Interview with Landon Godfrey, author of “Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Souffle Chiffon Gown”
Lines + Stars: How did you feel when you discovered you had won the Cider Press Review Book Award?
Landon Godfrey: I was surprised, honored, worried (I could just answer “worried” or some variation of that for every question about anything), pleased.
L+S: Is it still affecting your life?
LG: Yes. Besides what you might expect-giving readings, meeting new people-this book has been a conclusion to a particular time in my writing life. Post-book I didn’t write for a long time, and I didn’t know if I would. But I’ve started again, trying not to think about what I’ve already written. Now on to the next poems, which are different in ways I didn’t anticipate.
L+S: How do you balance being a poet, artist, and actress with your work as an editor and teacher?
LG: I’m not sure I do balance them. I often feel like I’m shirking my duties to one effort if I do anything on behalf of another pursuit. Sometimes I try to think of similarities among these different kinds of work. Most times I do what’s in front of me, hoping all the while there’s enough time to do everything eventually.
L+S: You live in North Carolina now. What do you miss most about Washington, D.C.?
LG: It’s so busy. It’s so much a city. I love all the people, the museums, the monuments, the crush of everything. Even the confusion and noise. Here in the country as I answer this question, I can hear thrushes and a pileated woodpecker. And I know there are bears contemplating a walk through my woods. That’s a whole different neighbor for me.
L+S: What inspires your poetry?
LG: Other poets’ work.
L+S: What authors have inspired you?
LG: Zbigniew Herbert, Paul Celan, Emily Dickinson, Charles Wright, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Larry Levis. I could go on and on.
L+S: Would you classify any of your poems as autobiographical?
LG: There are lots of elements of my life in my poems. And lots of invention. The truest autobiographical element in all of my poems is my thought process. How I think is who I am.
L+S: Why do you choose to pay attention to both the material and referential use of language in your work?
LG: When a word is an object, I like to think about its thingness-for example, sounds divorced from meaning, evocations the synaesthetic qualities a word could conjure, the nostalgia-like transportations a word might induce. And I guess I feel a certain reverence for a word as a container of history and change, and also a certain skepticism about putting too much faith in any idea that precludes curiosity. And my interest in referentiality is an admission that I’m not alone as a poet no matter how lonely I may feel on occasion.
L+S: What are your plans for the future, writing or otherwise?
LG: I’d like to write more poems. I’d like to act in more plays. Maybe write a play. I’d like to make more drawings and paintings. I’d like to train my dogs, Banana and Angus, to play dead.
L+S: Why do you write?
LG: I don’t know.
L+S: Tell me about the title poem.
LG: Most of what I’d like to say about it the poem says for itself. But even as I write that, I do have something to say about it from outside it. One of the aspects of the poem I’m interested in is the enactment of some of its own considerations throughout. For instance, there’s some talk about not flirting, though I think the poem is in fact flirtatious. And I’m also interested in how much clarity the poem has despite the somewhat blurry boundaries of the prose poem: it’s a list, it’s declarative, it’s aware of itself. If this poem were a person, I’d like to invite it to dinner.
L+S: What prompted you to write poems about Eva Hesse?
LG: I went to a retrospective of her work at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in 2006. The visceral aspect of the work appeals to me. It’s so much about disgust, and I too have a keen interest in the disgusting. The catalogue from the show also inspired me to write about Hesse because of the attention paid to writing itself; essays in the book discussed her prolific diary writing and her use of words and letter forms in drawings especially. And some of the academic language with all its attempts at neutrality and precision intrigued me when considered against the ugliness and confusion of Hesse’s work.