Carrie Lorig is the author of The Pulp vs. The Throne (Artifice Press). Her chapbooks include The Book of Repulsive Women, which was selected by Lily Hoang for the Essay Press Chapbook Contest, Reading as a Wildflower Activist, and NODS (Magic Helicopter Press). A chapbook called The Blood Barn will be published by Inside the Castle in Spring 2019. She lives in Atlanta, GA with the poet Nick Sturm.
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book, The Pulp vs. The Throne, is an unleashing. It was and continues to be. I was in my MFA and mostly was told I didn’t know how to write poems, that what I was writing wasn’t poems. Blood said otherwise. River said otherwise. I said otherwise. The Pulp vs. The Throne is so literal to me! How do I speak using the magic / the gut inside me / inside what surrounds me? How do I refuse laws / workshop / what harms our speaking / our lives? How to collapse the versus?
My work has changed considerably. I see TP vs TT as a beginning now / I see how I’ve become a stronger writer since then. My partner has said to me, about my new writing, “You are becoming more unforgiving.” Writing has always helped me see myself / what I need to do to be better for others / what terms I need to create for myself / what healing is.
I’ve had a period of non-writing / not writing this past year for the first time since I was maybe 24 (I’m 31 now). It’s related to some difficult personal stuff that was quite simply, unavoidable in creating damage. And right in the middle of working on my second book. It is scary / uncomfortable, but I’m getting towards the end of that / to a new place where I’m writing again, but differently. I can’t speak it yet, but I feel it coming. I see it / there.
I just read Cornelia Barber’s essay / poem, “Bad Poems for Girls Who Steal,” this morning at FANZINE, and this paraphrase she includes from hearing Dolores Dorantes speak feels impossible and like a stone I am / rubbing:
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I have a memory of another child telling me they knew I was not from the place I was living because my face / my eyes were so odd to them. Sometimes I think of this when people ask me this question. Sometimes I think, where else can we be ourselves / destroying / creating. Sometimes I think, where else do we ask and answer the question, what is it like for you to think / to live with your thinking. I would also insist I do write fiction. I do write non-fiction. I do write poems. I don’t.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Someone told me once that Ashbery received titles first. So do I. I receive the title and then most likely, the project. I get an idea for how long it will go on. Right now, my second book will contain three differently titled sections: The Book of Repulsive Women, The Blood Barn, and Collection / Agency. All three sections will contain five poems that share the same title with each other and with the title of their section. Length means so much to me. I’m still learning to express it. I know we read long poems. I know we talk about them. But I don’t feel we do so with nearly enough complexity, with nearly enough ability to see / feel through what they are. Because of length, I suppose, my process is “slow,” but my books are often twice / three times the length of what’s expected / accepted as average. I don’t much care for thinking about how time does or does not define what I do. I edit intensely as I go with intentionality and thought. Each page has an individual feel to me and must look as it becomes in front of me. I work on one poem at a time. Because my poems are often connected to each other / feed into each other and back to each other, they emerge chronologically (tho the experience of writing / reading them, isn’t necessarily chronological). My partner, the poet Nick Sturm, is my most cherished editor. The first receiver. Also, many other bodies. I will send work to them or we’ll drink a beer and talk about it on a porch.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Again, titles. They show up inside me. They are undeniable when they appear.
I’m working on a book from the beginning while knowing the book rarely ends or is limited to its physical book-ness. Edmond Jabès, Raúl Zurita, and Bhanu Kapil most inform my understanding of the book.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Performance is inseparable from my work. I often write about performances I’ve done or end up writing something as a response to something I felt or noticed during a performance. Performance is an intense body experience for me. Indescribably freeing and painful. The final poem in “The Book of Repulsive Women” section tries to recount my experience touring with my first book. I think many people, including myself, have found the reading / performance / public space to have a great deal of potential to turn violent / to exist as violence. I have committed or am capable of committing violence in the reading space. We all are. I have also found the reading / performance / public space to be revelatory. I go to it for revelation. Zurita, Kapil, Jennifer Tamayo, Ana Mendieta, Abraham Smith, Ashley Chambers, Ji Yoon Lee, Cecilia Vicuña, Elisabeth Workman, Alice Notley v. much inform my understanding of the reading / performance / public space. To enter it with urgency.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
So much enters and surrounds the reading / how the reading continues beyond having finished the reading. Lisa Robertson's first essay in Nilling is v. close to how I think about how the text enters the text you are writing. Right now, I have been thinking of questions which refuse the (question) mark because the mark is already so unbearably present and uttered elsewhere and otherwise. All reading is blood.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
To write poems. To continue to question / consider what it means to write / read poems / to live.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I genuinely see myself as both the writer and editor of my poems. I feel like that is important to me. That I give that agency to myself. That said, I always learn a great deal from how others experience / read my work. I wouldn’t say I find working with editors difficult because I will tell them no.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Alice Notley appeared in a dream, years ago now, holding an owl skull. She said, Fuck U. Write like the startling you lay down on. Lol.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (your individual work vs. collaboration)? What do you see as the appeal?
I haven’t done any collaboration recently because my individual writing has become so demanding / time consuming. There’s also just been a lot of upheaval, change, difficulty these last few years. But it has always been easy for me to move between genres / types of writing. I write reviews often and continue to write them now. I’m sure I’ll return to collaboration sometime in the future. I get a lot out of being in proximity to the work / feelings / thought processes of others. It’s a joyful experience. Working on these other things has always made my individual writing better. I dream of teaching a poetry class where you just write reviews of or responses to books / writing. I think they are poems. I think they have much to teach us about reading / writing.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I feel like I’m writing even when I’m not physically doing it. My routine changes according to what I need to do to ensure my family is taken care of. In grad school, before I had a family, I wrote for hours every day, often in 7-8 hours stretches. Now, I write at work with coffee for as big of a stretch as I can manage. I write on the weekend after going to kickboxing / chores / walking the dogs. The only thing that has always been true about my routine is that I do not write once the sun has gone down.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I resist thinking of my work as stalled or not stalled / assigning logic about time that the poems themselves don’t really adhere to. But I did mention this recent interruption. I am turning to books, therapy, and to a greater understanding of what healing is.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Any smell that involves horses.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I very intentionally create and build playlists for every poem / project I’m working on. They feel very important to me when I’m writing and I won’t write without music or headphones. I use a lot of images in my work. I use Twitter / Instagram. There will be photographs (a collaboration with photographer Stephanie Dowda) in what I’m working on now. I have a page in my book rn that just says *PHOTOS OF TUBES.* (Will a photo of tubes end up there? Idk.) I know I can’t include everything that makes the poem but I want to / try to include it all. Sometimes it’s crazy to me that we lump poetry in *writing* more readily than we do with painting / dance / these incredibly textural, physically present arts. Bc yes, language is inevitably communicative here, but is it not also somehow a material / somehow becoming something else? Poetry is inevitably multidimensional and interdisciplinary / utterly tangled in it all. Etel Adnan is someone I turn to in this respect.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I think I’ve named many of them already. I joke with Nick often that reading for me has nothing to do with loyalty. I think what I mean is reading linearly / with lineage + reverence in mind has never made sense to me. I have named many of the writers I return to. I am always trying to expand / consider what’s important to me and my work. I don’t turn to poetry or writers bc they have simple answers. I turn to reading and there is / complication. Truly listening for the writing / the work in your proximity that is necessary / transformative / that reveals itself to you.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
More travelling, having more compassion / kindness for myself (that Cancer risinggggg). I want to help those in education: teachers, students, grad students, etc. I’m returning to school in the fall to become a school psychologist.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I will always be a poet. I always have been. Survival within capitalism won’t ever negate that, but it has meant rethinking what a word like occupation signals. I have had many / occupations.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I started writing when I was v. young. It has always felt inevitable to me.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
How To Keep You Alive by Ella Longpre. I know Jennifer S.Cheng’s new book, Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems, will mean a great deal to me once it’s near to me / I’m reading it. I’m actually not much of a film person at all so I’ll mention music. I’ve been re-listening to the Jai Paul songs that are publicly available. I think we are impossibly lucky to have the Jai Paul songs we do.
20 - What are you currently working on?
My second book will be called Collection / Agency. I’m working on the last section, which will also be called “Collection / Agency.” I’m working with Inside the Castle, a small press in Kansas run by John Trefry, to publish The Blood Barn as a chapbook in early 2019.