“I write what I would describe as narrative lyrics. I truly believe in the power of storytelling, especially personal history, as redemptive.”
Model Home (River Glass Books, New Orleans, LA, 2019
Could you tell us a bit about your growing up and your path to becoming a writer?
I was definitely an obsessive reader long before considering myself a writer. Oddly, I don’t recall reading or learning any poems. I was much more aware of fiction writers and biographers. The first book that had the first major impact on my life was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths which was when I was about six years old or around the third grade. The second influential book was The Diary of Anne Frank, which I also read in elementary school. I had a very advanced vocabulary for a young reader, I read fast, and could remember complex plots with little trouble. English was a subject I excelled in, unlike math, so I felt empowered by my success, even though I was teased by other students. I was also mocked for being a poor speller (still true) and terrible at math. I also enjoyed learning to write cursive script and adored pens, paper, all things stationery, except for pencils, which I disliked because they were large and thick and left smudges of graphite on my hands. My mother read aloud to me almost every day, mostly children’s classics, like Little Women, the Five Little Peppers,and many biographies. There was an orange cloth-bound series of girls’ lives in different periods of American history which were favorites. In my twenties, I discovered the Diary and Letters of Virginia Woolf, then her novels, essays and book reviews after I had immersed myself in her personal history. I was and remain compelled by the lives of women. I published my first poem in the school newspaper in sixth grade. I still remember my excitement at seeing my words in print and, of course, my name. That feeling has never diminished.
I grew up in a Manhattan apartment, the oldest of three sisters. I was very independent and traveled alone around the city. I especially loved the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was a huge influence on subjects I later wrote about. I always loved painting and art making, and majored in Studio Art in college. I also studied Art History and took many English courses.
How do you decorate your writing space?
My writing space or spaces must have windows. I like to be able to get up and walk around my space. There are towering piles of printouts, drafts, and unshelved books. I prefer to write in silence, usually in mid-morning or late at night. I don’t have a particular writing routine, and have been struggling with a difficult period of writing very little. I sometimes wonder if having an organized space might contribute to greater productivity.
What is the relationship between your ethics and your aesthetics? How does your form, content, and style as a writer reflect how you are and are trying to be as a person?
This is a very complex and fascinating question. My ethics are pretty simple. Be kind, tell the truth, do not gossip, support causes you believe in, avoid too-quick judgments, listen intently, and work for compromise. I often write about artists and art, in a form called ekphrasis, which became the basis for my graduate seminar, a requirement in my MFA program. I also write about complex family dynamics, mental health, nature, sorrow, the aging process, and death. I write what I would describe as narrative lyrics. I truly believe in the power of storytelling, especially personal history, as redemptive. My poetic aesthetics tend to focus on extreme experiences, i.e. matricide, violent accidents, which may either be totally invented or fact-based.
What obsessions led you to write your chapbook?
The primary obsession that led me to write Model Home was the impact that my childhood of secrets had on me. Not every poem enacts that obsession, but I think that was a primary motivation. I also believe I have a unique way of seeing the world: I dwell in details. Time and time again, people have commented on my powers of observation, and it is something I don’t even think about, it just is part of my brain and my artistic training. By focusing on the very small, I then tend to build the poem outward to include a larger circumference. (See re: what is your chapbook about.)
What’s your chapbook about?
My chapbook also deals with the aspect of powerlessness inherent in childhood. This may not be overt, but it is a definite undercurrent. As children, it is very difficult to question decisions, especially of our parents and teachers or other authority figures.
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 oldest poems in the chapbook are heavily revised from my MFA thesis written in 2012. They include “Ashfield, Massachusetts, 1890,” “When I was Pregnant and Sucked Lemons,” and “Before You Leave.” The first one is spoken by a dead child, the others are in the voice of a mother. They are all related to the female experience of pregnancy, childbirth, connection and disjunction.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
The chapbook had various titles before it was accepted with the current one, Model Home. This title seemed to encompass most of the major themes, as well as having several possible interpretations: Model as in the best, something to aspire to, Model as in a small version of a larger object, Model as in something impossible or difficult to obtain, such as the latest car or designer clothing. My long time poetry mentor helped with the arrangement of poems.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
I would say that “Ballastis” is unlike most of the other poems. I wouldn’t say it’s a misfit, but it is an outlier in terms of syntax and voice. I would call it an entangled Ars Poetica, as is “I Hang My Dress From A Hole in the Sky.”
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?
The final poem I wrote was the title poem. It was not included in the original submission to the press, but they felt it was a good fit. The first version was more conventional in form, but I decided the fragments were a better fit for the emotional context.
Do you have a favorite revision strategy? What is it?
I don’t have a favorite revision strategy. Often if I am stuck, I will look at art and photography books, or go back and reread the original text that inspired the poem, or look at previous revisions and see if there is something in a prior draft that I can use to reenergize the poem, or draft it in another form. I try removing all the articles and adjectives to tighten up the lines, or type the text in a block and re-lineate it without looking at the original. Or circle the strongest lines and copy and paste those in another document and revise. Or if I’m completely frustrated, I will put it aside and come back to it in a couple of weeks.
What has the editorial and production experience with your press been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
I had the most positive and collaborative experience with my press. I took the cover image for the book. That wasn’t planned, but I was very happy to be able to do it. I was less familiar with the demands of print and layout, so I was happy with the press taking charge of that aspect, but every decision was made as a team and via email which I think is amazing! It was a fantastic first experience, and I recommend going with a small press as long as you can get information about their prior books, either online or through a personal connection. Do not sign any legal document without getting either a lawyer or someone with publishing experience to review it. Make sure you understand the financials and copyright issues prior to signing.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am trying to find a new project that may result in another chapbook, I have a full length collection that needs substantial revision, but I am concerned that the material may be too old. There may be some poems that can be incorporated into another project. Working to promote and design a book was much more demanding than I anticipated. It was difficult to write new work or think about what I would do after Model Home because I was completely invested in getting it out in the world as the best work I could do.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
My advice to students interested in creative writing is to find a writing group. If you can’t find one, start one. Find a mentor, develop relationships with your faculty, attend readings when you can, read as much as possible. Think about other ways you can use your writing skills. I found book reviewing was very rewarding. Study the writers of the past, poetry has a long history. Find a period or a poet that fascinates you and immerse yourself. Don’t forget about context. Poetry, like all other art forms, reflects cultural concerns.
What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?
I read chapbooks from friends and press mates. As I have been thinking about chapbooks, I realized that the form’s readership is severely undermined by lack of accessibility. Chapbooks are rarely available in bookstores, even independent ones. A small run book that doesn’t provide much profit isn’t going to be stocked in large retailers. I think this is a real problem as the possibilities offered to both the reader and writer of chapbooks are so various. As you continue your study of chapbooks and the writing of poetry, maybe you could think about establishing an online Chapbook Clearing House, where people could have the opportunity to see what’s being written. I think this would be a great class project.
Eve F.W. Linn received her B.A. cum laude from Smith College in Fine Art and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the Low Residency Program at Lesley University. She has attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Frost Place Conference on Poetry, and the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. She is a published poet and book reviewer. Her first chapbook is Model Home, published by River Glass Books, July 2019. Her favorite color is blue. She collects antique baby shoes, vintage textiles, and art pottery. She lives west of Boston with her family and one demanding feline.