Sunday, December 11, 2022

Q&A with Kristina Marie Darling




Kristina Marie Darling is the author of the new book Look to Your Left: A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle. Her many other books include Stylistic Innovation, Conscious Experience, and the Self in Modernist Women's Poetry. She is editor-in-chief of Tupelo Press and Tupelo Quarterly, and she teaches at the American University of Rome. She lives in the United States, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast.


Q: What inspired you to write Look to Your Left, and over how long a period did you write the essays included in the book?


A: That’s a great question. The book was written over a period of three years, largely as a response to the gendered, and very negative, feedback I received in workshop setting as a grad student.  


More often than not, innovation is discouraged in these types of educational settings. But it seems to me that a revolutionary idea warrants a new form of discourse, a vehicle just as unruly and rebellious as the thinking it bears into the world.  


In my experience, the vast majority of those working in hybrid forms, experimental forms, uncategorizable forms are individuals from historically marginalized populations within society. Women, non-binary poets, and writers of color frequently refuse to write in a received tradition that feels hostile to their voices and their message.


With that in mind, I wanted to create a book that highlights the connection between performative language, innovation, and social justice. More importantly, I wanted to give educators a field guide as they render their curricula more inclusive.  

Q: How would you define feminism, particularly in the context of contemporary poetry?


A: Feminism, for me, is a way of inhabiting language. To move though language with a full awareness of its historicity, its implied hierarchies, and its injustices.  


Most of us tend to forget that language — its definition of logic, its preconceived ideas about what makes sense and what doesn’t — derive from a predominantly male and predominantly Western philosophical tradition.


Even the most simple sentence, with its familiar subject-verb-object construction, implies a very specific causal chain, a performance of a very particular notion of reason and rationality.  


Even more importantly, feminism means freedom in language, using the page as a hypothetical testing ground for a more just and more true way of representing our experience of the world around us.  


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The book certainly gestures toward the political underpinnings of the analysis. But more importantly, it signifies a participatory role for the reader by beginning with an imperative, a command. Readers should be prepared to see themselves involved and implicated in the book’s experiments toward social justice and freedom in language.  

Q: Can you say more about what you hope readers take away from the book?


A: More than anything, I hope that the talented poets whose work I’ve discussed get taught more frequently, written on more frequently, and that educators and critics feel they have a roadmap for approaching these innovative, daring texts.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a psychological suspense novel, as well as a critical study on poetry and silence.  Stay tuned!  

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Look to Your Left has a free suite of resources for educators. I hope you’ll check it out!  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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