Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Interview with Melina Draper

by Emma Haskins

SO Good: Your newest work, Lugar de Origen/ Place of Origin was written with your mother. What was it like working with her?

Melina Draper: I think the nature of collaboration with another artist means two creative processes coming together in messy ways to create something unexpected. This was a very intense project that required attention, energy, and follow-through. It was great to work with my mom. I learned a lot from her in the process. I think we both learned from each other. It was probably an excuse to spend time with each other, and exhilarating to do it via our creative personas. It required a lot of trust, but we had that already.

SG: What inspires and/or informs your poetry? What is your best cure for ‘writer’s block’?

MD: My obsessions inform my poetry and those range from deeply personal issues to engagement in the world around me as well as other poets' work. The "best cure" for writer's block for me is to start at the beginning: keep a journal about whatever. Make up a writing exercise. When I'm really busy, this is often the way I keep my practice active, so that at least I'm generating messy notes that might be useful later.

SG: As an artist currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry, what advice do you have for students who are thinking about entering a graduate program?

MD: I love being a student: another one of my obsessions is learning. Advice: apply for TAships (Teaching Assistantships). These provide a tuition waiver, living stipend, and teaching experience and training. No need to go into debt for a degree in creative writing, right? Apply to a lot of schools. Think of it as an adventure. I love grad school because you get to focus completely on the discipline you love, deepen your practice, read widely and deeply in your field, and pal around with others who are as dedicated as you are.

SG: Lastly, what is your favorite poem or novel? What author has had the most influence on you as a person? As a writer?

MD: Ah, the difficult question. I don't have a single favorite. I could even say what I like is the diversity of voices in poetry and fiction, the different ways of looking at the world, at human behavior, at form and language. Some favorite poets: Li Young Lee, Luise Gluck, Anne Carson, Charles Simic, Elizabeth Bisop, Sylvia Plath, Homer, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wislawa Szymborzka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, and Pablo Neruda. Some favorite novelists and short story writers: David Crouse, James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Bohumil Hrabal, Cormac McCarthy, Pat Barker, Virginia Woolf, and Jim Crace.

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