Congratulations are in order: Erin Marie Lynch is putting out her first book of poetry, Removal Acts (paperback, Kindle). And if the poems I’ve read online are any indication, it’s going to be a good one. To find out who and what influenced these poems, and how this book came together, please check out the following email interview.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Chacón
To start, is there an underlying or overarching theme to the poems in Removal Acts? Something that connects them?
I don’t think that I could identify one single theme for the book, or for any book of poems. I think that the book is interested in many different questions, which answer, build on, and contradict each other throughout the poems. The poems in Removal Acts are concerned with questions of memory, inheritance, belonging, and displacement, among other things.
How then did you decide which poems to include in Removal Acts, and which to leave out?
Like many artists, I tend to circle the same questions and concerns over and over. So, as I began to put a manuscript together, many of the poems already formed a conversation with one another (without my explicit intent). As I was arranging the book, I found that some poems were perfectly excellent, from a craft perspective, but felt too far removed from the other poems in the book to really fit there; I had to take some of these out.
Removal Acts is your first collection of poetry. What poets do you feel have been the biggest influence on your style, and especially on the poems in Removal Acts?
I owe a huge debt to many of the poets working in experimental documentary and archival poetics: M. NourbeSe Philip, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Solmaz Sharif, Layli Long Soldier. These writers taught me to open the way my poems could look on the page, creating visual and linguistic shifts and forms throughout my work.
What other things influenced the poems in Removal Acts? Any prose novels or writers, any movies, paintings, songs…?
The book is deeply influenced by a sense of the photographic. Throughout the book, I write about family photographs, incorporating these into the material of the poems. In my encounters with photographs, I try to engage in a sensory encounter with these visual forms, really listening to and feeling the textures and emotions of the photographs.
Based on the poems I’ve seen online, you seem to favor free verse, or at least poems that are not rigidly structured. Is this a fair assessment?
Many of the poems in the book are free verse. Many other poems adhere to formal constraints or strategies that I have created myself. I try to practice organic form, developing a structure for each poem out of the needs and content of that particular poem — what Denise Levertov calls an “intuition of order.” I am very sensitive to how my work appears on the page. The visual appearance of a poem can create feeling and meaning, just as much as the paraphrasable content.
Some of the poems in Removal Acts were originally published in literary journals. Are the versions of the poems in Removal Acts the same as they were in those journals?
Some of the poems in Removal Acts absolutely look different in the book. Once a poem is brought into the book, it often needs to be woven into the fabric of the surrounding poems. Sometimes, I find that a poem needs to share a little less with the reader when it is surrounded by other poems that are also doing emotional and psychological work.
Finally, if someone enjoys Removal Acts, what book of poetry that you read recently and liked would you suggest they check out?
Claire Hong’s Upend is similarly interested in familial archives, ancestral silences, and retrieval of memory.