Poetry Grrrowl: Suzanne Zelazo + Lances All Alike
In today's Poetry Grrrowl, we talk with Suzanne Zelazo about women's voices in her experimental collection Lances All Alike (Coach House Books), her writing process, and her desired superpower. Keep scrolling to read "Widows in Greenwich Village" from the collection too.See more details below
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Interview with the Poet
All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.
Suzanne Zelazo: Lances All Alike is about women's voices—how they speak, enabling them to speak to and through each other, and in some cases, over their male counterparts. Although as poets we tend to write alone, I never feel like I do, rather, I am always in conversation when I write—with everything that and everyone who has had an impact on me. Influence, appropriation, and collaboration then, are at the heart of this collection. I literalize this conversation/collaboration in the first part of this book between two female artists of the early 20th century (Mina Loy and Baroness Elsa) who despite sharing many artistic resonances, and sharing very close friends, never engaged with each other’s work. Imagining how they may have formed a partnership, I stitched their work together—put in them in conversation. I am curious about how their careers may have changed had they been able to support one another in the way many of the male modernists did. Another section responds more directly to the work of male modernists (specifically William Faulkner and James Joyce), whereby I attempt to write female consciousness where masculine modernism has configured it as a resounding lack. In so doing, I am attempting to sound a different kind of female voice.
ALU: What is your process for beginning a poem? Has it changed since you began writing?
SZ: My process begins in reading (and this can mean listening or viewing too) and it is always somatic. When I connect to a work of art that moves me, a recalibration occurs in my body and an opening expands inward—a sensory connection with language occurs. I think this process of beginning and beginning again has shifted over time in becoming more pronounced and more conscious. I can never read without a pencil in hand.
ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?
SZ: Cadence sparked my initial love of poetry. I discovered I could hear what I understood as intention in poetry much easier than in fiction and that gave me a fleeting sense of connection that (I imagine) I continue to chase. The sound of an idea made (and continues to make) sense to me.
ALU: Who are some of your fave women poets?
SZ: Everything Nicole Brossard writes goes to my very core. Lisa Robertson, Sina Queyras, Liz Howard, and of course my many modernist mothers are all important influences.
ALU: What do you find most informs and inspires your writing?
SZ: The artistic process across genres informs my work. That is, trying to apprehend how a painter, or dancer, or pianist gets inside her craft in order to translate a feeling is an instructive challenge that is very generative for me.
ALU: If you had one superpower, what would it be? Could you describe it in a haiku?
SZ: If I had a one superpower it would be omnilingualism, the ability to speak the language of whomever one encounters. In some ways, this is a kind of telepathy.
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A Poem from Lances All Alike
"Widows in Greenwich Village"
white flesh quakes
Lethargic ecstasy of steps
jazz—stutters maiden saplings
groves of grace
Electric crown crashes
through shampooed sound
through starvation streets
Salacious survivor dragging
kitchen stove bathtub
how secretly you
This anemic devotion
unfurled and leaning
tropic and readymade
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Suzanne Zelazo is a poet, editor, and educator. She has a PhD in English with a specialty in modernist poetry. Suzanne is the author of the poetry collection Parlance (Coach House) and is the co-editor of Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (MIT Press) as well as Crystal Flowers: Poems and a Libretto by Florine Stettheimer (Book*hug).
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