In terms of Irish writing, we must never underestimate the effect of 300 days of rain a year. We’re indoors a lot of the time, and we need to make shit up. We’d go nuts if we didn’t.
At Bookforum, Rebecca Donner talks with former Granta editor John Freeman about his new book of interviews, How to Read a Novelist. Freeman says that he enjoys interviewing writers in their homes because it allows him to observe them more closely: “The writer thinks you’re taking notes about what he’s saying, but you’re really writing, ‘His head looks like a lion’s head.’”
My model, such as it is, is a mentorship model, which is to say that I care personally, and I involve myself personally/emotionally with the work of each student, and I try to make it such that they want to reach for more, do better, risk more, try new things, abandon limited objectives, individuate, and so on. For me it is personal, to the best of my ability, and it is about making more of the writer and of the writer’s task in each case. I also think it’s possible to do this, to teach in this way, in a classroom free of rancor and backbiting and competitive jostling.
I came to poetry because I felt I couldn’t live properly in the real world. I was thirteen and in Algebra class. That was the day I decided I would be a poet for all time. I walked out of class and dropped out of school. That doesn’t mean I became a poet, but I did have this absolute severance with one period of my life where I felt I was being made to live in the world I was brought into—Straight-A student, The Most Perfect Little Girl—that I couldn’t inhabit anymore. And so I went to a place I felt I could inhabit which turned out to be, as we know about poetry, more hellish than the one I left!
It took me some time away from Florida to understand what an interesting place it is. Even central Florida, in the suburbs, where I grew up, is strange in all kinds of subtle ways. I didn’t really appreciate how strange it was when I was there. It was something I was only able to see in hindsight.
No matter how people approach loneliness or solitude or community, we all do. We’re not that different from each other. The way we experience it is different, but we all experience love, pain, loneliness.
We’re always connected, in theory, to people via the Internet in our homes. And yet, we’re growing more isolated and disconnected.
There’s nothing more vulnerable than singing, especially if you’re not a terribly good singer.