Marsh Hawk Press offers a “Three Questions” Series for its authors to discuss individual titles—an index to the Series is available HERE. We are pleased to present this Q&A with Sharon Dolin whose book will go into second printing on May 1, 2015:
1. What is something not known or obvious about your book SeriousPink?
In the final section, Section IV: “Serious Pink,” the poems responding to Howard Hodgkin’s paintings, I wanted to think about frames much as Hodgkin draws attention to their boundaries by painting on the frames themselves. Though I wrote them in free verse (except for the ghazal), I used the loose constraint of 15 lines in various configurations of stanzas, though several do lap over into 16-18 lines.
2. Please share some responses to your book that’s surprised you, or made you happy or disappointed.
The fact that Serious Pink has gone into a second printing pleases me immensely. A writer loves all her books, but Serious Pink holds a special place for me in my poetic development. I challenged myself to write differently than I did in my first book, Heart Work, and in my third book, Realm of the Possible, which was actually written concurrently with Serious Pink. Moving away from the confessional lyric, I played with language more than I had before, inspired by the way abstract painters play with color and line. While Serious Pink is still a personal book, I felt freer to write about my feelings and concerns much more obliquely. It was a liberating experience for me.
3) If you had to choose a favorite poem or a poem to highlight from the book, which one would you choose and why?
My favorite poem is not about a particular painting, as all the other poems in the three sequences (aside from “Ode to Color”) are. It is about the revelation I had concerning Richard Diebenkorn’s process: how to write about/enact his process of painting, painting over, keeping his mistakes visible. Nearly impossible to do with language, unless I want to have a poem with words struck out, which struck me as too facile, too mimetic. So my eureka moment came when I wrote the poem “Mistakes.” And it remains the only automatic poem I have ever written and published, almost the reverse of the vexed process that Diebenkorn underwent in his work and that I endured as well in all the other poems in that first section, which I actually wrote last.
Mistakes are what you leave out
for other people to put away.
They are the picture painted out of
the picture which is nonsense
because already I can picture them.
Mistakes are the only thing you can trust
to go wrong and that’s how
they right themselves no matter how
much you knock them over.
From the outside it might be a blemish
or stumble; inside it’s the scar
of who you are.
The point of interest in any story
is where it goes off the tracks.
That’s how we keep track of time
or time keeps track of us.
If it all came out right the first time
I’d be an automatic writer
and I’m not.
But this is coming out all right, isn’t it?
My other favorite poem is “Day Dreams,” the first poem from the Hodgkin series. I think it succeeds in capturing the playful eroticism and peek-a-boo quality of abstraction, out of which we are always finding images to hang on to. The poem carefully rides the edge between sense and no sense.
Let spectacled be speckled
and strips become tipples of stripes.
A wavery view loves a vapory hue,
an undulant curve, a redolent verve.
A donging clock polkadots time,
does a stippled back chime?
At center is an ocean obscured by raging light
Serious pink seems to lean on everything
in spite of trivial blue candy canes—
curtain folds on a proscenium stage.
It all comes down to land scaping a backdrop
for other protagonal forms
(and the surround not always round)
And what you think they’re doing, anyway,
humping or huddled there together on that beach
of light and black almost never out of reach.
We thank Sharon Dolin for participating in this Q&A. You can also visit her at her website.