Monday, August 23, 2010
6 questions with Bernadette Geyer:
1) You are going to be featured at the Sept. 3 Poetry Lab event at the Soundry in Vienna, VA along with stevenallenmay. The fact that each of you has a 4 year old daughter has led to the evening being dubbed “Kidsanity”. How does the creative process “work” with a 4 year old in the house?
Mostly, the creative process works when she’s not actually in the house or when she’s asleep. This age is a very interactive age, so I spend a lot of time doing activities with her or taking her to various places like art galleries, nature centers, playgrounds, kids concerts, etc. I try to find a wide variety of activities because I, myself, get bored going to the same places all the time. But all of these various exposures do frequently work their way into my own writing. I get a lot of inspiration for poems or individual lines of poetry when we are at, say, the farm or a nature center. She also loves books and reading, so I’ve been able to introduce her to poets John Ciardi and Gertrude Stein thanks to their own books for children. Certainly my sonnet sequence in the voice of Thumbelina’s mother would never have been written if I hadn’t read that story to her. Even if I’m not writing “about” being a parent, so much of my writing is informed by these activities and stories – and emotions – I would not have been otherwise exposed to if I didn’t have a child.
2) Do you appreciate the lyrics to John Lennon’s song “Watching the Wheels” now that you are on a different path than before the birth of your daughter, Frida?
When I graduated from college, I couldn’t wait to get into the workforce. And for the first ten years of my career I was completely driven and achieved a level of responsibility that I thought I always wanted. Fortunately, I came to realize that what I really wanted to do was to work as a freelance writer and editor from home. And I was also fortunate enough to be accruing the experience I would need once I left a 9-to-5 office job. At the point my husband & I decided we were ready to have a child, it seemed like a natural time to make the official career shift. Sometimes, I do wonder what my life would be like if I’d stayed in the full-time workforce. But, it really has been great to see the world through new eyes for the past four years. It has helped me tremendously by increasing the amount of attention I pay to my environment. There’s a tendency for adults to shut out the unnecessary because there are so many more important things to focus on. But for children, everything is so new, even the iridescence of a beetle is fascinating. I’m not only watching the wheels, I’m seeing and hearing and experiencing much more.
3) You have been a fixture at the Poetry Lab since it began at the Soundry in December 2009. Does it surprise you that there is a developing poetry community in Northern VA?
I’m not surprised at all. This is a highly populous area and there’s been very little out here for the literary community. George Mason University has its Fall for the Book Festival but, for the rest of the year, there’s not much for us beyond-the-Beltway poets.
4) I wanted to follow-up with a question that was asked of you in another interview you did; do you find that as you go along through parenting your child that your themes or subject matter has changed? Does your approach toward your work involve the overlapping of poet and mothering roles?
I wouldn’t necessarily say my “themes” and “subject matter” have changed, but that the amount of subject matter available to me has expanded. I don’t think there are any subjects I now consider off-limits that I previously wrote about, but the number I want to address has certainly grown.
5) What was the first book of poetry you bought for yourself?
I remember loving Dorothy Parker in high school and borrowing books of her poems from the library. In college, I took a class on Women’s Literature and was introduced to Adrienne Rich, whose books from that class I still have. I remember buying an old copy of a collection by Yeats, but it’s now on permanent loan to my youngest sister. It wasn’t until I took a poetry workshop led by Naomi Ayala at a local bookstore in 1997 or 1998 that I realized how much I loved poetry, and so I bought her book, Wild Animals on the Moon. That is probably the first book of poetry I bought specifically for myself and not just because I was required to read it for class.
6) As we collectively move into a more technologically driven future, how do you see the Internet affecting one’s sense of “community”?
Being a stay-at-home mother living in the suburbs has really curtailed the number of literary events I am able to attend, so having a virtual literary community – via Facebook and blogs – has helped me stay connected to the local literary scene and to connect to the broader national and international scene. I have a group of poet-friends with whom I exchange poems via email. We are scattered across the United States, but I still feel a real sense of community with them. I would not have the poetry community I do have if not for the Internet.