Editing, Taking Risks, and the Politics of Language: Getting to Know the Washington Square Fiction Editors by Washington Square

This time of year, the Washington Square Review team is starting spring semester, second years are planning their theses, some members are teaching their first undergraduate class, and the editors are reading hundreds of poetry, fiction and translation submissions. And this year, we have extended our fiction and translation submission deadline to FEBRUARY 15, so we asked our own Fiction Editor Bruna Dantas Lobato and Assistant Fiction Editor Alyssa diPierro a few questions about life, art, and the submission process.

Assistant Fiction Editor Alyssa diPierro (LEFT) and Fiction Editor Bruna Dantas Lobato (RIGHT) pretend to flip through old Washington Square Review journals at the Creative Writing House.

Assistant Fiction Editor Alyssa diPierro (LEFT) and Fiction Editor Bruna Dantas Lobato (RIGHT) pretend to flip through old Washington Square Review journals at the Creative Writing House.

1. Briefly, what drew you to writing fiction in the first place? To editing it?

Fiction Editor Bruna Dantas Lobato: A mix of things: An obsession with words and wordplay. Gratitude for the books that saved me in one way or another. Living in one language and then living in another. An incessant need to tell stories. As for editing, I can’t separate it from my writing practice. I love to read other writers’ texts, to think about what makes them work and how they’d go together in the journal. I learn a great deal about writing that way.

Assistant Fiction Editor Alyssa diPierro: I grew up surrounded by books, and my parents read to me constantly (until I was old enough to read to them!). Eventually, I figured out I could write the books I wanted to read. My interest in editing came much later, but basically, I wanted to help fix the problems or brainstorm solutions to friends' stories who needed advice. I also realized what I enjoyed most about my own writing was editing. Writing is extremely difficult, editing is very pleasurable for me. 

2. When you two are choosing fiction and translation pieces for Washington Square Review, what is the first thing you look for in a piece? The second?

B: A singular voice and a willingness to take risks with content and form. I am drawn to stories that traffic in subtleties, that present people and things in a new way (“at a slight angle to the universe”), without ever depriving them of their mystery.

A: The first thing I'm looking for is a tie between the language and the topic. I can look past weaker language if the characters and plot are strong, and vice versa. Secondly, I'm looking for something I haven't seen before. Surprise me, but in a believable way (logical for the world of the piece). Even if it's an everyday story of someone going grocery shopping, if the stakes are high enough, that could be a very interesting trip to the store. 

3. When choosing pieces, do you notice yourself being drawn to certain voices/themes/types of work? Which ones and why?

B: I’m always seeking stories that embody a strong sense of place—or placelessness. The ones that excite me most open doors to a multiplicity of perspectives and sensibilities, and leave me seeing and thinking differently.

A: I'm almost always drawn to pieces that take relatable and everyday situations, and present them in a unique way or add a fresh twist to them. It's what I try to do in my own writing, so when I find it elsewhere, I get really excited! 

4. With everything going on right now in the world and particularly in America, do you feel that fiction is more or less important, or has its role changed at all?

B: I’m in the camp that believes all literature is inherently political because language is inherently political, in that it carries particles of history and associations and contradictions. It also allows us to bear witness, to render “the substance of the human spectacle” (to quote Henry James)—and that’s no small thing. All that said, everything going on right now has been going on for a long time. To me, it’s neither more nor less important. It’s as urgent as ever.

A: Fiction is extremely important right now, and I think it always will be. And I think it's important to read and write fiction that's political or makes a statement on our current climate, but it's also important to escape. My own fiction is not political at all, and I sometimes feel silly writing it at a time like this, but we all need to escape every once in a while. 

5. If you weren't writing and editing fiction right now, what would you be doing?

B: Writing poetry. Or a play. I just can’t imagine not writing at all.

A: Right this second? Probably trying to avoid social media and failing terribly. Or knitting, or cooking, or working out. And feeling guilty that I'm not reading or writing or editing. 

6. The last piece of fiction or translation that made you cry?

B: Claudia Rankine's Citizen has made me cry more times than I care to admit, though that's not technically fiction. I was also moved by Amy Hempel's "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried," James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," David Kaplan's "Your Only Mother," and Calo Fernando Abreu's "Beauty, a Terrible Story" (which I translated from the Portuguese recently).

A: It's really hard to get me to cry just from reading, but A Little Life left me bawling. 

7. What was your favorite part of editing issue 39?

B: Working with the authors on their pieces, for sure.

A: This was my first time editing specifically for the journal, so that alone was a joy! To have the opportunity to have an input in not only what's in the WSQR, but work with the authors on their pieces was an honor. 

8. What advice do you have for writers trying to get published in Washington Square Review?

B: Read our previous issues, don’t be afraid to take chances with your stories, and try reading your work out loud before you hit send.

A: Workshop your stories! Workshops are immensely helpful. If you don't have access to a workshop, find a few trusted friends (preferably fellow writers) to help work on your piece. It's almost always obvious when a piece is submitted that has glaring mistakes or plot holes, and clearly no one but the author has read it. 

9. How many fiction pieces typically make it out of the slush pile?

B: We picked 6 pieces after having read over 500 submissions. This means that nearly all the pieces in Issue 39 came from the slush pile.

10. What's your least favorite question to be asked as a writer and/or editor?

B: What’s your book about? Sure, I can give them my elevator pitch. But I’m always disappointed that the description can’t match the experience of reading it.

A: As an editor, I hate: "What are you looking for?" That's such a hard question to answer because I honestly don't know. Just send me your best stuff, and we'll go from there!

Five Questions with Lydia Davis by Washington Square

Photo by Theo Cote

Photo by Theo Cote

Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections, the most recent of which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is the recipient of a MacArthur fellowship and was named a Chevalier of the Order of the Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and her translations of modern writers, including Maurice Blanchot, Michel Leiris, and Marcel Proust. She is at work on a translation of Madame Bovary.

I spoke with Lydia Davis over email.

—Alisha Kaplan

1. Which punctation marks are most and least dear to you?

Well, already the question is difficult, because part of what I love about punctuation marks is their individual potential and power—and that power is immense, at certain moments, in certain sentences.  The marks I love the most are the comma and the period, because they are the simplest and the most versatile.  But I also love the precision with which a semi-colon sets off different statements from each other, and the way a colon introduces material.  I am probably least happy using an exclamation mark!

2. What were you like at fifteen?

At fifteen, I was romantic, excitable, sometimes lazy, sometimes very hard-working, sometimes reckless, sometimes mean, sometimes dishonest, sometimes lonely.  I liked boys, I liked writing and reading, I liked playing and singing music and studying music theory, and I liked the animals and natural landscape where I lived (in Vermont).  Not necessarily in that order.

3. Is there a lost writer you think would merit rediscovery?

The lost, or rather invisible, writer that I used to wish more people would read is now being read, and that is Lucia Berlin, the story writer.  A poet who is good and not mentioned nearly often enough is William Bronk.

4. Do you feel connected to any type of animal?

About animals—well, there is not any one particular type of animal I feel connected to, but in general I pay attention to all animals, and even insects.  I live with cats, and I live in a rural place where there are various sorts of pastured animals not too far away—horses, cows, alpacas, sheep, chickens.  There are deer and flocks of turkeys by the roadside.  A ring-necked pheasant used to come by every morning, making the rounds of the neighborhood.  I take great pleasure in looking at animals and insects, they intrigue me, they are fascinating in their sameness (to us) and difference (from us). 

5. Tell us something that gets lost in translation. 

I remember the end of a novel by Maurice Blanchot that I translated years ago and that included a long passage about thought—thought became almost a character.  In French, "thought" is a feminine noun.  So not only did Blanchot use the word "pensée", he also referred to thought using the pronoun "elle", which is "she".  That suggestion of the feminine was more or less lost in the English, although I had to hope that the way he talked about "thought" and "it" would carry some suggestion of the feminine.

Happy new year: here is our favorite Good riddance 2016 literature by Washington Square

It's not difficult to list the reasons why 2016 was a rough year. We lost numerous icons of pop culture and artistry, elected the first POTUS who will simultaneously produce the Celebrity Apprentice and we saw civil and political unrest worldwide. But today is a new day, a new year, and here are our favorite good riddance poems and books to shake free of a heavy 365 days.

Francisco Márquez 
Second Year Poetry

The Wild Iris by Louise Glück. I got broken up with twice, got the heart broken on the eve of the year, the American political world was shook and my friend’s, my mother’s immigration threatened, my heroes murdered by life, and I can’t blame a year, but I can blame a world’s problems.

Julie Block
Second Year Fiction

Can I just have "This is the Year of Our Fucking Discontent"?  

Alexandria Hall
Web Editor, Second Year Poetry

In a year that felt like a poorly written apocalyptic novel, there is at least some comfort in well-written apocalypses. "The end of the world / Proved to be nothing drastic // when everything was made of plastic," writes Elizabeth Bishop in "The Moon Burgled the House..." As we brace ourselves for whatever 2017 may have in store for us, lets bid adieu to this hellish year and let out "a long sigh--sweet / sigh—"

Alisha Kaplan
Web Editor, Second Year Poetry

My most beloved F*** You poem is “Badly Chosen Lover” by Rosemary Tonks. Most people have never heard of her, and of those who have, many were surprised to learn of her death in 2014, having assumed she was already long gone. Tonks, one of my favorite poets, was a notable part of literary society in 1950s London and considered one of the best female poets of her generation. Then she disappeared. She became a recluse so devoted to religion that she burned her poetry and read only the bible. We could, in retrospect, look at “Badly Chosen Lover” as a condemnation of Tonks’ first life as a modern, metropolitan poet. But I prefer to take the poem at face value: a strange, visceral, knife-twisting-in-the-gut middle finger to an ex-lover. What most jolts my heart is the moment of bare candor when Tonks writes: “My spirit broke her fast on you.” Goddamn, that line gives me shivers every time. 

P.S. You may have a lot to regret this past year, as I surely do, but you won’t regret going over here to listen to Rosemary Tonks read “Badly Chosen Lover.”

Hannah Gilham
Assistant Web-Editor, First Year Fiction

Ah 2016; if only we could have descended into Alice Notely's haunting The Descent of Alette rather than this year's swirling political and cultural despair. Exploring Notely's epic piece of poetry as she paints the mythical post-modern feminist underground subway reminds us of the beauty in dark and strange places.

Razmig Bedirian
First Year Fiction

“This siege will extend until we teach our enemies the paradigms of our Jahili poetry.”  Mahmoud Darwish. 

Wilson Ding
First Year Fiction

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...it was the worst of times. Dickens (assist: Wilson)

Colin Dekeersgieter
Second Year Poetry

"I know, / if thou were not granted to sing thou would'st surely die." 

"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", Whitman's elegy to Lincoln, reminds us of the poet's ability to condition their own mourning through poetic perception. It also demands that we mourn honestly, by which is meant continuously. Whitman's "I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring" calls us back to Chaucer, whose traveler's set out each April to properly mourn at the shrine of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This practice of remembrance is quickly fading due to the world's many distractions. Whitman teaches us to never forget our losses, big and small, but instead to commemorate them perennially in whatever way we choose. 2016 was difficult in many ways, but do not be blind to the world's beauty. Remember the losses and keep an eye on the lilacs.  


Five Questions with Rowan Ricardo Phillips by Washington Square


Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of two books of poetry, The Ground and Heaven, both published by FSG; as well as a book of literary criticism, When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness, and a translation of Salvador Espriu's Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth. He is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Osterweil Award, the GCLA New Writers Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, is a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the National Book Award.

I had the pleasure of taking part in Rowan's Craft of Poetry class at NYU this semester. I caught up with him via email to ask a few questions. 

—Alexandria Hall

1. What was the first book you loved? 

A copy of the complete works of Shakespeare that my uncle gave me for Christmas when I was 10.

2. What is the most important object you've ever had and lost? 

The art of losing has been hard for me to master: I tend not to lose things. I'm also a rationalizer par excellence, so things I have lost tend to lose importance to me. I'm not wired to pine much over lost things; it's not in my temperament.

3. I'm interested in what you've said in class about writing in your head. What is your writing ritual like? (Coffee, tea, wine? A first draft in long hand or on your laptop?)

I don't have a ritual, per se, as I never wanted to idealize a context in which I can work and thereby absorb into my way of writing its opposite—a context in which I cannot work. I'm very much a get-it-down type of writer. Although that act for me isn't necessarily writing it down immediately as much as living with an emergent lyric someway somehow. I love to walk and I usually write in my head while walking. After a while I get to writing down what I was working on in my head but I don't rush to write down my thoughts. I don't trust that process as the mind produces quicksilver stuff that should run out and spread as it will for a while. I suppose this goes back somewhat to losing objects: if I'm not worried about losing a line of poetry, an image, a conceit then I'm not going to be too worried about losing an object. If it's good you'll remember it in some form or another. Eventually, things end up in my notebook. Sometimes I write straightaway on my computer. I don't produce and keep multiple edits of a poem. I just work through one document, erasing, re-writing, getting-it-down. In the end, I end up writing the poem over and over again until I'm repeating it down to the punctuation marks. That's when it's an object of its own accord and I leave it be. 

4. What is your favorite word? 

If I told you, it wouldn't be my favorite word anymore. Anyway, it's not an English word. I can tell you my least favorite word: whatever. 

5. Who is your favorite artist or musician?

I'm simply grateful for art. I don't play favorites. Artists you admire should be capable of disappointing you and artists you don't expect much of should be capable of moving you in a profound way. My mind is utterly against hierarchy. Besides, you can learn much about art by studying what doesn't work. And you can be left feeling pretty overwhelmed if not useless if you only immerse yourself in favorites. This is one of the things I enjoy about teaching. I never teach a collection of my favorite artists and texts. There are some works you may not be crazy about but are incredibly useful to students; and there are some works you may absolutely love that would be of little value to teach. The idea of a favorite work of art brings me back to myself. Yet, one of the glorious things about art is that it transports you from yourself and into a great beyond. 

Five Questions with Deborah Landau by Washington Square

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Deborah Landau is the author of three collections of poetry: The Uses of the Body and The Last Usable Hour, both Lannan Literary Selections from Copper Canyon Press, and Orchidelirium, which won the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Poetry, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Best American Poetry. She is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow.

What's more, Deborah is the fearless and generous leader of the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she also teaches an "Art of the Book" class, which, having taken it, I can vouch for as fantastic. "I never know until I get to the end of one line what the next will be. Life is also like that," she writes in a beautiful article on living line by line, which you can find here. And over here listen to Deborah reading a poem from her latest collection, The Uses of the Body. One of my favorite lines from that book is: "Oh, skin! What a cloth to live in." Indeed. 

—Alisha Kaplan

1. What is your greatest extravagance?

Walls of books, Berthillon ice cream, extremely hot baths.

2. Whom would you consider to be winter poets, and does your poetry have a season? 

Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Anne Carson.

I’ve never thought about it, but my second book of poems is probably a winter, my third, a summer. 

3. What's your favorite New York City neighborhood?

Prince Street from Lafayette to Mott (McNally Jackson, the graveyard, the cupcake shop).
(And also: the stretch of West Tenth from Writers House to Three Lives.)

4. What music do you turn to in dark times? 

Chopin’s Nocturnes, Lucinda Williams, Nick Drake.

5. Describe the most beautiful color.

Dark plum velvet.

Five Questions With Sigrid Nunez by Washington Square

The author of six novels, including The Last of Her Kind and Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, Sigrid Nunez has contributed to The New York Times, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and Tin House. She was the Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, won a Whiting Award, and has been published in four Pushcart Prize volumes. She was elected as a Literature Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and currently teaches a fiction workshop at NYU.

Featuring one of the best lines of overheard coffee shop banter, this micro interview was conducted via email with the wonderful Sigrid Nunez.

— Hannah Gilham

1. Something interesting you overheard today?

In a café, an older woman was talking to a friend. “The doctor says I weigh too much and so I have to eat less. I said, That’s not fair. Food is the only sex I have.”

2. What did you imagine you would be when you grew up?

A writer of rhyming children’s books like those by Dr. Seuss.

3. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever read?

The headline of The New York Times, November 9, 2016: TRUMP TRIUMPHS.

4. What's your least favorite thing about Thanksgiving?

The thought of all those poor factory-farmed, slaughtered birds.

5. What is your favorite neighborhood in the city?

Alas, overdevelopment has destroyed the character of the many neighborhoods I used to love. Now my favorite places are Central Park and the botanical gardens in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Five Questions with Emily Barton by Washington Square

Photo Credit: Greg Martin

Photo Credit: Greg Martin

Emily Barton is the author of the novels The Book of EstherBrookland, and The Testament of Yves Gundron, as well as many essays and book reviews. She has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, an artist's grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bard Fiction Prize. She currently teaches a graduate fiction workshop at NYU and is working on a series of essays.

It has been my pleasure and delight to be in Emily's class this past semester, and I was ecstatic when she agreed to answer my fun micro interview questions! 

–  Katie Bockino


1. What secret talents do you have?

I’m really good at knitting and fixing things. I pack my kids adorable bento lunches. In college, I was the lead singer in a band that covered The Paranoids’ songs from The Crying of Lot 49, but now I prefer to sing harmony.


2. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy? 

I was alone and outdoors much of the time, making up superhero stories while I roller skated. My favorite toys were a baby doll named Babes and a stuffed Siamese kitty named Tajma, after my next-door neighbor’s cat. I think she must have thought the palace was called the Tajma Hall and not the Taj Mahal.


3. If something “goes without saying,” why do people still say it? 

“It goes without saying” is a rhetorical strategy for saying that you wish something was so self-evident that everyone agreed on it. It’s not an especially elegant strategy, but it works. People say it because a) they haven’t reread Strunk & White recently, or b) they would edit that out and phrase their statement more concretely if they were writing and/or had the time to edit.


4. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?  

I have actor’s nightmares. A friend invites me to see something like Hamlet. I arrive at the theater and people are furious at me, because it turns out I am supposed to play Hamlet. I go backstage, pick up the script, and tell myself, “It’s okay, it’s okay, I can memorize this thing in the next . . . fifteen minutes.” But I know it won’t be okay.

Sometimes I have a teaching nightmare, in which, say, a writer I’m working with shows up to a yoga class I’m teaching, talks on her cell phone for half an hour, and then walks out.


5. What do you want your tombstone to say?

An end date a hundred years from the start date. I want to see everything that happens.


Everything Is Endangering Something Else: A Conversation with Francisco Márquez by Washington Square

Francisco Márquez is a Venezuelan poet in Brooklyn. His work can be found in The Offingpoets.org, Lambda Literary and elsewhere. He is a 2016 Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts fellow and an MFA candidate at NYU.

I spoke with Francisco about risk-taking in poetry, family, and more.

—Alexandria Hall


AH: What are you working on right now?


FM: I recently gained hope in two separate projects that I've been working on for some time now. One is related to what I'm calling "family violence" and "inheritance of violence" and how I feel it's been passed on through my family inter-generationally. And the other one is a sequence of poems chronicling, and archiving, how I reacted to a break-up.  They started out superficially, but now they've evolved into deeper explorations of human survival. One of angst and levels of depression, and the other one of a literal, physical survival. They, of course, always intersect.


AH: So, that's making me think of the "risk-taking" panel that you recently invited me to be a part of for the creative writing class you're teaching at NYU. What does risk-taking mean for you in your work and in others' work that you admire?


FM: I guess the notion of risk really came to me when I was working with Sharon Olds. Every time I would go to her with my poem, her edits were about the heart of the poem. She would always lead me with this big personal question, and she would want me to interrogate myself even further. I think I internalized that and it wasn't until this summer or a little before, that for the first time, writing my work, I began to get genuinely concerned for myself, and what I was saying. I was getting scared and even crying. I think that's when it hit me that some of my best poems are poems that I actually suffered writing. Not that I think we should only suffer when writing—there are different ways of doing it—but I had a very visceral experience with it, particularly at a residency this summer. 

I think that the kind of work the poet needs to do is one of grief-digging. It's something that people don't like to do on a regular, human, day-to-day level, what we tend to avoid, and that's what makes us these interesting creatures—people who are in tune with everything around us from joy to pain, and who have to look to the future at the same time. That's what I think risk is in poetry. You have to be able to capture the nature of something, it's history and permanence, and really consider the nature of it. Not just one side of it but every side of it. And once you do that, you'll see that everything that you're interested in has some risk to it. Everything is endangering something else. And I guess once you realize that, the poem probably becomes more difficult to write but it also becomes more exciting to write. 

Oh, and as for work that I think does that really well: Bluets really affected me. Mothers by Rachel Zucker. Beloved by Toni Morrison—of course. Most recently, Voyager by Srikanth Reddy and Averno by Louise Glück.


AH: Is there a particular risk you want to take in your writing but haven't yet?


FM: That's a hard question. I guess I could answer this question in many different ways. One, I don't feel like I've experimented with as many forms or modes that I would like. Like, fiction--I almost don't feel I have the stamina or eye for that yet. Even, essays, or erasures. Two, I don't tend to write as directly about Venezuela, which is probably something having to do with fear. Now, given the striking resemblance in the USA, I almost feel an urgency to. Three, the variety of anxieties and trauma I know to exist in myself and my family's history that  I've yet to really explore.


AH: What kind of work have you been reading lately?


FM: I guess right now I'm obsessed with writers who tackle emotion in understated / undercut / possibly joyful ways. So, I was reading Aracelis Girmay's The Black Maria and her challenge is to write about the black body without having to invoke a kind of violence, and there is such a delicacy and surgical precision to her writing that in seeing her enact this gracefulness, you witness all of the ugly things she had to dig through to get there. Writers I'm obsessed with that I feel make this happen are Sharon Olds and Ross Gay.


AH: Are there other poets / artists in your family? How is your work received by your family? 


FM: Yes! My sister is a fantastic painter. My grandfather was also an artist, and art gallery owner. Everybody in my family is pretty weird too, so there's something artistic to that too. My family is very supportive of my writing. I've always been very artistic, so I think they're used to seeing me be ridiculous and get into an art form—be it performance, or filmmaking. But as with every art and everyone I know, there's always that heightened feeling of utter nakedness you feel when a family member sees your work. I think it has to do with how well they know you, and how broken (and whole) they've seen you, already. 


AH: I remember reading a poem of yours called "Happiness" and it really was a happy poem! Do you think it's challenging to write about happy stuff? 


FM: Yeah! Actually, I don't know. This was something that came up with my students. I gave them an assignment to write about family and a lot of them said that they hadn't had anything traumatic happen to them or their families, and that they tried to think of something really bad and painful, and that struck me, because it showed me what they thought was needed of them in order to write something. So, I told them something that somebody told me: If you're interested in it, then it's worth writing about, even the joyful things. And you might think it'll sound sappy or "what's the point in even dedicating a page to this," but it's exactly why you should dedicate a page to it. 

You used my poem as an example. In that poem there was a sudden image of someone getting a phone call, without context. That's it. I just kind of left it in the middle of the page. And it wasn't to lead anybody on to anything. It was something that was really joyful to me. But, I think, in even the happiest poems, like I was saying, you have to do a serious emotional interrogation of the subject. Even in the happiest things, there's always going to be an edge. Which, I think, makes the poem complete. I don't know whether that's true, but there's something to happiness that is moment-by-moment and therefore it's fleeting and just by the nature of that, it's always going to be touched by something else. Weirdly, that particular poem wasn't hard to write. I think because I wrote it right after it had happened. So, maybe that's related to the answer. As it's happening, record your happy moments. 


AH: Record your happy moments! I love that. What does your writing process look like? 


FM: It depends on what I'm doing, but I've learned a lot from Catherine Barnett in terms of how you can look at one thing and use a multitude of forms or lenses and you'll find yourself with so much material. That's what it's sort of been like for me at this moment. It has to happen organically but, for example, if I'm writing about one very painful aspect of the break-up, I'll find myself going to the grocery and I'll be struck by something, an apple maybe, and all of a sudden I can tell there are many ways to talk about the same sentiment in a variety of different ways. Then, as I come to revise it, I discover it becomes an entirely different thing. It's almost cubist, you know?


AH: Do you feel like you tend to revise a lot or things come out already knowing where they're heading?


FM: The more I write, the more I learn, the more I read—the more I want to revise. I think I've gotten better at being able to say what I need to say at the moment, but often it's like when you're having a conversation and the first things you say are the more polite, superficial things to say. But the more time you spend together, or the more drinks you have, the more the comments that you say actually get to the root of the problem. You could write a poem, but you might end up finding out that's not what you actually wanted to say. So you'll rewrite, you'll turn a poem over, you'll write through an image and then find, "Oh, that's what it is."