After the beautiful review by Janine Harrison of Tresha Faye Haefner’s chapbook Take This Longing, we thought it would be fitting to add an interview (so is such our standard). Enjoy!
This is an interesting question. On one hand, I think place strongly influences my writing, but in the case of my first chapbook, Take This Longing, it was more a longing for an imagined place. There was a definite tension between where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be with, and where I actually was that gave rise to a lot of fantasy. In Longing I use imagery of oceans and skies, not as instances of specific places (after all, there are oceans and skies on/around every continent) but more as symbols of the imagination. We stare at the ocean; we look up at the sky; we are not necessarily in the world, but in our heads.
Who/What has impacted your writing the most and how does that come through?
When I started writing it was because I was living the experience of unrequited love. Now I’m engaged and I live in my dream city (Los Angeles, which is a great place for poets who love the ocean), and I have to look for other things to write about. I think mostly what enthralls me is a good image, something odd or precious or unique. I like green things, animals and insects, and things that could be easily killed or tamed or trapped. Maybe that’s what my art is, just trying to trap or preserve, or take as my own the living world which seems to want to leap away from me at every turn.
How do you generate new ideas for your work?
I read other people’s writing and I look out the window. A lot of the time I am writing just for the sake of learning or mastering a new writing technique. I do it for fun and for the sense of accomplishment. Other times I write because something is wrong in the world and I want to make sense of it. A few months ago I saw a beautiful wasp nest outside my window. I watched the wasps building their nest every day and was enthralled. Then somebody called the exterminator and I found the wasp’s nest lying broken on the walkway. I was trying to master the form of the elegy at the time, so I wrote an elegy to the wasps, partly for the practice and partly because I was trying to come to some resolution about what had happened to those beautiful insects. I was trying to preserve their memory and keep them, if only in a poem.
When have you been most satisfied with your work?
I am deeply satisfied when a poem of mine is accepted into a good journal. On the other hand, I have written poems that satisfy me, which have never been published (and, often, have been rejected several times over). I think what really “satisfies” me in a poem is when I feel I’ve created a solid picture of something, a solid picture of a moment in time where the reader understand what the speaker of the poem saw, and how it affected her. If I write a poem that makes a painter or movie-maker want to capture it on canvas or film, that’s when I say I’ve written one of my new favorite poems. I’ve written some lyrical poems, some poems that a song writer might want to put to music, but those just don’t resonate with me as much.
I’m really in love with images more than anything else.
How do you know when a story/poem is finished?
Well, again, when it gets published I’m ready to let it go. Otherwise I’m always adding new things or changing line-breaks or what have you. When it gets published though, I usually think, “okay, maybe that word wasn’t the best choice there, maybe it needs a fresher simile, but some editor read this and liked it, so I guess the poem did its job.” It’s sort of like falling in love. You know you’re not perfect, but somebody wants to give you a chance, flaws and all, so that has to be good enough.
What has been your biggest failure and what−if any−lessons were learned?
As a writer? Every rough draft is a kind of failure, but you fail upward. Or, as James Joyce put it, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
Any feelings towards baseball?
None. No. . . I’m plumbing the very depths of my soul and I can’t think of any. BUT, a poet at a reading once said that Robert Frost’s greatest wish was to see a baseball turning over and over in the sky without stopping. (I think the poet who said that was Phil Couseneau, author of The Blue Museum.) I think that’s a pretty cool image. Personally I’d rather see a (living) tiger’s head turning over and over, but that’s nothing to do with baseball.
What is your biggest pet peeve with writers, trends, publishing, etc. today?
I often tell my students in my creative writing/revising/editing classes that when I read journals I am never concerned that there is not enough poetry being published, but I am concerned that there is not enough quality poetry being published. That may sound a little snobby and elitist and I do want to state for the record that I think people writing poetry, even bad poetry, are doing well by writing at all. I want to encourage every person in the world to take time to express themselves, and I want to encourage every reader in the world to treat every writer they meet with dignity, even if their writing isn’t very good. I am actually peeved when we as poets and teachers put the quality of our craft above the really essential thing in writing, which I feel is the subject or emotion that triggers the poem in the first place. So, for example, if I go to a workshop, and a poet brings in a really vulnerable poem about the death of his mother that is not so well written, and the instructor just lights into him about how the craft of his writing is lacking, I am likely to wince. That being said, I am also a big fan of making your writing the best it can be, and I wish more people would focus more on the quality of their writing than the quantity. I know some poets who sincerely try to put out ten to twenty poems a year. That’s fine if they can write ten to twenty awesome poems per year, but personally, if I ruled the world, I would say to every poet, write five poems per year. Or write a hundred, but then pick the best five of that hundred and focus on taking those to a deeper level. I’d much rather know I had taken a year to write five exceptional poems, than to know I had published twenty good one.
What are you working on right now?
My next book! I don’t have a title yet, and I don’t want to say too much about it yet.
What are you reading right now?
I’m visiting old favorites like Elizabeth Bishop and Matthew Dickman, and trying out poets I’ve just had recommended to me, like Norman Dubie, Meg Day, Mollie Bendell – all recommended by Sarah Maclay. . . I’m also reading Sarah Maclay!
Blot Lit Reviews would like to thank Tresha for allowing us to review her work and graciously answering our question.