Thursday, April 11, 2019

Q&A with Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura is the author of the new essay collection All the Fierce Tethers. Her other books include the poetry collections It Shouldn't Have Been Beautiful and King Baby. She is Writer in Residence at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and she lives in Baltimore.  

Q: Over how long a period did you write the essays in All The Fierce Tethers, and do you see common threads running through them? 

A: The essays in this collection have been under construction for probably six or so years. 

Many of the essays wrangle with our profound disconnectedness from the world and the excesses that create this sense of detachment (whether through factory farming or the commodification of art or the ways we disregard childhood wonder). 

There’s a deep celebratory vein running through as well, in essays that confirm the knitting together of community and unbidden moments of revelation, communication with nonhuman beings and forms of visitation, beauty, perception.  

Q: How was the book's title (also the title of one of the essays) chosen, and what does it signify for you? 

A: In this moment, to recognize the ways we’re all tethered to each other and to others, the land, the elements that sustain us all and are in themselves alive and sentient is, to my mind, the most urgent project we’re engaged in. 

If we are to live together with some sense of equity and justice, if we are to sustain varied communities (and not monocultures of any kind) and see those variations as necessary, then the tethers between us must be recognized not as gossamer and fragile but fierce and urgent and very real. 

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the essays would appear in the book? 

A: I’m interested in the way pieces in a collection (poems or essays) are in conversation with one another. Essays work individually, cumulatively, thematically, but also they hold conversations back and forth with one another. Arranging, for me, is a process by which I listen for those conversations, see how one’s end leads into another’s response.  

Q: In our previous interview, you said, "Sometimes, actually, sort of often now, the essays behave in highly lyrical ways and move about the way poems traditionally do, by leaps of thought and image, and the poems behave like small essays, organizing and presenting a thought or concept. The crossover, the freedom of that, is exciting." Do you know immediately when an idea strikes you that it will become a poem as opposed to an essay (or vice versa)? 

A: Recently I took on an assignment – something I almost never do – but the requirement to write an essay on Green Burial offered a super concentrated way of focusing and called into action a new form of direct address for me. 

Now that All the Fierce Tethers is out, I’m seeing a possible merging in forms – I may be writing long poems with essayistic features, or -- this maybe a form I can’t yet name or won’t be named!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: The book is available here. My website can be found here.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Lia Purpura.

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