Web Feature

BRIDGET TALONE
in conversation with BENNINGTON REVIEW

 

HENRIETTA HADLEY

You invoke Sappho in the first few lines of “Lavishly Appointed,” “Like Sappho, I woke alone” and at the end “Like Sappho, I looked askance/at the tyrannical appearance of unbrokenness.” I was wondering where Sappho comes into your life, other than through this poem.

BRIDGET TALONE

As a reader. I read Sappho in translation. There’s this part in the intro to Mary Barnard’s Sappho: A New Translation where Dudley Fitts says that Sappho’s poems have a plain, “pungent” style and I think that gets at some of what I find so affecting about Sappho. To me, the word pungent conjures something rotten, or at least stinking. And I think that’s only possible because the poems are full of specific bodies and relationships and the gossip that attends them. They feel in some way set against that advice about not putting anything in the poem that dates the poem. Reading Sappho, I remember that everything dates the poem and everything rots, and that feels good to remember when you’re looking for ways to get more of the world in your poems.

HENRIETTA HADLEY

What role does logic have for you in a poem? Do you think about building a poem through logic?

BRIDGET TALONE

When I think of logic in a poem-reading sense, it’s for me about learning to think in the way the poem thinks. I read with the expectation that all poems have a logic, even if that logic involves actively thwarting comprehension. When I’m writing a poem, I’m not as concerned with building logical arguments in the first draft as I am getting a feeling or state of mind down, but I rely a lot on re-reading to see what kind of logic might be operating in the poem. Lavishly Appointed feels like a daylight poem, where the connections it makes are more well-lit than obscure. I think that has to do with having the voice drive the poem, addressing and leading a reader through the piece.

HENRIETTA HADLEY

What sorts of momentum attract you in a poem?

BRIDGET TALONE

I’m pretty easy—as long as I feel caught up in it, I’m happy. Lately I find myself attracted to poems and collections that range, and go on longer and longer, so the sense of apprehending that momentum is a little delayed. I like to have time to see a poem thinking in one way and then buck and redirect and maybe later circle back to something it said earlier. Anaïs Duplan’s Mt Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus, Harmony Holiday’s Hollywood Forever, Anna Vitale’s Detroit, Detroit, Diana Hamilton’s The Awful Truth, Jane Gregory’s Yeah No & Brandon Brown’s The Four Seasons have been books I’ve read in the past year that gave me that pleasure.

HENRIETTA HADLEY

“Lavishly Appointed” feels like it has a clear start and a clear end. How did the writing begin and end?

BRIDGET TALONE

It started when I passed a truck in my neighborhood with a photograph of a woman taped to its rear window and RIP written above it. Seeing a handmade admission of loss transform a surface I wouldn’t normally read as expressive reminded me of something my dad used to do when he was sick and out of work and my sisters and I were at school. He would tape things to our bathroom mirror that he’d ripped out of newspapers or magazines and then draw or write over them. It felt like an invitation to alter something that had previously seemed beyond intervention. I loved the sense of wildness that came with that slightly different way of perceiving. Anyway, I wrote the poem to stay with what was coming up for me when I saw that picture and thought about the person who made the memorial: feelings of connection, and being in conversation that are part of survival and daily life but sometimes feel buried under routines and obligations.

HENRIETTA HADLEY

How do you think about control in poetry, or is it something you think about?

BRIDGET TALONE

I think about it a lot now, but didn’t always recognize that control was a part of my poems or how it was operating. I remember meeting with a professor in grad school who told me he’d noticed the lengths of my phrases were consistently clipped. We talked about whether I was unwilling or unable to let the sentences go on. My dad had recently died after a long illness, and despite wanting my writing to get close to that experience, so much of my life and person was in pieces and felt unreachable to me. After that meeting, I started trying to work with the fragmented writing I’d produced, to see if I could shape it into something expressive or evocative of the subjects I wanted to approach. When I began to see it as related to reading and listening, exercising control became a process; a way to help a poem into its form. Lately, I’m interested in seeing what happens when I push toward longer, more unwieldy forms.


 


BRIDGET TALONE lives and writes in Queens. She received a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her book, The Soft Life, is forthcoming from Wonder.


HENRIETTA HADLEY is an editorial assistant at Bennington Review.



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