Tuesday, December 17, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lightsey Darst

Lightsey Darst is a writer living in Durham, NC. Find her books at Coffee House Press

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Getting that first book done (Find the Girl, published by Coffee House Press in 2010), having the momentum to carry through with a book-length project, that did change me. I have had much more confidence in my vocation as a writer since then, because I know I can finish something big, I can carry through. Now, I still work on big things (a book rather than a poem), but everything else has changed, as it seems to me it has to if you're going to stay alive as an artist. 

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I came to fiction first. Then poetry when I realized I didn't care about characters or plots, two things that at the time I believed necessary for fiction. (I know better now, but I still find poetry more congenial).

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?
Writing is a very slow process for me. Not the actual drafting, but the long process of figuring out what it is I need to make (what only I can make, what I am needed to make).  

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?
I am working on a book from the start, though it takes me a long time to know the outline of that book.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Oh, I love readings! I love the performance. For me, the reading is not a version of the book, it's something else. I did choral readings for my second book, DANCE. I loved those. I see so many possibilities for reading as a dramatic form.  

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?
The questions shift with the book. I'm typically more motivated by social questions that then pick up form and become inextricable from writing questions.   

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?
I can't make a rule for someone else about who they should be. I think artists in general have a dreaming function (which is also an agitating function). I do believe in the revolutionary purpose of art. But that's a very general idea, and different people will express it in different ways.   

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Editing is wonderful. Essential. By the time you get to that stage, you really do need people to help you get to the best you can do with the material.  

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
God, there's so much out there. I just finished reading Anne Boyer's "Questions for Poets," which is full of things you need to think about.   

10 - 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 work full time and have two young children, so the typical day might involve 20 or 30 minutes when I sneak away to write. It's hard. I do get a longer block every Sunday.   

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I can't afford to stall, really. I just keep on going. I am always looking around, I always have interests. I have to just go on.   

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

13 - 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?
To me, this seems kind of backwards. Everything goes in. Sometimes the work needs some element in particular that I have to go hunt for. But mostly, it's what must be addressed, what must be expressed, and whatever helps with that.   

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Eek there are so many! I read Layli Long Soldier's Whereas recently, like everyone else, and that was amazing. I'm reading Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette right now, and that is a a stunning journey. Two is all I can do. I'll have to photograph my bookshelf.   

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Lately I have allowed myself to say, "That's not happening for me this go around," not because I believe in reincarnation but to forgive myself for having been born in a place and time.   

16 - 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?
Is writing an occupation? I do wish I had handled the occupation part differently in some respects, but for the vocation, I could not have been anything other than an artist.   

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Early talent, encouragement, ease of access. When you're older you see how accidental that all is, but when you're young it can matter greatly.   

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
See #14. I have not seen any movies lately. Movies are a big decision for me, a big investment. I don't like how the imagery sticks with me. I don't want to give that power to just anything. Also, let's be real, with two kids, a job, and an art practice, I have no time.  

19 - What are you currently working on?
A project on mothering and inheritance. 

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