Novelist Ann Tyler says that she reads so that she can live more than one life in more than one place. I write for the same reason. My character Marlene Mae lives a brash, reckless life, quite unlike my own more careful and calculating existence. I thought I was done with Marlene Mae in 2013 when Dancing Girl Press published the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for the Truth, but she (and her mother) just keep on re-appearing in new poems, including “Marlene Mae Talks About Denial” and “Marlene Mae’s Mother Turns Seventy-Six and Her Physician Asks If She Is Still Sexually Active.”
Tell us about your writing life.
When I was in fourth grade, I won a prize for a rhyme-driven poem entitled “Courtesy.” Ever since then, I assumed I was a poet, but I wasn’t really until I began writing almost daily at forty. As I tell students, you have to have the habit of writing in order to be a writer. Obsessions? I want my language to be both accessible and resonant.
What writing advice has stayed with you?
My old professor George Dell first told me “10 percent inspiration and 90% perspiration.” Of course, there are many versions of that advice. My best advice: Just set aside time to write on a regular basis.
Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?
I’m influenced by the science section of the New York Times, visual art, reading—really I try to be open to what I come in contact with.
What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?
I always hate this question. As I write this, I am off to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival this weekend, and I am looking forward to hearing Mark Doty, Robert Pinsky, Henri Cole, Eavand Boland, Marie Howe and so many others. I have always liked the work of Stephen Dunn—for its accessibility and wisdom.
What are you reading now?
Richard Power’s Orfeo. All of Alice Munro. Best of the Best American Poetry ed. by Pinsky.
What project(s) are you working on now, or next?
I have a lot of writing projects right now—an ongoing series of ekphrastic poems, a series of tight, small poems. I am enjoying writing a series on “The Minor Poet.” Of course, Major Poet, as most of us know, is an oxymoron.
Where can our readers connect with you online?
Readers can find me at loismarieharrod.org.
Anything else our readers might want to know about you?
I walk four miles a day—but unlike Billy Collins, I don’t compose during my works. I like hiking, too.
LOIS MARIE HARROD’s thirteenth and fourteenth poetry collections, Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), and Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching was published by Black Buzzard Press in 2011. Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook (Iowa State). She is widely published in literary journals and online zines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches creative writing at The College of New Jersey. Read her work at loismarieharrod.org.