Writer of the Month
April – ?ireann Lorsung
?ireann Lorsung is the author of Music For Landing Planes By (Milkweed Editions, US, 2007) and Her Book (forthcoming, Milkweed, 2013). She received her MFA from the University of Minnesota and is finishing her PhD at the University of Nottingham. With Jonathan Vanhaelst, she runs MIEL, a small press (miel-books.com). She edits the journal 111O and runs the Nottingham Poetry Series
Writing East Midlands chatted to ?ireann about her writing:
1. Can you tell us about the themes you like to explore in your writing and why these interest you?
I am interested in the ethical question of finding a way to live in a world where things end. How do we go about our lives with or despite the knowledge of impermanence? What duty does the mortality of others and our own mortality charge us with?
My recent writing deals a lot with the 20th century, both directly (engaging with particular histories) and as a metaphor (the century as a character).
2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The things I read, and over the past few years this has included quite a bit of literary theory, so that infuses and draws out my work. Reading the newspaper. The color of the leaves on certain plants right now, a very bright chartreuse. Feelings I see as colors and trying to understand why I experience them that way. My relationships with other people. Writing is a way of understanding the world, for me, so the world as I experience it is what creates the desire to write.
3. Which writers and books have most inspired your own writing and why?
Recently, Anne Carson for her intelligence, tenacity, play with form, and dignity; Maggie Nelson because of the audacity of her book BLUETS. Last summer I read both of Zachary Schomburg’s books (he now has a third) and those gave me ideas about where my writing could go. Much earlier, I encountered the writing of Edna St. Vincent Millay and T. S. Eliot, which I still love.
4. Can you tell us about your writing process? What do you find to be the most difficult part, and why?
The most difficult thing about is making myself prioritize my own work. I generally tend to put my responsibility to others’ writing in front of my responsibility to my own, which means by the time I get to it I’m too tired to work.
5. Your first book, ‘Music for Landing Planes By’ was published by in 2007. Can you tell us a little about it?
Music for Landing Planes By came out from Milkweed Editions (milkweed.org) in 2007, as you say. I had written it in 2005-2006, while I was in an MFA program at the University of Minnesota, where I had a lot of really great classmates and colleagues whose input shaped how and what I was able to write. The book itself feels quite distant to me now; it’s a much younger me who is speaking. It is very hopeful, very in touch with the world as a sensory place. It is very much about knowing the world through one’s body and through making things, and about trusting that world. I’m still hopeful, but differently so. I used to think writing alone was enough of a political act. Now I don’t.
6. Your second is forthcoming; when we will see it and can you tell us what it is about?
The second book is called Her Book, and it’s coming out from Milkweed in 2013, if all goes well. I had a number of poems that I’d written since coming to the UK which were dedicated to or about certain important female friends I’ve had here, and I wanted to make those the centrepiece of a manuscript. At first, I was going about it in terms of how it really happened, putting other people at the centre of the book, but then I realised that the book is really about women, women’s friendships, and a whole way of seeing the world that resists violence and competition. I know women’s friendships can be very competitive, too; I feel lucky that many of the ones I’ve developed here have been very open, honest, and loving, without the sense that only one of us can do well. I wanted to make a tribute to these women, and also to make, in writing, a world where there are other end goals than power over other people.
The book is in three sections: the first is fifteen poems responding to work by the American artist Kiki Smith, whose sculptures I love especially. The middle section is poems about the women whose friendships have sustained me while I’ve been in England. The last section is about the possibility of renewal, of regrowth even after trauma, and about the possibility of making a world that looks and behaves quite differently to the one we take for granted as ‘real’.
7. You have recently set up the new small press MIEL, with Jonathan Vanhaelst. Is there anything different about MIEL to other small presses and can you tell us about the books you have recently published?
Compared to other presses, it’s probably not MIEL (miel-books.com) itself so much as the kinds of books we publish that might be different. The first three books we put out (Neele Dellschaft’s I Come Home and I Move Differently and Laressa Dickey’s Companions, Corps of Discovery and A Pictorial History of Wilderness) are poetry chapbooks (pamphlets). They’re hand-sewn and produced in limited numbers per printing. It’s this kind of detail which makes our books stand out: we want to create objects that bridge artists books and trade books. So, for instance, we might publish a monograph of an artist’s work which would be coupled with an edition of prints by the artist, or we might publish a book in a material form other than the traditional bound one.
About our first books:
Laressa Dickey’s A Pictorial History of Wilderness is about the way each of us must make our own way through the wilderness of the body and the family, learning as we go the things that govern those spaces.
Dickey’s second chapbook, Companions, Corps of Discovery, is about the possibility for women to roam and migrate in a history dominated by male explorers.
We’re publishing four chapbooks by Laressa Dickey this year, which is something we plan to continue with other authors. The idea is to introduce readers to the range of a poet’s voice and work, creating an ongoing relationship between readers and the writers we publish.
8. You coordinate the reading series, Nottingham Poetry Series. Can you tell us about it and how writers can get involved?
9. If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you would be doing?
10. What advice would you give someone who is just starting to write poetry?
Pay more attention. More than that. More. More more more more more. Read things that you don’t think are poetry. Listen to your gut. Don’t listen to your gut. Get a broken heart, really bad. Memorise poems and say them by heart. If you can, do not believe in shame guilt, or debt. Give everything you can away. Develop some self-awareness. Be humble, with a secret huge ego. There is more out there: attend, attend. Believe there will be more for you. This will not be the last poem. Be less precious. Be willing to change your mind about what you’re making. Be willing to change your mind about what poetry can be.
“What thou lovest well remains,/ the rest is dross…Pull down thy vanity,/ I say pull down. // But to have done instead of not doing/ this is not vanity.”? Ezra Pound said that, and I believe it.
To read ?ireann’s profile on the Writing East Midlands Database please see here.
To read some of ?ireann’s recent work please see below.
“Algarve: An Abecedarium” in The Collagist, http://www.dzancbooks.org/the-collagist/2011/9/14/algarve-an-abecedarium.html
Excerpts from Scale Model of the World (Inexhaustive), a book-length poem, at Free Verse, http://english.chass.ncsu.edu/freeverse/Archives/Winter_2011/prose/Lorsung_Eireann.htm
A review of Maggie Nelson’s BLUETS in Cerise Press, http://www.cerisepress.com/03/09/bluets-by-maggie-nelson
Two poems in Konundrum Engine Literary Review, http://lit.konundrum.com/poetry/lorsunge_poems.php