Thursday Dec 13

DarlingKristinaMarie Kristina Marie Darling is the author of fifteen books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and a forthcoming hybrid genre collection called Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.

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Kristina Marie Darling interview with Meg Tuite


I love these micro-flash pieces that seem to be from another time period? I was guessing maybe the 50’s?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 1 Thank you for your kind words about the flash fictions! You guessed right. My collaborator, Max Avi Kaplan, and I imagined the Polaroids and the accompanying stories as a character study, an in-depth look at the life a 1950s housewife named Adelle. We're both fascinated by 1950s material culture, but also the situation of women of the time period, who were so often surrounded by beauty, but trapped by their roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers. Many of the objects, clothes, and accessories depicted in the photographs are really from the 1950s. Max came to the collaboration with a background in costuming, and strives for great historical accuracy in his photographs. This influence certainly carries over into the flash fictions, which reflect a similar fascination with the complex histories, and the emotional weight, that we attach to objects.


Were these ekphrastic pieces inspired by the photography or was it the other way around?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 2 That's a great question. The flash fictions certainly began as ekphrastic pieces, which were inspired by a set of eight of Max's photographs. But he had not yet completed all the photographs. So I sent him poems in response to the initial set of images, then the collaboration became much more of a conversation. Just as I had responded to Max's work in my poems, he began responding to and incorporating the narrative I had constructed around his work. I think of our collaboration as a dialogue, which unfolds over the course of the book.


I love that it became a dialogue and you were both inspired. Tell me more about this collection? How many of these micro-shorts do you have in the collection and are they linked by the characters, the theme, the story?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 3 The collection is approximately eighty pages, and is forthcoming in full color from BlazeVOX [books]. The same character, Adelle, appears throughout the photographs, which tell the story of her divorce and subsequent search for a sense of self. The text reads as a book-length sequence of linked prose pieces, narrated in Adelle's voice, linked by the same overarching narrative. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by how cohesive the manuscript was, since it's always challenging to meld two different voices, and two aesthetics.


I love that there are more and more collaborative collections out there that work with different mediums. Have you done any collaborative work before? And if so, how does it move for you?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 4 I recently released a collaborative poetry collection, X Marks the Dress: A Registry, which was co-written with Carol Guess and is now available from Gold Wake Press. I find that each collaboration is completely different, not only in terms of the theme and the aesthetic of the work, but also the writing process. Carol and I produced a poem a day for the collection, sometimes two. Much of the writing, at least for me, was intuitive. But Max and I worked slowly and deliberately, carefully planning the order of the poems and photographs. I enjoy collaboration because it's so unpredictable. You never know what kind of dynamic will emerge between you and your co-writer, which definitely keeps things fun and exciting.  


How do you manage to produce as much as you have produced and continue toward a Ph.D? Are you teaching now? Or do you plan on teaching when you are finished?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 6 I teach one course at the University at Buffalo as part of my funding package. I also serve on the faculty of the Chicago School of Poetics. For me, writing is like breathing. I couldn't simply stop writing because I had classes to teach, or other things to do. I have to admit, though, that artist colonies have been really helpful in terms of getting manuscripts completed. It's great to have time set aside, where your only responsibility is to write. I'm definitely grateful to the Wurlitzer Foundation for giving me time and space to finish my collaboration with Max.

Although I have some teaching experience, I'm pretty open-minded about what type of work I'll do upon graduation. I'd be open to a career in arts administration, editing, publishing, or feature writing. I could see myself being fulfilled by many different types of work, as long as writing is involved in some way.


Who are the most important inspirations that you go back to again and again for support?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 7 First and foremost, my family. They've been so supportive of my poetry, and they never even ask why I get paid in contributor copies most of the time. I'm so glad to have had the chance to collaborate with Max and Carol, since they've become great friends even after the books got written and submitted. I'm also grateful for the support of several artist communities, without which I would have never met Max, and much of my writing would have never been finished.


Who are you reading at this time?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 8 I'm enjoying Aaron Kunin's Grace Period, which is a collection of his writing notebooks. I'm fascinated by the idea of the notebook as a literary form, one that's given to greater spontaneity than a poem or essay. And the way that Kunin blurs the boundaries between public and private writing, and creates various personae within the notebooks, is really interesting. I've also been reading some Gold Wake Press books: Hannah Stephenson's In the Kettle, The Shriek, Anne Champion's Reluctant Mistress, and Sarah E. Colona's Hibernaculum are all favorites.


How was your venture at Yaddo? Any good stories from the time you spent there?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 9 Yaddo was an amazing experience. Every writer should apply to go there. Not only did I get to stay in a mansion with an indoor fountain, and eat great food every day, but the other artists were so inspiring. I made some great friends there, many of whom I still talk to and share work with.   But don't apply if you're afraid of ghosts. The mansion is definitely haunted.


Oh, now that makes me happy that it’s haunted. I wonder if Flannery O’Connor is wandering the rooms? Have you always been on the East coast?

I'm originally from Missouri, and hope to move back someday. Missouri is great because people don't drive crazy on the highways, social graces are valued, and people tend to be very polite. The winters are also pretty mild, and there are some great poetry readings. When I lived there, I frequented the Observable Reading Series, as well as the River Styx Poetry Series at Duffs. And I miss the Italian restaurants on The Hill every single day of my life.


What is the day in a life look like for you?

Work, work, work, work, work, work, eat some pizza, more work.


Thank God for the pizza! What projects are you working on now?

Max Avi Kaplan PRESS IMAGE 10 I'm working on another collaboration with Max, which I'm really excited about. It involves photographs of hands, red nail polish, and an erasure of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Stay tuned for details!


WOW! Very excited to hear more about that! Give me a quote that really speaks to you.

"[She] realized somehow that the constant 37 was now decisive. [..] and turned to face the man on the bed and waited with him until the moment of equilibrium was reached, when 37 degrees Fahrenheit should prevail both outside and inside, and forever, and the hovering, curious dominant of their separate lives should resolve into a tonic of darkness and the final absence of all motion."-Thomas Pynchon, Entropy


That’s exquisite! Thank you so much, Kristina, for sending Connotation Press some of your pure brilliance!
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