Kristina Marie Darling is the author of nine books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), The Moon & Other Inventions: Poems After Joseph Cornell (BlazeVOX Books, 2012), and (with Carol Guess) X Marks the Dress: A Registry (Gold Wake Press, forthcoming in 2014). Her writing has been honored with fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Ragdale Foundation, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her newest poetry collection, Petrarchan, was be released by BlazeVOX Books in February.
LD: How did you find your way to this form? When you did, did it just run away with you? What, for you, marks off one project distinctly from the next?
KMD: I became interested in fragmented forms because of what they allow the writer to leave unsaid. When I was much younger, I used to write lyric poetry in the most traditional sense. But it was so difficult for me not to seem lofty or clichéd. Once I started writing footnotes, glossaries, and other types of marginalia, there was no turning back. I loved that these forms leave space for the reader’s imagination, allowing them to take part in the work of the poet.
LD: You note your sources at the end of the book—Petrarch, of course, and Anne Carson’s Sappho. What’s the role of source material? Do the poems find their way to sources or vice versa? If it’s vice versa, to what extent do you see yourself doing a kind of creative research? I’m wondering to what extent there might be a thesis. . .
KMD: I feel like all poetry arises from the writer’s life as a reader. I think of poetry as a conversation, in which the poet appropriates, revises, and recasts what has been said before her. But with Petrarchan, there was more of a “thesis” than with my previous projects. I love Petrarch’s work, but it’s so problematic for me as a female reader. His writing, perhaps more than any other one person’s work, has been associated with the male gaze, the silenced beloved, and various master narratives about what love should or ought to be. Petrarchan is my attempt to reconcile Petrarch’s sonnets with my enduring interest in feminist reading practices.
LD: What’s the ratio of satire to adoration? Let me explain. Sometimes I find myself swept away in the romance of the writing, in the beautiful objects you create (like Appendix B here—swoon), but other times I suspect you’re satirizing the desire you tease (as in the love story, with its precious details—”his hands seemed fragile, even delicate,” etc). To what extent can you simultaneously indulge and expose a desire?
KMD: I feel as though this is part of the human condition. Don’t we all have desires we wouldn’t necessarily choose to have? I’m very interested in representing this type of internal conflict through form, technique, and literary allusion.
LD: Twenty-first century love. Discuss.
KMD: It’s terrible, just terrible. I always satirize Romantic literature, and the nineteenth century in general, but I feel a certain attraction to that time period. Things were so much more clear cut then. What with male feminism and empowered women, it’s the rules of love just aren’t clear anymore. I’d love one of those Emily Post style etiquette book that tells me exactly what to do on a first date, a second date, and every date thereafter.
LD: I have to ask about your name. To be a Darling—how does that change your relation to such writing advice as “Kill your darlings”?
KMD: If anything, my name has taught me to remember that nothing is sacred. I’m a pickup line waiting to happen, after all.
LD: Talk about hysteria.
KMD: In Phaedrus, Plato argues that love, madness and art are one and the same. They frequently intersect and blur into one another. I think there’s some truth to this. For me, all art arises from a kind of hysteria. And it’s strange that hysteria is gendered in the way that it is, since most of the art that’s produced, even now, is made by men.
LD: I’m guessing Emily Dickinson is deep in your reading, but I could be wrong. What’s your greatest influence from the traditional canon? and outside of it?
KMD: Although Emily Dickinson is wonderful, I’m more of an H.D. kind of girl. I love that she treats the poetic image as a catalyst for the reader’s imagination. So many of her poems depend on the reader to actively speculate and assign meaning to different facets of the text. For H.D., it’s the reader who actualizes the poem, and this idea has been extremely influential for my writing practice. My greatest influence outside of the literary cannon is Victorian fashion. I once worked on a collaboration with a fashion designer in New York City. He would create objects in response to my poems. Once he even made pair of turkey feather pumps that were just beautiful. Working with him was great because I was exposed to images, texts, and materials I would have never normally encountered.
LD: Some offbeat questions—
Pink or blue?
KMD: Pink. With ruffles.
LD: Vampires, werewolves, or zombies?
KMD: All of the above.
LD: Where is paradise?
KMD: The Yaddo mansion.
About the interviewer:
Lightsey Darst writes, dances, writes about dance and other arts, and teaches. Her books are Find the Girl and the forthcoming DANCE (both Coffee House Press). Her poetic work appears in Typo, Spork, and Diagram. Her criticism is online at mnartists.org, The Huffington Post, and Bookslut.