Brian Laidlaw Poems



Interview with Jennifer Pilch


We chose Mother Color by Jennifer Pilch as the winner of our 2011-12 chapbook competition. Here's our interview with her:

You are a poet and also a visual artist. Can you tell us a little about how this dual identity informs your writing process, and this chapbook in particular?

The two practices are entwined. Writing is a natural progression from my visual art background and while Iím more comfortable with words on the page and feel I can communicate more with poetry, Iím still primarily informed and inspired by visual art and visual experience. Iím driven to create art quite a bit and frequently do but, to be frank, itís an enormous challenge and Iím rarely satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps the poems are what Iíd attempt but fail to create with visual mediums. I write about this challenge a lot, and this notion contributes to the grief-theme of Mother Color.

The mother is a figure in this series: 'mother color' as a concept in painting, the image of mother and child recurring in several individual poems. Can you speak to this?

The chapbook was created in response to my motherís illness and death and was mostly written in a grief state. I was occupying my childhood home while living with and helping care for my mother. I was also a new mother, so you can imagine the complexity of the situation. I think the tone is quite dark in places and this is part of the early stages of griefóguilt, denial, anger, disappointment. The feelings of tribute that one would like to pay a deceased loved one would come later in the grieving process; this book was written before that.

Who are some of the poets you're reading now, or while you were writing this chapbook. Who inspires or challenges you?

I canít say I was reading a whole lot at the time I was writing the chapbook as both my parents were in the final stages of cancer in 2010 and died three months apart from each other. But I clearly remember encountering Anne Carsonís Nox (2010) which shares a similar theme and Keith Waldropís Transcendental Studies (2009). Louise Bourgeois died in 2010, and so I was reexamining her work and reading many of her observations/ writings about motherhood and her relationship as a child to her parents, material that is raw and often biting, which spoke to me at the time.

How does a poem--or a series of poems--begin for you? And what is your process like as a writer?

Iíll walk around with an idea for quite a while before handwriting (sketching) in pencil in a notebook. Then I fill many, many pages, perhaps an entire notebook before exhausting that idea. My primary intention is to anchor a visual realm, memory, time-frame, or mood with words, creating an aesthetic. This is my favorite part of the writing process because itís spontaneous and cathartic. Transposing the notebook to computer also has its rewards, especially the revision process where an understanding might be reached. But all this takes a very long time.


Go to our download page for her chapbook.





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