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An interview with 2017 Chapbook Contest Winner Laura Page

 

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I recently interviewed Laura Page, whose collection of poetry epithalamium won Sundress Publications‘ sixth chapbook competition. Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry journal, Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + MothCrab Creek ReviewThe RumpusTinderbox Poetry JournalTINGE, and elsewhere. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, Children, Apostates (dancing girl press, 2016) and Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana (Anchor & Plume, forthcoming). Visit her website at www.laurapage.net.

Danielle Hayden: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed! I’d like to dive right in and talk about epithalamium. What was the inspiration behind this work? 

Laura Page: My pleasure. Thank you! I came across the word ‘epithalamium’ in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics while participating in a project spearheaded by my friend Joshua Medsker, who is also a poet. The term is Latin, and denotes texts celebrating or expounding on marriage, though, as the editors note, epithalamia can be quite varied, both in structure and tonality. Adrienne Rich said something that has always stuck with me: “The moment of change is the poem.” I suppose I wanted to document and compile what is mutable between two committed individuals.

DH: What challenges, if any, did you encounter while putting this collection together?

LP: It’s interesting—compiling this collection was almost no challenge; the poems coalesced, however, out of a difficulty I had been having while trying to order another manuscript. I kept feeling that many poems contained in that collection didn’t seem to ‘fit’ or seemed to belong to another speaker. A large percentage of the poems in epithalamium were those that I eventually realized could become a separate body of work.

DH: If I may, I’d like to ask a bit about your background and your journey to becoming a poet. How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a poet? Who or what were your biggest influences/from whom did you draw inspiration?

LP: I’m not sure there was one pivotal moment. I have always loved literature. As a very young person, I read pretty voraciously. I wish I could devour books now like I did then. I think I wrote my first poem when I was twelve and shortly after that, I decided that I wanted to write fiction. Though I do write the occasional story, poetry is my love. I have to return to Adrienne Rich, here, because I started writing again as an adult after I picked up a book of critical essays on her work. I was maybe 19, and was blown away. After that, it was Theodore Roethke. There were a few gateways. Then I started writing truly awful poetry in earnest.

DH: What/who inspires you today? 

LP: There are many, but recently I’m enamored with Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Robert Hass, and Ada Limon.

DH: What is your creative process like? I know it’s different for every poet and sometimes for every work or phase of life. Feel free to describe your process more generally or how it was during the writing of epithalamium, if those differed at all.

LP: A poem almost always begins with an image or a turn of phrase that strikes me and then sticks for whatever reason. For some time now, I’ve been keeping one or more Word files open or readily accessible and writing in odd moments, very fast, without letting myself think too much about what’s going down. Everything in a particular file is loosely connected, so I have several little micro-collections going. I rework the poems, occasionally, but I’m less compulsive about doing so than I ever used to be. This is a fairly new thing. It feels more focused compared to past phases, certainly compared to the rather drawn out process of writing epithalamium.

DH: I know that you are the founding editor of the poetry magazine Virga. Congratulations on the launch! What has that been like so far (rewards, challenges, etc.)?

LP: I started Virga because I wanted to be a more involved literary citizen, as cliché as that term might sound these days, and I feel like I’m accomplishing that goal. It’s been very rewarding to read new and emerging poets and showcase their work. We’ve received some great feedback and I’m feeling confident in the future of the magazine, as tiny as we are. I think the challenge, for us, is a challenge any very new publication experiences unless it is very well connected, which is just bringing the magazine to the attention of more readers and prospective contributors. So, a shameless plug: if you’re reading this, we’d love for you to take a look and consider submitting poems!

DH: Why do you write? Why does poetry matter? We here at Sundress don’t need to be convinced of poetry’s importance, but for those naysayers, what do you say?

LP: Poetry is a means of access; what is being accessed is different for every poet. For me, it’s a way of getting at complex emotions, desires, and a way to interrogate my own assumptions. Sometimes it’s a liminal way to converse with elements outside of myself.

 DH: What are you reading now/what have you read recently?

 LP: I recently read Jorge Luis Borges’ This Craft of Verse, which is an incredible collection of essays on the reading and writing of poetry, and am currently reading a strange mix of things: some religious texts—gospels from the Nag Hammadi—some Anaïs Nin, some Gertrude Stein.

DH: And, finally, what are you currently working on? Any forthcoming projects that we can look forward to?

LP: I’m working slowly and quietly on a few things, including the full-length manuscript I mentioned. Virga is also gearing up for issue three coming this spring, so we’re very excited about that.

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Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry journal, Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, The Rumpus, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TINGE, and elsewhere. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, Children, Apostates (dancing girl press, 2016) and Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana (Anchor & Plume, forthcoming).

Danielle Hayden is a freelance writer and editor who grew up in Detroit and now lives in Seattle. Included among all the things she loves are: learning, books, watching films, making lists, and collecting great quotes—sometimes as tattoos. She reads about everything, and writes about almost as much. Danielle is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and of the Oxford comma.

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Meet Our Newest Intern, Danielle Hayden

 

SundressHeadshot_DanielleHayden I learned to read at a very early age, and I’ve been a word lover ever since. In my burgeoning logophilia I would, with great fervor, read Dr. Seuss books–Green Eggs ‘n Ham was my favorite–aloud to my father. And we’d have spelling bees in the car sometimes: ‘Anthology’ was my favorite word to spell; ‘Massachusetts’ the word I kept getting wrong. I amassed a large collection of books, devouring everything I could get my hands on so long as it wasn’t boring. Some kids dragged blankies from place to place, but I carried a book pretty much everywhere I went, a trend I still continue today on occasion (one reason I carry large handbags).

If that wasn’t nerdy enough, I’d often sit at the dining room table and I’d read the encyclopedia as I ate my food. Other times I’d read my brother’s Calvin & Hobbes books while eating, a fact that I hope regains some of the coolness points I lost when I mentioned encyclopedias. The bottom line is that I had my head stuck in a book pretty much every day, which was fun in and of itself but also well-suited to my introversion and shyness. Reading gave me such joy, probably more than anything else did growing up.

My writing came a bit later. I was reading all these stories and I decided that I wanted to start creating my own. They weren’t very good, of course, and endings were always hard for me (they still are, actually), but I had fun making up tales. I decided in high school that I wanted to be a writer, but that I would write only on the side–just for fun. I was going to become an amazing, life-changing English teacher (the kind they made movies and Oprah episodes about) and then I’d publish a bit here and there. Despite the judgment I received for not going into a STEM field, I declared a major in English Language & Literature, with a minor in philosophy (just ’cause it’s so fascinating) and headed out into the field of education to start what I was sure would be a decades-long career exploring the canon of William Shakespeare (fun fact: he and I share a birthday).
Like so many other things in life, stuff didn’t go according to plan.

I did become an English teacher (as well as an Algebra and French teacher; I really, really love math and foreign languages too) but I realized that pedagogy was not for me. I even went to graduate school and then came back to try teaching again in a different environment, but I still couldn’t stick with it. I taught for a little while but I concluded that I had the heart for it, but not the stomach. I still worked and volunteered on occasion as a tutor, and I helped launch a blog, Lolly’s Classroom, where teachers could write about children’s books; education was still important to me. Unfortunately, however, I had to leave the classroom.

So, I was back to square one. I took some odd jobs here and there, trying to figure out my proper place. Eventually I ended up at a 9-5 office job and I was pretty miserable; I liked my colleagues a lot but the work itself was suffocating. I always had a passion for the written word that had never waned. But I would always dismiss it as just a hobby, not something that I would pursue full time. Then a couple years ago, I got tired of going from job to job to job only to leave dissatisfied and unfulfilled. I decided to take the plunge and follow my heart (a very Millennial thing to do, yes, but I refuse to feel bad about it). Working with words was what I really wanted to do. Words, I reasoned, have been consistent in my life. I have many goals and many interests, and I identify strongly with Emilie Wapnick’s idea of a “multipotentialite”, but words are still number one on my list and will likely always be.

…Which leads me to where I am now. A freelancer’s life can be difficult and demoralizing–especially for a sensitive soul like me. But I’m not giving up, at least not yet. I’ve worked with an art museum, I worked with a local press. I sent some of my writing out, reached out to some websites to see if I could help with copy, I applied to this and to that. Some things have worked out, others haven’t. But I’m still here, and I’m determined. My main responsibilities right now are as editor for the online literary magazine Pif, as a grant writer for the non-profit organization Our Golden Hour, and as a research assistant on a linguistics project. I’m very excited to begin working with Sundress Publications so I can fill my life with even more words.
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Danielle Hayden is a freelance writer and editor who grew up in Detroit and now lives in Seattle. Included among all the things she loves are: learning, books, watching films, making lists, and collecting great quotes–sometimes as tattoos. She reads about everything, and writes about almost as much. Danielle is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and of the Oxford comma.
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