Friday, August 24, 2007

One Year Later: Wendy Taylor Carlisle

We're happy to present the first results from our One Year Later survey. We've been asking writers whose work appeared in Fringe a year ago or more to revisit that work and respond to some questions. Fittingly, our first writer's work appeared in our first issue, back in February 2006. Here she is:

Wendy Taylor Carlisle, b. Manhattan a long time ago, currently living on the edge in the border city of Texarkana, TX, an accidental Texan and a self-defined southerner, author of one book, Reading Berryman to the Dog (Jacaranda), and one chapbook, After Happily Ever After (2River Chapbook Series). Her poems are anthologized and available online.

What are the materials you prefer for writing first drafts of poems?

A quiet mind, some other poet's essays or poems or letters from/to anyone, some words other than my own for a jump start; one of those cheap Mead notebooks—the kind with the mottled covers, preferably black and white although I've been known to use a purple one when feeling juicy; a Pilot P500 pen or, occasionally, a superfine P700. Is this helpful? I can't see how anyone could care about Mead notebooks.

We care, yes we do.
What's one of your favorite poems that has appeared in any online journal in the last year, and why?

The web is forever, so I don't much keep up with the 'when' of publication, but I am always drawn to the work of certain poets, Jo McDougall (who, alas, doesn’t appear much online) and Lola Haskins, for their pith and concision and grace. These qualities are on display in Haskins's "Six Ways," and "Youth," and "Why Performers Wear Black," and "The Laws of Women", all of which appear in the Alsop Review, and in McDougall's "At Frog's Trailer Court" and "The Guest", both in Periheleon.

Any other favorite poets?

I am hopelessly in love with C D Wright, who is inimitable, although I keep trying to imitate her anyway. Her poem "Personals" tells it all without giving anything away—now that's a skill.

And Phil Dacey, for his absolute mastery of the sonnet, his humor, his wisdom and his rogue heart. "New York Postcard Sonnet #10" is one of my fave sonnets. I am also enamored of "Letter to his Daughter," for its sweet center, and "Form Rejection Letter," because it is wonderfully funny. All of these appear on

It's been over a year since your work appeared in the first issue of Fringe. Looking back on the poems, do any new ideas about them occur to you?

In general, I keep worrying poems until they die of being overhandled. "First Labor" and "Third Labor" have not been so abused. These poems are part of a group of twelve, which I never completed—actually I got five written and lost my way in the mythological forest. This may not be the end of my labors, but they stand for now—although when I look at "Third," I can see…But no. That way lies madness.

As for "Small Gratitudes," this is what's become of it:

Small Gratitudes

The morning sun troubles the back fence,

translates leaves to parchment on the hill. Winter
facts are black and white.

Our own gratitudes must include that and glaciers,

although they are thinning like a smile.
It could be worse. I'm grateful for the way it is:

a freeze first, then at last, a thaw.

As you can see above, I've jettisoned a great many metaphors to gain the core idea—gratitude for the cycles of death and rebirth. The poem was inspired by a death in the family, but it could have been any loss that requires live through and then living with. How does one integrate that absence into one's life? I wrote quite a long draft, then kept taking more and more away. The version in Fringe is somewhere in the last run-up to this past spring, when the poem revealed this (I hope) final form.

What would you say in a letter to the person you were when you wrote those poems?

Oh dear, I wouldn’t correspond with that person.

What prose work(s) have you enjoyed most in the last year?

I don’t know if "enjoyed" is the word, but Paul Muldoon's The End of the Poem and Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn have engaged me in close reading again and Muldoon has, as usual, both amazed and tickled me—who knew you could be a pre-pre-post modernist? (And don’t give me away but Harry Potter is what I read for pleasure most recently.)

If anybody begrudges you a little HP, we'll take em down. Do you know any poems by heart? If so, describe how you came to know one of these, and tell us whether it's a favorite or a least-favorite.

The poems in AA Milne's When We were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I learned these by reading them to my boys when they were babies (in the Cretaceous period). I have those by heart still, and some Psalms (other than 23), and some Shakespeare (Hamlet’s speech, a sonnet or two, #18—the usual suspects), a bit of Yeats. But memorizing whole poems isn't my parlor trick; I'm much more likely to absorb and remember syntactical twists or forms or ideas.

Were you forced to memorize any of these in high school?

The Shakespeare, yes, the psalms by osmosis, the Yeats for love.

Is there any form or mode of writing that you haven’t tried recently but would like to try in the next year? What is it, and why?

I occasionally write essays, but I'm pretty much committed to poetry along the lines of my mother's ordinance, "You’ll do it 'til you get it right."

If you could conjure up the perfect snack to be enjoyed while working on poems, what would it be?

Coffee and the cigarettes which, alas, I gave up some 17 years ago (and miss to this day). There are actual foods that I love, but I think, when writing, the less et the better.

Are there any other questions about poetry that you have been longing to be asked?

The question I continually ask and hope someday to answer is how do I get to Rilke's "ten good lines." If I had the answer to that one, I'd be, as we say here, in high cotton.


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