Monday, January 8, 2024

Q&A with Eleanor Lerman




Eleanor Lerman is the author of the new poetry collection Slim Blue Universe. Her other books include the novel Watkins Glen. She lives in the New York City area.


Q:  Over how long a period did you write the poems in Slim Blue Universe?


A: They were written over the course of the summer of 2022. More or less one poem a day, and when I finished what I felt was a complete collection I went back and edited and rewrote the individual poems until I was certain that they were as close as I could get to being exactly as I wanted them to be.

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the collection?


A: After rereading them all, I realized they had a “feel” about the poems that seemed to naturally divide them into two separate sections: “Thievery” and “Voices from Beyond.”


I also knew from the beginning which poem would be the first in the book and which would be the last; after that, arranging them in a particular order was more of an intuitive process.


The way characters in a novel tend to help the writer decide their actions, the poems themselves help me decide which ones should be together, follow each other, and so on.

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


A: Actually, the original title I had for the book was “Beautiful Denizens of the Deep, Dark Night,” which is the title of one of the poems.


But Judith Kerman, the publisher (of Mayapple Press) convinced me otherwise. She chose Slim Blue Universe and she was right because “Beautiful Denizens” is just the title of a single poem, while Slim Blue Universe, which is a line from the poem “The Rag-and-Bone Good-bye,” is more evocative of the collection as a whole.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from this collection?


A: I like to think that my poetry combines a kind of ironic (and maybe sometimes a little snarky) humor along with a deep feeling about spirituality.


All my writing, meaning both my poetry and my fiction (because I’ve also written several novels and collections of short stories) contains some element of longing to understand what lies beyond the human horizon and this collection of poems addresses that deep desire.


I hope, in these poems, readers find a reflection of those feelings within themselves.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: Last year, Mayapple Press published a collection of my short stories entitled, The Game Café: Stories of New York City in Covid Time.


Right now, I’m working on another short story collection. Quite a few of those stories have already been published in various literary magazines. I always sort of “test out” my stories by having them published in literary journals and finding out what the reaction is from readers because people do often write to me.


It’s easy to find my email address on my website. The website is and my email address is Correspondence is always welcome.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My first book of poetry, Armed Love, was published in 1973 when I was 21 years old. There is a through-line from that first collection all the way to Slim Blue Universe, which is my seventh book of poems.


The longing to understand the mysterious nature of life and what lies beyond the edge of life, the pain and joy of love, the feeling of being an outsider and living in the margins, and an undying commitment to liberal politics—and the disappointment that old hippies like myself feel about not managing to bring about the world of “peace, love and understanding” that we hoped for—is in that first book and still resonates in this new collection, but I think my poet’s voice and my skill as a writer have matured and deepened over the past 50 years. At least I certainly hope so!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Eleanor Lerman.

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