Lisa Marie Basile is the author of APOCRYPHAL, along with two chapbooks, Andalucia (Poetry Society of NY) and War/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press, February, 2015). She is the editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and her poetry and other work can be seen in PANK, the Tin House blog, Coldfront, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, Dusie, and the Ampersand Review, among others. She’s been profiled in The New York Daily News, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Poets & Artists Magazine, Relapse Magazine and others. Lisa Marie Basile was the visiting poet at Westfield High School and New York University, and she was a visiting writer at Boston’s Emerson College. She was selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler for inclusion in the Best Small Fiction 2015 anthology and was nominated for inclusion in the Best American Experimental Writing 2015 anthology. She will be included Stay Thirsty Media's Best Emerging Poets 2014. She holds an MFA from The New School.
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, Andalucia (The Poetry Society of NY), was released in 2011 and is a chapbook of vignettes and poems. My first full/length, Apocryphal, came out last year (Noctuary Press). The two deal heavily in the interior-they are both working through loss. Both felt like they simply appeared in the world. My first chapbook made me confident that I could write, that it mattered, that beauty still mattered.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I came to fiction first! I won 1st place fiction in my university's writing prize and I felt very odd about it. So I naturally came to poetry because my prose had an element of the nonlinear (non)space that I wanted to capture.
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?
It usually comes out very quickly (I don't write often). Then I edit quickly and it's done. I am not a lingering type. I let it go, for better or for worse.
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?
All of my work is part of a larger conceptual project. I don't write very many one-off poems. I am usually obsessed by one thing and it works itself into a larger project.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I do give a lot of readings, but this is a very, very complicated question for me to try and answer. I took part in a production for many years in which we "performed" our poetry. The act element to it was alluring. Of course.
However, I am usually very bored at the typical brightly lit, too-long, podium readings. Or the crammed bars where people show up to be seen and not to listen. Not to mention poet voice. There is a lack of authenticity in both situations. But I get it. It's scary to be vulnerable. I suppose that is what troubles me.
But, when I walk into a room and I am able to be intimate and honest with the listeners without a mask, I feel good. When the listeners are invested in the poem, and there is a naturalness and not a forced show, it makes poetry a beautiful thing.
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?
I try to answer the question of honesty. It's hard to balance craft and sincerity. Or maybe it's the same thing. The current question, I think, is how to create a safe space in poetry. But I don't believe in poetry being the house for that safe space. I just don't. I think the safe space is created in the self when one's writing frees them, not necessarily when it creates safety for others.
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?
Absolutely. The writer creates other worlds. No human can live only in this world. We have imaginations, the ability to experience pleasure, we are haunted. Writing simply expedites all of it and gives it to you sooner.
I am not sure what our responsibilities are beyond that, but I like to think we are aiming to get people to think, feel and explore what it means to be alive now and always.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I think there's a lot of benefit there, and the people who've helped me have really given me so much, but you have to trust your own voice first. Let people in if it feels right, but don't take all of their words to heart.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
To give the reader a path in and out, especially when you've created a world that has no footing.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
It has come very natural for me. I work in copy writing by day. I love to write. Form isn't, to me, a binding thing.
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 don't live a glamorous life that sees me writing in my gown all day. I have a day job. It is sad and horrific, but it's the truth, so I let the creativity in when I can. And when I do, it takes over me. And it doesn't matter how dull my days can be; I have a sort of divinity with me then.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Anais Nin's diaries? Light. Space to work. Sex.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
I am actually a part-time fragrance writer, so this question is wonderful! I would say Yves Saint Laurent's Opium, as my mother loves it. It's dark, like black drapes, and very heavy, and intoxicating. Absolutely this.
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?
Definitely cinema! Uncomfortable, quiet films. I love to watch people who can really present authenticity in art.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Anais Nin, Marguerite Duras, Violette Leduc. Recently I have read Lisa Ciccarello and I love her work so much. Lee Ann Roripaugh's Dandarians is killing me. I also adore Richard Siken and Molly Gaudry and J. Michael Martinez.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Make short films based on poems or incorporating poetry.
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 would be a lawyer. I love arguing.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Honestly, when I learned to write it seemed obvious to me to always do it. I don't think this world is enough for me.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I am reading some cult book about poets called Lucinella by Lore Segal. It's amazing at depicting the shittiness and beauty of literary circles.
Film would be Interview with the Vampire. Watched it last night.
20 - What are you currently working on?
A prose poetry novella with Alyssa Morhart-Goldstein. It is all I think about. It is going to really be murderous.