Monday, March 25, 2019

TBR: Flint & Fire by Lisa M. Hase-Jackson

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?

Flint and Fire is a collection of poems about life in America that explores such social conditions as single motherhood, poverty, addiction, divorce, racism, mental illness, incarceration, and relocation trauma.

Which poem/s did you most enjoy writing? Why?

Four of my favorite poems from this collection are “Prairie Rumors,” “Forty Acres South of Mayetta,” “Shard Studded Floor,” and “Junk Mail.” I had a fairly clear vision when I set out to write these poems but was also able to let go enough to allow them to become what they are. “Prairie Rumors” is a bit mystical while “Shard Studded Floor” and “Junk Mail” are pretty concrete and realistic. In all cases, I am happy with what these poems are doing in terms of imagery, sound, structure, and story. I also like where they are placed in the collection as a whole. 

Which poem/s gave you the most trouble, and why?

“January Respite” comes to mind. It has undergone considerable revision between the time it was accepted for publication and the date that it was published, meaning the version in the book, a more recent manifestation, is quite different than the one published by Literary Mama. “Osawatomie October” was also difficult to finish. The first few lines came to me relatively effortlessly, but finding the right conclusion was tough. I found the right ending by going back into the poem in search of an image that would help bring the poem full circle.  Both of these poems attempt to provide a different perspective on mental illness and addiction, two obviously broad and difficult subjects to approach poetically.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

Writing individual poems was generally a highlight of this experience, as was the day I learned that the collection had been selected by Jericho Brown for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection Series and would be published by The Word Works, but there were a lot of lows during the process as well. I mean, the challenges that come with revising poems is sometimes quite thrilling and sometimes downright disheartening, not to mention heartbreaking when a poem just isn’t working and is relegated to the failed poems folder. Though necessary in the pursuit of publication, I would count rejections as a low, too, and I personally also experienced a lot of anxiety figuring out which poems to include in the collection and into which order they should be arranged.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Give yourself permission to write crap and write past it.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

I was really surprised when someone described my collection as being about America, but it really is. I suppose this is a result of my moving around a lot my entire life, in and out of the country, and having been constantly exposed to a variety of perceptions. Seeing my “home” from the perspective of others is pretty-eye opening and sometimes quite amusing. It’s much more enlightening to consider these alternative perspectives through writing as opposed to becoming defensive or close-minded about them.

How did you find the title of your book?

It was lifted from one of the poems within the collection, which is inspired by images of the Kansas Flint Hills during prescribed burnings in the spring. My good friend and colleague, Izzy Wasserstein, suggested it after reading through an early version of the manuscript.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)  

Now that you mention it, I do refer to something called Midwestern spaghetti in the poem “January Respite,” which is just a made-up name for a common dish I used to make a lot because it is quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive. All you have to do is prepare the desired amount of spaghetti noodles, though I suppose any kind of noodle will work, then heat your favorite kind of tomato sauce, premade or your own, and add a package of spaghetti seasoning (like McCormick). I served it with garlic toast, which I often made from leftover hotdog buns, butter, and garlic powder, or garlic salt if there is no garlic powder in the house. My spaghetti making is a little more sophisticated these days, but this recipe got me through a lot of lean times.





DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.