Interview with Laura LeHew
Laura LeHew is the author of a collection of poems, two chapbooks, numerous articles and poems in filling Station, Ghost Town, PANK, Slice and Spillway among others. She knows nothing of gardens or gardening but is well versed in the cultivation of cats.
SCP: So first off congratulations on winning the 2013 SCP Poetry Prize! Your poem “3 Days Prior to April Fools Through Friday the 13th- A Fortnight of Reckoning in the Year of the Dragon” is extremely beautiful and poignant. Could you start off by telling us just a little bit about the impetus of the poem? A sliver of what’s behind it?
Laura: Thanks I’m super excited about winning. While mostly I make things up while I’m writing every once in a while a confessional poem just happens to appear and this is one of those times. For two weeks everything I did spiraled to something more serious. There was serious snow. I did reinjure my shoulder. My sister in the poem has dementia. Luckily all the things in the poem seem so farfetched and impossible and spaced so closely together that most everyone believes I have made it all up; only the people reading this interview will know the truth.
SCP: And what are some of the other big projects you’re working on right now? Pending collections or publications?
Laura: My personal projects are:
1. to finish up a full length collection of poems called Thirst which is about my sister’s dementia and to find a home for it forthwith
2. to finish and home a collection How to Build a Paper Crane, poems of divorce
SCP: We know that you yourself run a small book publishing venture called Uttered Chaos (www.utteredchaos.com). Can you tell us a little bit about its history? What led you to start your own press?
Laura: Uttered Chaos began as a reading series with Colette Jonopulos (Tiger’s Eye). As part of my MFA I took a number of book arts classes. After I because frustrated with the number of good poets who could not get chapbooks or books it seemed only natural to move into the small press world.
Uttered Chaos will an anthology of poems edited by Liz Nakazawa, The Knotted Bond: Oregon Poets Speak of Their Sisters, a chapbook by Patty Wixon called Side Effects, a technical book called Command Line Kung-Fu by writers Paul Asadoorian, Tim Medin, Hal Pomeranz, and Ed Skoudis and finally Mrs. Schrödinger’s Breast, a full length collection of poems by Quinton Hallett.
SCP: How does publishing the work of others paly into your own work? Do you find that editing and publishing other people’s poetry inspires your own writing or are they completely separate pursuits?
Laura: It is all very cyclic to me, read good writing, become inspired, write better. There is an intimacy with putting a book together, by living with another’s work you learn the beauty and strength of an author’s lines, subjects or even cover art. It seeps into my own work.
SCP: What do you think is the current state of poetry publishing in the states? Certainly the web is home to many established and blossoming journals, but is there an audience?
Laura: I love the state of flux in the publishing industry. I think this is a time where things happen if you are open to it. Absolutely there is an audience.
SCP: What’s your own creative process like? How do you begin/end a poem? What’s your editing/submission process like?
Laura: When a poem is ready in my head I sit down at my computer and type the whole thing out title to finish in order line by line by whatever form it takes – sonnet, tercet, free verse. I save the poem, leave it open on my desktop and sometime later usually a day, I save it as another version and make whatever edits have come to mind. I print it out and bring it to critique group. It then sits clipped together with all the comments until such time as the poem calls to me and then I look through all the comments, recalling what everyone individually and as a group has said about the poem and make any final edits. I do sestina’s the same way. I have to live with the end words until the poem is ready.
Submissions—the first thing I do after saving my poem is to save the title in my tracking spreadsheet. I try always to submit on Sunday’s. Switching sides of the brain—writing or submitting often leads to new poems. 99% of what I submit is on-line. Duotrope (www.duotrope.com) is well worth the money.
SCP: Any other thoughts to share with our readers?
Laura: Live long and prosper.
SCP: And lastly…what’s with the tiger in the photo on your website (www.lauralehew.com)?
Laura: In the early morning of my 50th birthday Sultan, the tiger, and I went for a walk at Tiger Island, a park outside of Brisbane, Australia. What you never see in any of the pictures—4 big guys with clubs and walk-talkies (just in case). Tigers can only be walked in the morning, before the park opens.
SCP: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your wonderful work!