Bewildering Stories Interviews
Rebecca Lu Kiernan
Rebecca, you’re well known at Bewildering Stories for your poetry. Do you write or have you written anything else?
Poetry is it for me. I started out as a newspaper reporter. My editor kept giving me hell about the work. I remember him saying, “This is beautiful; it’s almost poetry, not news. Fix it, Kiernan!”
What’s your favorite of your poems?
My favorite poem of mine is “Hard Labor.” I wrote it about a special ops pilot with whom I was madly in love. It’s a great tribute to him and that time in our lives.
Where do you get your ideas for your poems?
I don’t get ideas for poems. Poems get me. Poetry is my life and my life is poetry. When a poem is evolving in me, I stop everything, and I mean everything, and write.
Writers in both prose and poetry commonly rely primarily on the sense of sight, which is understandable. But your poetry also has a very strong tactile quality. Is that a conscious effect?
Don, this is news to me. I never thought about how much my poetry revolves around the sense of touch. Erotica is a strong theme for me; perhaps this is the answer.
Your poems also frequently depict interiors, such as rooms and furnishings. In a way they seem to be still-lifes with a lot of potential energy, in the physics sense of the term. Are the interiors inspired by your own surroundings?
Regarding my poetry being interior in focus, I don’t get the still-life comparison. I feel my poetry is muscular, fluid, alive and contagious, delicious and dangerous. My signature effect is that the work is labyrinthic, and no, I don’t care if it is not a word. It is now. My best poetry takes you where I want you to go, but the intelligent reader can get there in a variety of ways. I do not tell the reader what I am thinking. I dare him or her to think for him or herself.
Do you consciously seek out verbal sound effects in your poems?
The only sound effect with which I concern myself is rhythm. I close my eyes and say it. If it sounds right in my head, it looks good on paper.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written?
The Billy Bob Thornton and Woody Allen and sex fantasies from my “Men I Want to Ravish” series would be the strangest thing I have ever written. Humor, a bit of kink and unbridled passion... a cocktail I served up for you and you politely pushed it back across the bar. If you and I were jailed for that work, it would be better advertising than money can buy!
I thought the “Ravish” poems were a hoot, but if Bewildering Stories published them, we’d zoom to the top of the X-rated charts and have to forward you the flood of submissions the notoriety would attract. I doubt you’d want that. But why do you write erotica anyway? Personal motivation or market demand?
What a fantastic question! I write erotic poems because I feel them. I certainly do not feel trapped by market demand. I include science fiction and humor to make the sometimes feverish pitch easier to accept. Let’s face it, we are hard-wired for passion. It is the reason the species survives.
And here I thought sex was all about having babies and building nests. Are you saying it’s fun, too? Victorian ladies were supposed to “think of England,” but ulterior motives preclude fun. Be that as it may, have you ever had writer’s block? Have you ever had the time to write but couldn’t?
Writer’s block? Hell no! I have to force myself to push the writing aside in order to live out other aspects of my life. Poetry is in me and I am in it. Poetry is the most beautiful thing about me.
What writer would you invite for dinner and a conversation about the art of writing?
The writer I would invite to dinner is Charles Sheffield, the science fiction writer. I would ask him how he knows what women are really thinking, what we are plotting and I would commend him on showing such restraint in his descriptions of sexual encounters. I know it’s odd, here I am known for erotica and I am wondering how a man can write so little and convey so much.
Although Sheffield was not a poet, he had what the best poets have. We have an economy of words, a reckless abandon that makes perfect sense if you look closely and thoughtfully, the ability to create new worlds and make you feel right at home in them, the ability to get so close to the reader he feels as if we are breathing against his neck, a license to thrill.
How do you get along with editors?
I never allow an editor to tell me anything is wrong with a poem. “Pre-emptive,” which was published in Ms. Magazine, was rejected by about twenty publishers. One editor whined that it was too simple. Another editor said “The poem kind of stabs men in the heart and struts off without explanation.” What more can you ask of a poem than to stab and strut? You can tell me a poem isn’t right for a certain market. You can tell me you think a poem sucks. No one can tell me to change my art.
Gotta be kidding! Whining about simplicity or needing an “explanation” almost qualifies for our rogues’ gallery of Classic Rejection Notices. And twenty rejections of “Pre-emptive”? What are those people publishing, anyway? Never mind; I don’t think I really want to know.
Every single poem I have ever written has been published. All my babies find good homes. If the market changed tomorrow and no one would run my work, I would still keep doing it. My poetry is more truth than I could ever dare achieve.
Thank you, Rebecca. We’ve been reading your poems for three years now, and we’re looking forward to many more. You’ve told us a lot about your motivation, and it comes as no surprise; maybe that’s a sign of your poems’ authenticity.
Thank you, Don, for your interest in my work. It’s always fun talking with you. While I am delighted to have my work published in a great magazine, book or site, I have always felt that you really “get” my work, and that should scare the hell out of both of us.
Art allows us to see through another’s eyes, to perceive through another’s senses; and I find your poetry quite clear. Fear, no; compassion, yes. In the end we always come back to Mallarmé: “Poetry is not made with ideas, it’s made with words.” And all readers have to be intrigued by your imagery and way with words.