF WOMAN WOULD HAVE WRITTEN A POEM LIKE THAT?  And instead of the smiles Diane got I just got vicious sneers. This went on for over an hour. I wanted to die. I had only short poems. I went up to my room in West House and didn't know whether to give up poetry or write some long poems in came I read with Diane again. (I did many years later when I arranged a Black Sparrow Women's read at awp.


A few years later i found myself across that table from Cheever again. He said "haven't we met?" I looked away and he kept asking me. Then he said don't you remember you gave a reading here and i kept trying get your attention by needling you and trying to get you riled."
I've read on the same program with Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Creeley, Audre Lorde, Denise Levertov, Wanda Coleman... but the only I suppose unusual reading was one in a series in Long Beach where Buk and I did exactly read together. He read in the morning and it was a great reading-- I guess I read in early afternoon. Then several people arranging the reading brought him back to a bed and breakfast where he began to drink. I think he was not welcome there. around 6 he was picked up after a day of drinking and brought to a restaurant that was absolutely the wrong place to go. By the time we got to the reading people were taunting him and it  just wasn't the reading he did in the morning which was great.



Personal website/blog: www.lynlifshin.com

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Lyn Lifshin has published  more than 130 books and chapbooks and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her work has appeared in most literary and poetry magazines. She has been included in virtually every major anthology. She has given more than 700 readings across U.S.A and has been Poet in Residence at Rochester, Antioch and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film, just re-released, Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass.
Lyn Lifshin's prizewinning book Black Sparrow book that won a(Paterson Poetry Award) Before It's Light, following  their publication of Cold Comfort. Another Woman Who Looks Like Me was published by Black Sparrow-David Godine in 2006. The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian was published by Texas Review Press who later published Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness  They will publish Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle.
Other books include  A new  Film about a Woman in Love with the Dead, Marilyn Monroe-- just re-released as an E Book by Rubber Boots Press. Among her books are Nutley Pond, Desire, Barbie Poems The Daughter I Don't Have, Mirrors, Barbie, When a Cat Dies, Auddley End, Black Apples, Upstate Madonna, Persephone, 92 Rapple, Lost Horses, The Doctors, The Jesus Poems, Katrina, Light at the End, Ballet Madonnas
More recently, Lifshin published All The Poets Who Touched me, Living and Dead: All True, Especially the Lies and For The Roses, poems for Joni Mitchell and Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems Hotel Hitchcock and just out Fall of 2013: Tangled as The Alphabet: The Istanbul Poems and A Girl Goes Into The Woods.

Forthcoming books include Malala; Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle; Luminous Women: Eneduanna, Scheherazade, Nefertiti.  Also forthcoming: the second update, 2002-2013 update to Gale Research autobiography series:  Lips, Blues, Blue Lace: On the Outside.  Check her website for more books, photos, prose and news is www.lynlifshin.com




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