“There’s something about these poems that really brings me back to this feeling of lying about in the stillness of a heat wave delirium.”
Bitches of the Drought (Sundress Publications, 2017)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks?
Tofu of Kansas by Iris Moulton
Cutthroat Glamours by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
Surveillance by Ashaki Jackson
At Night, The Dead by Lisa Ciccarello
Love Lessons from Buffy The Vampire Slayer by Lisa Cheby
My Body is Not a Textbook, But You Are My Mango by Yu-Han Chao
25 Little Red Poems by Angela Veronica Wong
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The chapbook began with just a title in 2014. The title just sort of came to me, without explaining itself. I didn’t know where I was going with it, but I knew I wanted to explore it. That’s when I wrote the title poem. Then throughout 2014 and 2015, I made an effort to do weekly or sometimes daily writing exercises. Usually on Sunday afternoons. The interesting thing was, I didn’t really feel like I was “in the zone.” It honestly felt like a slog, and I worried I had lost the magic. I would write little scraps of poetry and then forget about them. Over a year later, at a Women Who Submit submission party, I culled together all of the unattached poems I had written over the past few years and suddenly realized I had a chapbook on my hands. It needed a lot of work, but the pattern was there. There were many revisions after that, and I added some older poems in as well. “Things I Have Burned Intentionally” was written in 2012, as was “Confection.” Those are the oldest poems in the collection.
How is the chapbook similar to or different from your earlier work?
My poetry is always pretty lyrical, so Bitches of the Drought has that in common with my earlier published works. But it does represent a departure from the three-ish-year hold prose poetry had over my style. I’m learning to let enjambments back into my life. I also experimented with allowing the voice to be snarkier and more flippant, to mention technology and to give the emotions of the poem more breathing room.
I’ve been thinking a lot about astrology lately, which I don’t put 100% faith in but which I find interesting to think about. The metaphors of cosmic power and story archetypes are useful in my writing practices. So, I’m a Pisces, and I’ve been thinking about how this is really a Piscean collection of poetry. Pisces are supposed to be very dreamy, intuitive, and a little spacey. There’s something about these poems that really brings me back to this feeling of lying about in the stillness of a heat wave delirium, daydreaming and throwing weird-ass literary language into my poems. I’ve often been told that my poetry moves fast, which I think means that it skips from metaphor to metaphor without worrying if the reader has lost grasp of my hand, a tendency that I developed in grad school as an overcorrective measure to my original habit of coddling the reader and explaining the hell out of my images. So now I have these little poems that dart around like fish. Pisces also get some flak (at least on the brilliant twitter account Poet Astrologers) for being murderously dramatic, and I can’t deny that there’s a thick vein of j’accuse rage running through this collection.
Did you submit your chapbook to contests, open reading periods, or both?
Both! But I quickly learned to do it differently next time. From now on, I’m going to prioritize contests before I try open reading periods. If I’m putting all my eggs in a contest basket, spending all that money on multiple submission fees, I want to wait it out to see if any of them accept me before I try open reading periods. That being said, I submitted to 11 presses, some of which were contests and some of which were open reading periods, and I would have been happy getting published with any of them. And I was very excited when Sundress notified me that I was a finalist in their competition.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
I reached out to Aurora Lady, a Los Angeles artist I met a few years ago when we were both part of Kate Durbin’s Hello Selfie performance art piece. I really like her Instagram and blog; she’s got a great girly aesthetic. We brainstormed a few ideas together and she came back with artwork I loved. It’s a gorgeous color palette full of heat and wavy mirage shimmers. The title layout looks like an Old Hollywood title card, scrawled above the city in dramatic script.
What are you working on now?
A few things, very haphazardly, which seems to be my style, and I’ve come to accept that. Projects do eventually get finished, even if they take a few years. So there are a few standalone essays I’ve had knocking around in my head for five years and I’m trying to actually write those. I also recently collected all the unpublished poems I’ve written over the past couple years during writing exercises and free write sessions, to see what I’ve got. I have 45 pages, so I think I might finally be making progress towards a full-length collection.
What is your writing practice or process?
True or False: The chapbook is to the full-length collection as the EP is to the LP. Discuss.
This is the analogy I use when responding to people who are confused about what a chapbook is. It’s a helpful connection to make. Chapbooks are generally smaller, with limited distribution. They might be narrower in focus and theme, or more preciously made (special paper, letterpress printing, saddle stitching, unconventional folding or binding). Sometimes I prefer chapbooks to full-length collections because they feel tighter and more contained.
Have you found in your writing of poems that they are separate from you—that they have their own lives and desires—or that they are extensions of you without “selves” apart from your own notion of “self” and your imagination?
My poems are a part of me, and they are often fairly personal, but I don’t always know where they come from or where they are going. And I also believe that once art is out there in the world, the creator doesn’t have control over how it’s received or interpreted. I hope my poems speak to their readers and accumulate multiple layers of meaning with each person who interacts with them.
Where is the ideal place to read your chapbook? What type of place for reading might antagonize your chapbook?
Read it by the pool when you’re hangry.
Do you think that in the course of your present and/or future career, having written and published a full-length book, you’ll come back to the chapbook, publishing them (or attempting to) as you see fit or as the work seems to elect, or do you see the chapbook as a breakthrough collection to longer works?
I’d really like to get my shit together and finally make a full-length collection (or more!), but I can see myself continuing to make chapbooks throughout my poetry career, because I like the freedom of experimentation they provide. Relating to a few questions back, maybe a chapbook is sometimes a little more like a demo tape, when you want to float a new theme, form, or voice and see what responses come back.
Concerning voice and style: Do you find it something that you consciously think about or do you simply write? Do you try to reinvent yourself every few years, go looking for a new way, or do you think that finding a certain language, a certain voice and pushing and honing it over a lifetime is your preferred mode?
Honestly, I feel like my process for writing poetry is like throwing spaghetti at a wall. I write in the language that comes to me, either based on what literature I’m absorbing or where my subconscious takes me. Whenever I try to deliberately reinvent myself it rings false. I try things, and sometimes they work or sometimes they don’t.
Chapbooks have historically been small, handmade paper productions, but, in our current time, chapbooks can be produced as digital files. How does the physical/ digital reality of a chapbook affect your relationship to the text? As a reader? As a writer?
This chapbook was published as an e-chapbook, which I appreciate, because it means more people can read it, for free. But I also like tangible objects to read, so I printed a limited run to sell to people who would like a signed copy. And the proceeds will be split between Planned Parenthood, SisterSong, and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. I was inspired by Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo and Ashaki Jackson, who have both done this with their chapbooks
Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including the most recent, Bitches of the Drought, selected as a finalist in Sundress Publications 2016 Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Interrupture, Sixth Finch, and others. She has written essays and interviews for multiple online publications, including Salon and The Rumpus, and she is the Reviews Editor for Terrain. She hosts the Pomegranate Reading Series in her backyard featuring amazing women artists and writers. She is proud to be on the leadership team for Women Who Submit. Author photo by Rachael Warecki.
Saturday and I want to be
doing what everybody else
is doing: flying
at your face with my hot
pink claws. Put me in
a music video. I could
get used to this