Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling: The Body Is A Little Gilded Cage: A Story In Letters & Fragments

Kristina Marie Darling’s latest collection of poems, The Body Is A Little Gilded Cage: A Story In Letters & Fragments, published by Gold Wake Press, is wondrous, indulgent, and lush. The poems paint vivid, grand pictures in my mind and I wanted to dig in deeper.

Kristina Marie Darling has also published two other full-length poetry collections: Night Songs (Gold Wake Press 2010) and Compendium (Cow Heavy Books, 2011). She has received grants from the Vermont Studio Center and the Elizabeth George Foundation, has been awarded several fellowships, and has a collection of critical essays forthcoming from Cambridge Scholars Press. In short, she is one busy lady if you ask me. Luckily, she is taking the time to allow me to pick her brain over her latest collection which has me eager to read more of her work:

1) Your collection creates a vision of an elegant couple and their lives together between the mention of soirees and the journal-like entries regarding bird keeping and psychoanalysis. What was your vision for putting this collection together? How did it come about?

The book started as an exploration of the Modernist writer H.D.'s correspondence. She's someone who's always fascinated me. A prolific poet, fiction writer, essayist, and translator, she led a remarkable life, producing films and even undergoing psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud. Many of the images in The Body is a Little Gilded Cage were inspired by objects, artifacts, and works of art that appeared in her letters.

With that said, it didn't take very long for my autobiographical impulses to take over the project. I had experienced some disappointments in my personal life when I started writing the book. And H.D.'s biographical material and correspondence became a vehicle for me to say things I would never have otherwise been able to articulate. Once I understood the project as being both biography and autobiography, I let myself take liberties with the material, and the book began to take shape.

2) I notice recurring words or phrases in your poems. The word “groan” appears several times and creates a sensation of pleasure or perhaps pain? Groaning floors with the weight of dancers, corridors groaning with footsteps, the word groan captivates me. Can you explain the presence of this particular word among others you might have chosen?

As I was writing, the collection as a whole seemed to oscillate between pleasure and pain, luxury and excess, desire and attainment. For me, the word "groan" encapsulated these tensions that lurk beneath the surface of the book.

3) The word “feather” also appears often in the poems. Feathers are light, exotic, and are sometimes in poems that talk about birds, other times about events where people gather. Can you talk more about the presence of feathers among your poems? Are they to portray lightness or pageantry?

I like to think of birds and feathers as a metaphor for the style of the collection. In this sense, they definitely could be seen as representing lightness. After all, the book is filled with white space, and the words themselves seem delicate and ethereal. But you're absolutely right that they suggest pageantry as well. I see the style of the collection as parading various literary conventions of the past, at times with great earnestness and at other moments with a wink.

4) In the poem City Works III (which I’ll post below), I picture a woman recalling images of her lover as she walks the streets and how she wishes to capture her emotions in a letter to him. Can you tell us more about this prose piece and its inspiration?

City Walk (III)

Your letter arrives & I take a walk through Vienna in my pale blue dress. The chapel groans with its nightly organ recital & I remember us listening among the rows of wooden pews. A chorus rising as you counted the buttons on my stiff white sleeves. Now the city darkens with nostalgia & every streetlamp seems to smolder. Your green shutters fly open & still the problem of expressing these things—

I'm currently a PhD student in the Poetics Program at SUNY-Buffalo, and my research usually involves Modernist women poets, feminism, and psychoanalysis. With that in mind, I was fascinated by H.D.'s descriptions of the city of Vienna in the letters she sent during her psychoanalysis. I wanted to write piece that allowed the cityscape to become a metaphor for my own experiences. When working with autobiographical material, I find that literature of the past can be a great source of inspiration. For me, gaining entry into a poem is always a challenge.

5) Your section titled Appendix A: Notes & Other Misc. is an intriguing section that I enjoy quite thoroughly. You have footnotes and journal-like entries about bird keeping, the history of the corsage, the history of psychoanalysis. Why these subjects and why these little notes? I love the idea for these in your collection and these notes formed my vision for an elegant and well-educated couple. How did you come up with the idea and what was your vision for these notes and footnotes?
Below, some samples of the notes:

(From Footnotes To A History Of Psychoanalysis)

9. To reconcile the disparity between her mind and the external world, the analyst prompted her to maintain a record of these perceptions.

10. Upon examination, her small red notebook contained the most elaborate diagrams. Even the mountainous vistas were depicted as intricate machines.

(From Footnotes To A History Of The Phonograph)

7. Because of the constant emanation of forgotten arias from her window, residents of the city believed her to be an intense, if not insatiable, audiophile.

10. The next morning, they found sheet music rustling beneath the white piano. An empty space where the apparatus had been.

I like to think of the footnotes and notes as an invitation to the reader to participate in the work of the poet. I hope that those who encounter the poems will imagine their own texts to accompany these fragments. Sigmund Freud once said that there's something inherently satisfying about incompleteness, since the individual can construct something that conforms to his or her wishes. Thus the reader takes on a more active role, and is rewarded for it. This is the type of experience that I tried to provide for those who enage with The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments.

6.) In Appendix B: Correspondence, a series of letters is titled Dearest , with no person to be addressed. The letters themselves are short like a telegram with memory-like thoughts written down and sent to the unknown. What were your inspirations for these? I’ll provide a sample below for readers, too:

Dearest ,

one never hears anything from you &

think of it as fragility

I’ll do anything

Dearest ,

in the dance hall

with its noise & shattered glass

one would have never known

you were like an exotic red lily

These poems started as erasures of H.D.'s letters to her (at one point in time) husband, Richard Aldington. But I don't like to think of the poems as being "about" H.D., since I wouldn't want their meaning to be limited in such a way. Although the poems began as erasures, I became much more interested in the poetic image as a means to evoke subjective interpretations, which will inevitably be different for every reader of the book.

7) Where can we find more of your work? Do you have a website or blog to share with readers? What projects are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a fourth full-length manuscript, which is called Melancholia (An Essay). The book explores the literary conventions associated with melancholy during the Romantic period. Poems from the collection are forthcoming in RHINO, Indefinite Space, Rufous City Review, Prick of the Spindle, and Blossombones. I hope you'll stop by my website (http://kristinamariedarling.com/) for updates.

8) Which writers, artists, people do you turn to for inspiration? Whose books do you enjoy reading?

My favorite poets to read are Melissa Range, Sam Taylor, Kristy Bowen, Brandi Homan, Susan Slaviero, Joshua Clover, Kent Shaw, Kyle McCord, Kara Candito, Richard Siken, Joe Hall, Kristen Prevallet, and Jill Magi.

For me, reading is the most important part of the writing process. Poets could never exist without a literary community in which to exchange ideas. With that in mind, the people I've mentioned are a huge inspiration.

9) Any advice for writers out there? You have several full-length collections and are quite accomplished with awards and grants. Many writers dream of such things, what advice can you give them?

The best advice I can give is don't be afraid to start small. I got eighty rejection letters before I had one poem accepted by a magazine. And that journal was Xeroxed on copy paper and stapled crooked. But when you're looking to build an audience for your work, small things can be very important. Every bit of exposure helps.

Kristina Marie Darling thank you for taking the time to do an interview and I wish you continued success in all of your creative endeavors.

Readers, if you enjoyed this interview and sample of poems as much as I do you may purchase a copy for yourself at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $12.95 at:


Be sure to visit her website, I’ve perused it myself and it’s easy to navigate and wonderful to browse through at:

You can also visit Gold Wake Press to learn more at:http://goldwakepress.org/print-series/

Thanks always for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…

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