Author Lori May’s new collection of poetry, Square Feet (Accents Publishing, 2014), deals with the complexities of love, loss, and home-making. The author uses a speaker and a fictional narrative to tell the story of two people making their way. The author is quick to note that the work is not autobiographical, saying, “I’m one of those folks who doesn’t count poetry as non-fiction and I’m trying to ensure, whenever possible, that prospective readers don’t get the wrong impression.” But whether it’s May’s self or another self speaking, it doesn’t matter. The prose is rich, alive, and succinct, a study in the economy of powerful language.
Take this piece, for example:
How much would it cost
if relationships charged
How much would you carry on
and what would you check,
possibly leave unclaimed?
You don’t just write poetry; in fact, you’re known as a cross-genre writer. How is the process of writing a poetry collection, especially one as cohesive as Square Feet, alike and different from writing, say, creative non-fiction?
I’m a fan of story, regardless of genre. In a poetry collection, I hope each individual poem stands alone in its narrative while also contributing to a larger arc. Of course, when I start writing poems for a collection, I may not immediately know what the larger story is, but work to reveal the story over time. It’s really in the editing process where the big picture comes into play and that helps shape where poems appear in sequence. For prose, I feel like much of the process is the same for me. I work word by word, line by line, and don’t always know what the macro vision is until the micro components are laid out in draft form. The only difference in the process, I suppose, is that in my non-fiction I need to ensure I retain the facts while telling an engaging story, whereas in poetry —which I seldom write autobiographically— I have a bit more room to play and invent a story as the arc unfolds.
You use the short-form poem very effectively throughout this collection. What about the smaller poem appeals to you?
Thank you, Andrea. I feel like a lot can be said in few words. I’m also interested in leaving room for the reader. As a reader, I love that feeling when a poem or flash piece leaves me tinkering with interpretation, considering the possibilities of what happened on the page and how space and brevity offer room to play in response. As a writer, I enjoy the challenge of being sparse in words but grand in image.
What was the publication process like with this book?
I knew I wanted to work with Katerina Stoykova-Klemener, the editor at Accents Publishing in Lexington, Kentucky. Katerina has an amazing eye for detail and is meticulous in going over every word and every piece of punctuation. I was thrilled when Accents accepted my manuscript and they continue to be such a joy to work with. We spent quality time discussing the final shape of the manuscript throughout the editing process and then the production fell into place without a hitch. From cover design to layout, from bound copy to media relations, the people at Accents are hands-on and truly care about their authors and the success of their books. It’s been a wonderful experience.
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in electric city and diamond city.
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