You may remember Emma Eden Ramos from my earlier review of her poetry collection and Indie Lit Award short-listed title, Three Women. Today, she’s come to celebrate National Poetry Month with an interview of a poet she adores, Lisa Marie Basile.
First, we wanted to share with you a poem from Basile’s latest collection Andalucia:
I Wear Short Dresses When I Visit Alejandro I wear short dresses when I visit Alejandro. You have legs for many miles, he says. So I show them. If I take my legs away, would he still see me? Linger on his skin. I am the mosquito, but he—he drinks my blood. He sleeps on the floor, on his back. He is covered in flies. I step over Alejandro, and his fingers linger on my toes. He is wet from seas. I step again over him, teasing, teasing. I cannot seem to feed all the flowers. The red ones, the hard ones. The fat ones. They grow. I cannot tame them. I cannot groom them. I cannot control them. I say hola and they grow and grow. The more we talk the more they grow, and, oh, we talk, and we talk. We talk about beauty and the way a body is supposed to look. We talk about the way a woman should be shaped and we talk about my hips, my lips. Too round, too powerful, too godlike. You cannot trust a woman who looks like a woman, he says. She might destroy you. Look, I am unribboning! My bones are peeling as petals. I am hungry. I say I cannot seem to stop stepping over and over him. You know that I look up your dress every time, he tells me. I know that. I know that is how I can keep him there, buzzing.
And now onto the interview; please give Emma and Lisa a warm welcome:
It was around this time last year that I discovered poet Lisa Marie Basile. I’d had a poem accepted for publication by one of my favorite online literary blogs, Calliope Nerve (the editor of which tragically passed away last August), and was excited for the piece to go live. Excited, that is, until I read the three poems that came out the day before. “SAILOR (BRIAN), 63,” “NEVADA, YOUNG,” and “LIPRARI (45) DIED IN ITALIAN,” all by Lisa Marie Basile, were three poems from a collection of obituaries. As I read Basile’s work in Calliope Nerve, I couldn’t help but feel that my piece would be a bit of a let-down.
It’s been a year since I first read Lisa Marie Basile’s work. So I thought, this year, it would make sense to interview and get to know one of the poets whose writing I have had the pleasure of exploring. Here is an interview with poet Lisa Marie Basile, followed by a poem from her most recent collection, Andalucia.
1. As a fiction writer who has also written poetry, I am very aware of the differences between the two mediums. You are a published short story writer and award winning poet. How would you compare writing poetry to writing fiction? Which comes more naturally to you?
Writing poetry certainly is the medium I tend to write in most often, because for me beauty is usually in snapshots in my mind. However, when the idea strikes, you go with what you think addresses the idea the best. The words are like their own entities; they need a space to live. We just give them that how we can. For more, poetry is more the default, because allows me to provide words with a place outside of the confines of structure and grammatical correctness. I love poetry’s natural fluidity. The more fiction I write, the more I realize how poetic it is for me; then, the more poetry I write lately, the more it is driven by prose I’ve written. I love prose-poetry, it’s something I’m gravitating toward.
I don’t have a ritual. Usually I’m intensely upset. Maybe a little drunk? I have to be honest. My latest collection —for my thesis—was written during times when my eye condition (Uveitis) flared up. Because of it, I had to be secluded in total dark, with no stimulation. No television. No music. My head was spinning in pain. I’d think and think and think, because there was nothing else to do. In these days, we need constant stimulation. In these situations, I just wrote, pieces of words, phrases, thoughts. Over time, I compiled these pieces. So there aren’t any real rituals. I don’t believe in ritual, because mostly if you force it, it won’t come.
3. How do you feel about spoken word poetry? Do you think it is more or less powerful than written poetry?
When spoken word is good, I really respect it. Other times, like any performative poetry, if the poet doesn’t understand how to trim, cut and emphasize the important parts of piece, it can really take away from the power of the performance. I think each poem has to be presented in the way it needs to be presented. Some poems are better as whispers; others as screams. If you do it well, you do it well, and I think the power is found in both the content of the poem and the treatment of it by the poet — no matter the form: spoken word or not. It has to be sincere.
Presenting your poetry doesn’t, for me, mean tacking on some theatrical spectacle if the poem doesn’t require that.
4. You have authored one full-length poetry book and three chapbooks. Along with being the Founding Editor of Patasola Press, you have edited for a number of renowned publications. Would you say that working as an editor has strengthened your own work?
My full-length, A Decent Voodoo, will be out with Cervena Barva Press this year. The editor, Gloria Mindock, is incredible. I’m so lucky. Also another chapbook, Triste, will be released by the badass Dancing Girl Press, this summer. Andalucia came out in December 2011 (Brothel Books) and it’s just my life; I love that I have that book. It really marked a time in my life. Working as an editor is important to me because as much as I love to write, I love to read and I love to help other people get their work out there. It’s super beautiful to hold your thoughts and dreams in your hand. Being an editor has made me more attentive to poetry’s power, for sure. I learn about the ebb and flow of a good or bad poem, and in turn, I learn from everything. There’s nothing I dislike more than a lazy poem, so I strive to keep away from that.
Later this year, some really inspiring poets will be released by Patasola Press. I’m happy to bring Kristina Marie Darling and Kiely Sweatt work to the world. Their books, Palimpsest and Origin Of, respectively, are the most beautiful works I’ve read in a long time. And this follows gorgeous work by J. A. Tyler and Rae Bryant—I’m lucky to work all these super talented and driven poets.
These are the people who will be canonized within our generation.
5. What is The Poetry Brothel and who is Luna Liprari?
The Poetry Brothel is a unique and immersive poetry experience that takes poetry outside classrooms and lecture halls and brings poetry to people in a lush and beautiful atmosphere. You spend so much time writing this beautiful work; it can be really disheartening to have to present your blood and work under a loud, flourescent light. Why not make the poetic experience gorgeous and welcoming. The Poetry Brothel presents poets as high courtesans who impart their work in public readings, spontaneous eruptions of poetry, and most distinctly, as purveyors of private poetry readings on couches, chaise lounges and in private rooms. Central to this experience is the creation of character —mine is Luna Liprari— which for poet and audience functions as disguise and as a freeing device, enabling The Poetry Brothel to be a place of uninhibited creative expression in which the poets and clients can be themselves in private. For a small fee, all of the resident poets are available for these sequestered readings at any time during the event. Of course, any true brothel need a good cover; The Poetry Brothel’s is part saloon and part salon, offering a full bar, musicians, painters, and fortune-tellers, with newly integrated themes, performances and installations at each event.
We’ve done events in New York (our home), Chicago, New Orleans, Barcelona, California, D.C., Massachusetts (actually I’m sitting at the Massachusetts Brothel right now). I’ve read in a lush speakeasy decorated with teacup globes and red lounges, an erotic soiree in a Catalonian side street and in a treehouse-like fort. I’ve read at private parties and in public events. We’ve presented as part of The Annual New York City Poetry Festival, which we present as The Poetry Society of New York.
Luna Liprari is my character. She presents poetry and interacts with people at The Poetry Brothel. The poetry is my own, and Luna Liprari is a part of me, whether she reads poetry or does burlesque.
Luna Liprari came from a Sicilian father and French mother, from whom she ran away when she turned 15 in 1925. She was to become the secret love of Hemingway and Anais Nin, living in a tiny room above a butcher shoppe in Paris. They helped her publish a book of her poems. When she grew up, she moved to Argentina and was said to be seen in Mexico, teaching poor women to dance for their husbands. She was a clairvoyant they said, always dreaming of explosions, always making men explode from the inside. Her lips brought rainfall to its knees, her hips were said to have been the inspiration for the holy design of Vesuvius. Years later, she was the first Pinup painted on the side of a World War II bomber plane, her black hair and long legs dropping like webbed-spiders into sleepy French streets and Japanese cities. She had predicted weapons, slapped Oppenheimer in the face, seduced (and poisoned) two-dozen Nazis, and finally became a Pinup girl and burlesque dancer, touring the world with the Poetry Brothel.
6. If you don’t mind talking about it, what is your latest project?
My latest project is my thesis work. I’m writing about the intersection between body and mind, how the body reveals our pains and feelings and desires through sickness. Someone recently said to me, “the most poetic thing is not being sick.” I wonder, though, because being sick forces you to really confront who you are and your limitations. So the project is a collection of work written during times of physical pain.
Thanks to both Emma and Lisa for sharing their thoughts about poetry with us.
About the Poet:
Lisa Marie Basile is an award winning poet from New York City. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A. at The New School and is a member of The Poetry Society of New York. Basile is the founding editor of Patasola Press, the company that published Rae Bryant’s The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals: Stories by Rae Bryant and Comatose by J.A. Tyler.
***Also please visit Bermudaonion for today’s National Poetry Month Tour stop***