THINGS WE’D LOVE TO KNOW…
Let’s start with the book’s cover image. How did you choose it?
I'm so glad you asked about the cover image. My husband and I recreated Rodin's sculpture "Cathedral" with our hands. I refer to this particular sculpture in the last line of the last poem. I also felt having our hands intertwined held one of the major themes of the book: building a life with someone else.
What were you trying to achieve with your collection? Tell us about the world you were trying to create, and who lives in it.
The book looks at many facets of women's lives--fertility, breast cancer, loving our children, not loving them. The book is also full of art, Greek and Roman gods, sexy dancers, and children.
Can you describe your writing practice or process for this collection? Do you have a favorite revision strategy?
I get something on the page, usually through freewriting. Then I let it sit, like for one month to 20 years. Seriously, I'm currently reading through journals that are from 1994. I go back through the journals picking out only the phrases and images that really grab me now. I type those into a file called "notes from journals." Then I either start crafting a cohesive set of notes into a poem or create a pastiche of different images that my gut tells me might go together. Adding in material from a completely different world is one of my favorite revision strategies. This helps me get away from linear thinking; I trick myself into making oblique connections. Once I have a draft, I go back to it regularly, playing with the images, line breaks, meter, form. My other favorite revision strategy is to squeeze. What else can I take out of the poem to make it tighter and more powerful, more musically cohesive?
How did you order the poems in the collection? Do you have a specific method for arranging your poems or is it sort of haphazard, like you lay the pages out on the floor and see what order you pick them back up in?
I got help! I certainly saw themes, connections between poems, images that carried through out, and rearranged accordingly, but the manuscript was getting runner-up. So, I hired Susan Rich, who is a friend, a wonderful poet, and a wonderful editor. She helped me reorder and find a new focus. I'm learning how to order a manuscript. Recently, I've been using Scrivener software to add tags, color codes, and key terms to poems. That helps me see themes and decide how I want them to intersect.
What do you love to find in a poem you read, or love to craft into a poem you’re writing?
I love to learn what I always knew but didn't know I knew, that moment when your breath catches and you shiver because of course "they taste good to her" (William Carlos Williams) of course what can lift me up "anything" (Muriel Rukeyser). It's that shock of recognition, even joy.
Can you share an excerpt from your book? And tell us why you chose this poem for us to read – did it galvanize the writing of the rest of the collection? Is it your book’s heart? Is it the first or last poem you wrote for the book?
When my daughter, straight from her bath,
brings her body to mine
and she has no breasts and she has only
the slightest dip in the straight line that is her
still damp with the equinox,
when she molds her body to mine,
her head under my head, her long rib cage
against my deep breasts, our heartbeats
a processional, then I know
what is in the hands Rodin
sculpted and called Cathedral.
This is the last poem in the book. I picked it to share for what it says about my process. I have loved Rodin since I was a child, and for 25 years I've tried to write a poem about Rodin. I've researched him, read Rilke's analysis of him, despaired over his treatment of the women in his life, visited his museums in Philadelphia and Paris, and written several failed poems. And then I wrote this poem in about five minutes. All that previous work built the foundation for this moment.
If you had to convince someone walking by you in the park to read your book right then and there, what would you say?
Have you ever despaired, desired? Have you been afraid that you didn't love someone enough? Do you want to be happy? If so, these poems will speak to you.
What are you working on now?
I'm just about done my next poetry manuscript. I'm fascinated with questions of sex and power, and in this book, I use stories from the Bible to explore these questions.
Without stopping to think, write a list of five poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least write in permanent marker on your clothing, to take with you at all times.
Purchase After I Stop Lying.
Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Arts & Letters, New Letters, The Antigonish Review, and Menacing Hedge, among many others. She is an instructor, editor, and writing tutor in the Seattle area. Visit her online at www.deborahbacharach.com.