May 29, 2014
Interview with Kristina Marie Darling
by Caitlin McGuire
Kristina Marie Darling’s poems, “A History of Melancholia: Glossary of Terms” and “Footnotes to a History of the Beloved” appeared in Fjords Review, Volume 1, Issue 3.
About Kristina Marie Darling
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of fifteen books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and a forthcoming hybrid genre collection called Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.
CM: What inspired "A History of Melancholia: Glossary of Terms"?
KMD: A few years ago, I was preparing to move from St. Louis, Missouri to Buffalo, New York. I was excited to start graduate school in Buffalo, but sad to leave someone who was an important part of my life. As I prepared to move to a new city, I found myself surrounded by small but meaningful artifacts of this person: a flyer, a ticket stub, some papers tucked away in a book. It was the first time I really thought about the emotional weight that we attach to objects. The smallest, most unremarkable item can hold within it an array of memories, dreams, and emotional upheavals. It was this realization that led me to work on Melancholia.
CM: Birds are recurring images in these poems—what purpose do you think the birds serve?
KMD: In some cultures, birds in art, literature, and poetry are strongly linked to the human soul, the spirit. For me, birds are an emblem for the simple desire to escape. They represent so beautifully the part of every person that seeks transcendence, whether literal, emotional, or spiritual.
With that said, I'm also fascinated by the ways that birds appear in Victorian material culture. The time period is filled with stone, pewter, and engraved birds. They become a fairly conventional form of ornamentation. I find it interesting that this symbol of escape, transcendence, and otherworldliness is so often frozen, captured in the space of a jewelry box or an elaborate cornice. For me, this image of the bird as halted, mid-flight, encapsulates many of the concerns of Melancholia (An Essay).
CM: When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
KMD: An astrophysicist. I thought it sounded impressive.
CM: What do you want to be when you grow up now?
KMD: When I grow up, I want to be a fellow. I hope that the fellowship carries no obligations and extends indefinitely. Lastly, I sincerely hope that evidence of artistic achievement is not required in order to renew the fellowship.
CM: If you could have a conversation with any literary figure, alive or dead, that could only last the length of a cup of coffee, who would you choose?
KMD: I would choose, without any question, to have a conversation with Laurie Sheck. I loved her book, A Monster's Notes, and was so inspired by her archival practice. The book is loosely based on the life of Mary Shelley, and the story appears as letters, vignettes, and still visible text that has been excised, struck through. Sheck works with historical material, and allows it to inspire her, but her own voice and aesthetic shines through beautifully. This ability to seamlessly weave together history and modernity is something I'd love to learn from, and try to achieve in my own work.
CM: Do you have any writer's block advice?
KMD: If you have writer's block, read everything you can. And I don't just mean poetry. Read things that would never appear on the syllabus for a poetry workshop. I'm a strong believer in poetry as dialogue, poetry as conversation. Reading the work of other writers is the best way to find something to respond to, revise, or react against. That's what always gets me writing again when I've been blocked.
CM: What are you currently working on?
KMD: I just finished working on a collaboration with Max Avi Kaplan, a photographer and costumer based in Providence. Max is amazing and talented, and it was such a pleasure to work with him on this project. Our book consists of Max's Polaroids, which depict a 1950s housewife named Adelle. I wrote prose poems in response to these beautiful and evocative photographs, which attempt to create a narrative around the images. The book is a kind of character study, an effort to imagine Adelle's innermost thoughts, and to convey what it's like to be surrounded by beauty, yet trapped. The collaboration is called Music for another life, and will be published in the spring by BlazeVOX Books. I hope you'll check it out!