Chugging along as we are with the submission period, I still found time to interview the amazing poet/proseist Jennifer Woodworth, who pulled double duty in Issue 17 by giving us both a poem and a story. Want to read them? Buy a copy of Issue 17!
Here she is, in all her glory:
Describe your writing in 25 words or less:
I’m pretty superstitious about the writing since it feels a little bit magic to me sometimes. Like there are a bunch of children in my head who make the writing happen. But I’m not going to say that to anyone but you.
Tell me about your poem “Three Fortunes.”
I think the first fortune is a love story, the second one is a warning, and the third is the hard truth that some things cannot be fixed
There are so many ways blood bonds mother to daughter that do not depend on the quality of the relationship.
Your flash fiction “The Orange Tattoo” could be considered a prose poem. What do you think makes the difference between the two forms?
Thank you very much. I think a prose poem is sometimes a story, and sometimes just a poem, though mostly they all just want to be called when it’s time to be read, so to say. But I do think there’s a difference–a story needs a sort of plot, a climax, a denouement; character, and something about the character that changes, or (significantly) doesn’t change. Also, I really like a story with a narrator-character, but that’s just me. Poems don’t have to have any of those things in particular; I think poems have to have different things that are also good for stories, like intensity of language and leanness and strangeness.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Lots of people answer this question with a list of authors or books they love.* But I am also very much inspired by people I write to by email just doing the business of the day, even if I hardly know them. Little details about things we do or don’t have in common can inspire me for hours and I feel very lucky that the writing comes to me at all. I am also sure that showing up every day inspires me to write. I can take a few months off, but am miserable until I can get the children to come back and start up again with the chattering and the clattering of the keys, but I’m not saying that to anyone else, either.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on writing some new stories for a book that will contain my very short stories as well as some of my longer short fiction.
Is there a website/blog where we can keep up with your work?
I have a tiny little blog called Fish Clamor where I post links to wonderful writing things I find online, as well as Every Scrap of Big News in my tiny little writing world. It’s at FishClamor.com.
Any advice for your fellow writers?
I would not have any idea what to say to another writer, but sometimes I need to be reminded that for me, the writing only happens when I show up every day. And I need to remember that it’s fine to take a break when I get tired. And sometimes I forget it’s OK to just read one little story if I don’t have time for the whole book. The children have to be fed.
*Of course I have a list of favorite stories, poems, books, writers! If it weren’t for reading Wanda Coleman’s Heavy Daughter Blues, I might not have become a writer at all. I can’t say what it was about the book, but it turned something over in me that I thought was already right side up. Some of the many stories, poems, and books I love are Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End; Morton Marcus’s Moments Without Names; the amazing poem on the front page of Booth right this minute called “The Problem with Burning Down Your Own House” by Amorak Huey; and “Snow,” by Ann Beattie is amazing. I have some eternal favorites—this year I’ve been on a big Moby Dick craze, the exception to the rule that I only read short stories. I love the stories in Genesis as works of fiction. And Amy Hempel’s book, Reasons to Live, is the best short fiction book I know. I love most anything by Raymond Carver, and I love Donald Barthelme for the delight he takes in writing the bizarre as if it were not so bizarre. I love Louise Erdrich’s short stories and her novel (another exception) Love Medicine. Roger Ebert was a brilliant writer, not a movie critic. Any of his Great Movie essays will bring you the news. I love and hate Henry James for his brilliant and complicated sentences. e.e. Cummings is very much a favorite, what with all the love poems and those gorgeous sonnets and unforgettable moments like as is the sea marvelous–and another great lover, Pablo Neruda, whose Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair will never stop feeling fresh to me. There are not enough women here. I love the book Smoke by Dorianne Laux, especially her poem, “Prayer.” My mother, M.K. Woodworth is a beautiful writer and I hope she’s not done. One day I happened upon a very strange and beautiful book of stories called Silk by Grace Mazure. Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet is to die for. Kimoko Hahn’s book, The Narrow Road to the Interior may well be my favorite book of poetry of all time, and I could go on and on, in fact, I already have. My apologies.