Issue 25 Interviews
from its inspiration to its final arrival in the hands of the reader, writing undergoes a lengthy and complex process, and one that is too often overlooked. Each issue, Front Porch sits down with people who are engaged daily with the processes and industries of writing, be it by running community workshops, buying books at a used bookstore, organizing translations, and much more. These interviews seek to examine the many forces that shape literature, and to highlight the perceptive and passionate people to whom we owe the books on our shelves.
Front Porch: No Regrets, Coyote is a detective novel. But unlike most detective novels, where the plot of the book is consistently and deliberately whittled down in scope, your novel keeps expanding its narrative threads well past the midway point. How did you come up with this unconventional structure?
John Dufresne: It’s not an unconventional structure for me. It’s the way I write all my novels, for whatever reason. I like to think that every character in the novel is the central character in her own novel, and I like to suggest what that story might be. That’s just the way I write. I don’t think of Coyote as any different than any other novel I’ve written except that there is this crime to be solved. So I’m still interested in examining and exploring the human condition. This is what it’s like to be a human being and this is how it feels. Wylie’s relationship with his dad was as important to me as was his solving of the crime. Finding out who done it is not enough to keep me reading or writing.
Front Porch: The poems in Hymn For the Black Terrific strike a really interesting balance. The poems are conceptually heavy and very intellectual, but they always remain firmly rooted in issues of the body and the physical. Why is this balance important to you? How did you work to maintain it?
Kiki Petrosino: I didn’t have to work very hard, at all. Because: the forms of poetry are bodily forms. That is: the iamb is a heartbeat, and the line (may) correspond to breath. Plath says “the blood jet is poetry.” This means that all poems are, to some degree, rooted in the body. I haven’t thought about this as an issue of balance, but I suppose it is. The form of the poem anchors it to the page and to the body. From this place of scaffolding and support, the intellectual work can proceed. Why am I thinking of a coral reef just now? Well. It might work like that.
Front Porch: Many of the stories in your collection See Through, and much of your new novel Elect H. Mouse State Judge, tackle dark and profoundly grown-up events—kidnapping, religious fanaticism, divorce, family dissolution—through the perspective of children. What draws you to using a child-voice?
Nelly Reifler: I have been drawn to writing about children, their inner lives and their interactions with the world, because there’s less static between them and their thoughts and feelings: they feel what they feel, and they’ll say what they think. It’s heartbreaking when children become complicated by the awareness that the whole world doesn’t operate this way, and I think that’s the moment that I was looking at in some of those See Through stories. I say it’s heartbreaking, but of course it’s also a necessary and inevitable part of growing up.
Front Porch: Why is poetry important?
Jillian Weise: James Dickey wants to answer this one: “Science and technology and medicine: these things can save your life. But only literature makes it worth saving.”