Hello, Reader, and L’Shanah Tovah to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah today.
I’ve been a little blog-silent lately, but I’m still here plugging away. Today’s post is an interview with my poetry friend and comrade, Drew Myron, about her recently released book Thin Skin. I hope you enjoy it, and stay tuned at the end of the post for a giveaway. Here we go:
MS: After I read your book for the first time, upon closing the back cover I said out loud: “She is the poet laureate of vulnerability!” This collection brims with pain and thin defenses, with the many ways we can wound and be wounded. Did you set out to write about vulnerability, or did this subject assert itself as the poems were written? Can you say any more about the subject that became central to this book?
DM: I love the idea of being the “poet laureate of vulnerability.” Does the title come with a badge, or a special hat? That’s a wonderful compliment, Molly, thank you. I didn’t set out to write about vulnerability, and didn’t even recognize the theme until the book was out and readers used words like vulnerable and resilience. More than other literary forms, poetry tends to reveal the person behind the pen, so I guess I’m naturally tuned to life’s bruises and bumps. So much of living is the space between the words, and the search to explain or understand that tender suspension. Is that vulnerability, or just my melancholic disposition? I like what Madeleine L’Engle says: “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.” (from Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art)
MS: At what point did you know you had a book — a group of poems that belong together between a front and back cover?
DM: Ummm, never. It took mentors, friends (and a husband) to see what I could not. I’ve been lucky in my writing life to have people who’ve urged and encouraged me. They’ve pushed me to apply for jobs I thought beyond me, nudged me to attend conferences when I felt inferior, and pressed me to assemble a manuscript despite my fear. In the process of collecting, culling and editing, I grew into a stronger writer and more confident that, yes, there is a book here. That’s a real gift, helping another to see what is possible. I’m very grateful.
MS: Tell us about the book’s design. I was amazed at its look and feel — that, too, seemed to be a gesture of vulnerability with translucent pages, close examinations of words, and personal photographs. Did you design the book yourself? If not, who did, and tell us more about how the book came into its physical form.
DM: Thank you. Your appreciation for the physicality of the book is just the response I hoped for while designing Thin Skin. I’m a paper appreciator; I can spend hours pawing paper at the store, and I’m always buying note cards for the near-extinct pleasure of letter writing. With the book, I wanted to create an experience of texture, layers and mood, and to offer visual, as well as emotional, engagement. I’m so pleased you experienced this.
MS: You went the self-publishing route for this book. Tell us about that decision, and share any advice you have for writers considering self-publishing.
DM: I had a very distinct sense of what I wanted Thin Skin to be. My vision didn’t fit into typical categories; it wasn’t a traditional poetry book, wasn’t a photo book, wasn’t an art book. And because I had such a complete sense of form and feel, I knew the best way to retain design control was to produce the book through my own company, Push Pull Books. That said, this was no solo effort. Thin Skin was many years in development and included a team of professional editors and readers.
A friend once told me, “Every writer needs an editor” and I agree. As a journalist, I expect redlines and revisions. Nearly every poem or story I write is a vague version of my first draft.
In terms of publishing, it’s an excellent time to explore new routes, particularly in poetry, which has been steeped in traditional models and marks of achievement. I’m happy to see the increasing options and expanding definitions of literary “success.” It seems we’re all just trying to find our way, and what a relief to now realize there is no one right way.
MS: Do you have a favorite poem from the collection you’d like to share?
DM: This poem provided the line from which I titled the book:
visit the dark places, you’ll never
feel the sea pull you in and under,
swallowing words before they form.
Until you visit places within you
cloistered and constant, you will travel
in a tourist daze, wrought with too much
of what endures, depletes.
If you never turn from light, close
your eyes, feel the life inside, you’ll leave
the church, the beach, your self,
knowing nothing more.
Unless you are silent, you will not
know your urgent heart, how it beats
between the thin skin of yes and no.
from Thin Skin
Thanks to Drew for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. And Reader, if you’d like to hold this book in your hands, here are two ways to do that:
2. Leave a comment on this post, and you’ll be entered in a giveaway for a signed copy of Drew’s book. In your comment, please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you in case you’re the lucky winner. I’ll announce the winner one week from today, on Thursday, September 12.