Black Lawrence Press
April 9, 2012

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley

Her Father Says She Worries Too Much

but she’s only trying to prepare
*******for the worst in a world of paper
**************lamps and Zippo lighters,

at a breakfast nook with two teen sons
*******whose yolks explode in their mouths
**************and drip on their plates—

one who cuts his meat into man-sized
*******bites with a butter knife and gags
**************at every meal, and another

who eyes how she chews and maneuvers
*******a city of four-way stops, where no-one
**************bothers with turn signals—

so it’s only right to worry: to bite and tear,
******to pluck and push and touch again,
**************again, to vex with her teeth

and shoulder the paper-lamp light
*******alone; because today a man passed
**************as she perched on black

rock, watching him skim the water
*******in a Coast Guard boat—the kind
**************designed to absorb spiller

waves and still remain sturdy—the man
*******who could be her life, who sees her
**************through binoculars,

who would turn starboard and stop
*******if he weren’t rushing to save someone
**************else, while she’s there, flailing

in her mind, where the cat has knocked
*******a pan from the propane stove, in her
**************home that she’s certain is burning.

This poem first appeared in Two Weeks, an e-anthology published by Linebreak

Q: What is your writing process?

A: My writing process is a lot like I am: moving ahead at full speed or sleeping. I write in swells, punching out a bunch of poems in a short time and then not writing at all for a month or more. It’s taken a long time to accept this as my process—to be okay with periods of quiet—(especially when so many writers swear by flexing those muscles regularly), but that seems to be the way I work these days, given my schedule. I write fewer poems, but those poems that I do write come out feeling closer to finished than they once did. I suppose I write fewer shitty poems on the page and instead slog through the muck in my mind. If nothing else, it’s an environmentally sound shift in my process.

Q:  Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?

A: I recently read Jennifer Perrine’s second book, In the Human Zoo, and found myself really excited about her language and metaphors and the brave project the book undertakes. I also really admired Dana Levin’s Sky Burial. And I’ll admit that I have fallen in love with Catullus (damn that man was snarky and dirty and wonderful in so many ways) and finally found a real fondness for Auden.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: I’d go to the Sporades Islands, where I’m quite certain that I would not write, but where I would hike and swim and cliff jump. I don’t do well under writing-pressure, but I believe that those quiet periods (or crazy-fun periods) are gestational periods during which I’m taking things in. I’d love to experience Greece, to take in the water, the people, the mountains and to funnel all of it through my writing as it occurred later, naturally. I really believe that living my life is more important than writing my life, and if I’m doing the former the latter will come in time.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is a doctoral fellow and poetry editor for Quarterly West at the University of Utah. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Seneca Review, Third Coast, The Journal, Drunken Boat, American Literary Review, Best New Poets 2010, and on Verse Daily.  

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley

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