April 20, 2011

INTERVIEW with WEAVE Poetry Contest Judge Lisa Marie Basile

WEAVE has reopened for submissions for our seventh issue. In celebration of three years of publishing, we've decided to hold our first annual Poetry and Flash Fiction Contests. We are happy to announce that our guest judge in Poetry will be poet Lisa Marie Basile.

Basile author of A Decent Voodoo, (Červená Barva Press, 2012) and a chapbook, White Spiders (Gold Wake Press, 2010). She is a Creative Writing M.F.A. candidate at The New School in New York City and a member of The Poetry Brothel, where she performs as Luna Liprari. She is the founding editor of CAPER Literary Journal, a monthly poetry and prose journal. She is the publisher and editor of the micropress Patasola Press. She also works with PEN American Center's Prison Writing Program and is a bookseller at McNally Jackson Books in NYC.

Ms. Basile was gracious enough to answer a some questions about her writing process, obsessions and the intersection of poetry and performance.

WEAVE: What is your earliest memory of writing?

Lisa Marie Basile:  I sit at the kitchen table with my grandfather and a caligraphy set. We make sweeping designs and letters across paper. We write little stories (I must have been 5). I write thoughts and ideas on green stick-it notes with my grandfather. He was in the Navy. He had an anchor on his arm. He was very quiet but used to be sort of terrible. I think he is largely responsible for inadvertantly cultivating my love creative writing. I think this process changed him as a man too. My mother always said he gave me and taught me everything she never had or learned. So maybe this was his way of getting closer to me — and her? We used to write these little aphorisms. Lots of them. I still have one saved about islands: “Ilands : Ilands are suranded By water. Billions of peopel could be stuck on Ilands.”

W: Do you have any writing rituals, such as writing with your favorite pen, pre-writing yoga, or sitting in your favorite armchair?

LMB: I am painfully inconsistent. Aside from a preference for writing in garamond or didot font (I like serifs) I don’t have a ritual. Even if I weren’t so busy I wouldn’t have a ritual. I’m a little scared of ritual. When I plan my day or my writing, it feels wrong. In my MFA workshop, when asked to write on demand, I freeze. I write when I need to, and I don’t write otherwise. Sometimes I’ll write all day and then have to wait a week or so. I trust the “muse” as we call it, but nothing will coax her from her sleepy state. She hits me over the head and drags me down. Sometimes if I feel something strongly for the world or for my life, it goes through a filter and I just have to wait to get it down. I like it that way. Maybe that’s because I don’t know any other way?

W: What does your day look like as a writer and editor? What do you spend your time on?

LMB: Each day is different between work [as a bookseller] and my graduate studies. Writing comes first, and the inspiration sort of works around the other demands in my life. It almost knows when I have a free moment. I sometimes focus very heavily on editing. Typically, I manipulate my schedule to fit in an hour or so of submissions reading for CAPER Literary Journal and Patasola Press — more if I can. I read CAPER poetry on my lunch break. I spend all day sporadically updating the sites, the feeds, the Twitter and Facebook. I designate some days strictly for Patasola Press or CAPER. I write press releases and edit very, very late at night. I feel very dedicated to making enough time for my press and journal.

When I need to write (for myself, for class) or send submissions and work on my personal activities, it just manages to occur. I’m not sure how. I also am very active with The Poetry Brothel and other reading series. The Poetry Brothel is a wonderful organization that puts on elaborate, detailed poetic readings almost every month. Being involved is perfectly intense; who wouldn’t want to read poetry in an aesthetically overcharged environment with dozens of creative people? Today, I’m putting together a beautiful chapbook with a friend. I’m also editing my book, A Decent Voodoo and waiting eagerly for its publication (Cervena Barva, 2012). So I’d say it all gets done in tiny little bursts throughout each day. I’m very grateful for my life.

W: What do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?

LMB: I like burlesque, both performing it and watching performances. I perform as Luna Liprari. When I spend time at home, I often practice Spanish and try to read poems in Spanish. I’ve fallen for the language. A good day is a day with my loved ones and friends and some wine. I like watching Sci-fi too. And “B-rate Mind-Bending, Visually Stunning Paranormal” films on Netflix. I also used to think my world was about the TV-show LOST, but now that’s over and I’m completely heartbroken to bits. Please, email me if you know how to move on.

W: What was the impetus for starting Caper Literary Journal and Patasola Press?

LMB: CAPER was started in the summer of 2009. It began as a project and morphed into a lifestyle. I was inspired by working on a literary journal during college (Pace University’s Aphros). I wanted to promote beautiful work. I wanted to avoid the exhausted literary trends I was seeing at the time. Patasola Press began in 2011. I always wanted to make books, and like any book editor know, there is a life-affirming feeling when you know you’re putting something out into the world that you believe in and love. I also wanted to promote female writers and we're doing that by publishing an anthology of female writers. It's called La Pastaola. On a less sentimental note, I want to learn more about the world, the ways people work together and grow as an entrepreneur. I want to learn how to be a better writer through editing.

W: How does your work as an editor affect your work as a writer?

LMB: I was born first a writer. Sometimes I feel like editing is the sea and my work is just a tiny island. Sometimes it’s okay to have a dual identity but I forget how good it feels to just play with language. My former professor (a wonderful writer and poet) Jennifer Michael Hecht, told me last night that sometimes it just is good to give up the leadership role and be a part of the things produced by other people’s imaginations, to let yourself wind up somewhere that you didn’t create in the first place. I think that’s something I must try and remember.

W: How does your work with the Poetry Brothel as Luna Liprari inform your writing? How do persona and performance inform your work?

LMB: This is a great question! When I read with The Poetry Brothel, I must try to keep in mind that the poem needs to have a performative element. The poet must be acutely aware of how to say things, where to place the emphasis on thoughts and words and the speed at which one reads. Recently, I read on the Contemporary Poetry Review that poems should be recited, not read. This isn’t the case for some of my poetry and I don’t think it’s the case for a lot of poetry (I believe a poem can live a good life solely on paper) but being a part of the Poetry Brothel has made me aware of the poem’s power off the page. I think harnessing that power is a beneficial process for me right now.

W: What books/journals/blogs/etc. are you currently reading?

LMB: I’m in love with On Elegance While Sleeping by the Argentinian writer Tegui, both because of its form (diary entries) and its content. I recently read Aurorama by Valtat, a dazzling book of ice and Inuits and dream incubators and hover-ships and politics. I’m also reading Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism. I fall all over vintage and historical texts about sensuality and sexuality. I think the Victorian age speaks to a lot of how society today behaves, and it is fascinating. And, of course I read Weave.

W: What are your current obsessions?

LMB: I’m not sure where to begin: the history of the ectoplasm, vintage public domain images, the Steampunk aesthetic, the history and mythology of Mexico (I’m visiting this year for the second time). I’ve been obsessing over atlases and maps as a metaphor in my work. I’ve been reading about the psyche of Oppenheimer. I’m interested in the drive toward destruction, as it pertains to the world and the ways I behave sometimes, too. Obituaries, also, which are the inspiration for a collection I’m working on. I observe the world to a fault.

W: If you had to choose a color, an animal and a place to describe your work as an artist, what three things would you choose?

LMB: A gray owl in the desert.


For more information about WEAVE's First Annual Poetry and Flash Fiction Contests, please read our contest page.

For more information about Lisa Marie Basile please check out her work at > kill authorPlayground Journal and Prick of the Spindle
Also check out CAPER Literary Journal and Patasola Press.

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