My first encounter with, Reading, PA resident, Laura Hireisen was her piece back in March on 400 Words, "Furkins Loves Nuts". It was a fun little slice of life, and quite entertaining. I wrote her name in my notebook with the note "fiction" and moved on. Later that spring, I was reading the new poetry featured on The 2River View and found two beautifully written poems by Laura. I pull out my notebook and look at my note, and then reread her poetry. I began to think about the sharp contrast between poetry and prose, and the various functionalities of both. I thought about the construction of each, and the idea that prose tells where poetry eludes.
Well, it wasn't until her recent appearance in Word Riot that I actually contacted Laura. I asked here how she approaches each styles, in hopes of clarifying my aimless ideas of the two. Luckily, she was kind enough to answer that question and several others that I tossed at her.
Orange Alert (OA): How long have you been writing and how long did you submit your work before you received your first publication?
Laura Hirneisen (LH): I’ve been writing for 11 years, which makes me sound geriatric for a 23-year-old. (I was the strange girl with ink stained fingers and piles of handwritten manuscripts stuffed under her bed. Okay, there are still piles of handwritten manuscripts stuffed under my bed, so if you come over, don’t look.)
Although I was writing all those years, I didn’t know what to do with my writing—except to stuff it under my bed. Finally, some intelligent people told me to stop hoarding and start submitting. It was about a year from the time I first started seriously submitting to the time someone said yes.
OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
LH: An eclectic mix of old and new: Geoffrey Chaucer (no translations, please), Gertrude Stein, Jonathan Swift, Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Wallace Stevens, George Orwell, William Carlos Williams…and on.
OA: I noticed that you write both poetry and short fiction. From what I have read (WHAT I LIKE ABOUT MY UPS MAN and Furkins Loves Nuts) you tend to let your sense of humor shine through in your prose. Do you approach the two differently? Do you have a preference?
LH: Yes, the way I approach poetry and prose is very different. Poetry is like my hands, prose my feet: poetry involves fine motor skills, the delicate swipe of a wrist, and prose gets me to where I need to go, stomping through, dirty and tough. And I write the way I read: serious poetry, humor-tinged prose. I like to laugh. I like to make other people laugh. Just not in my poetry. Yet despite the dichotomy, one isn’t possible without the other for me. I use poetry in my prose, prose in my poetry, and love both equally—though in different ways.
OA: What is your opinion of the current state of poetry? Is it thriving in an internet era, or is it being watered down by an overabundance of outlets ( i.e. blogs/myspace/lit zines, etc)? Is there an audience for the modern poet?
LH: I think poetry has never been better. Every day, I find poets I never read before, crazy poets, amazing poets, poets who have found their voices in the online literary community. The internet deconstructs genres, creates new ones, and brings poetry to people all over the world in a way that the print medium is incapable of accomplishing. Because it’s more accessible, less tied up in market-driven bullshit, poetry can be the most raw and real it’s ever been. Many subscription-based journals suggest potential contributors subscribe or buy sample copies, but that isn’t realistically affordable for everyone. Journals that are just a click away, and especially those that are free, give power to the writers and the readers, rather than taking power away. So unquestionably, there’s an audience for the modern poet, and it’s an audience much more easily reached. Which is a good thing for poets and readers alike.
OA: Do you ever participate in readings? If so, does the act of reading your poetry to audience ever change the way you feel about a particular poem? How do you select which poems you will read that night?
LH: I give readings whenever people ask me. If McDonald’s asked me to read later this afternoon, I probably would. Yes, I am a bit of a reading whore. But I have a good reason for that. I write most poems when I’m alone, at my desk, or in bed, or out on a walk, but I’m always writing them for myself and an audience. I see myself all the time, so it’s nice to see the audience every once in a while. Reading a poem also makes it feel more alive for me. When I hear a poet read, even if it’s a poem I’ve read ten times before, the meaning always changes with the way the poet performs.
I select which poems I’ll be reading through a complex ritual that involves duct tape and darts. No, I actually try to choose poems that I think will fit the audience, the same way I package writing for submission that I think will appeal to a certain journal. Of course, I also choose poems I think are my best.
OA:. What's next for Laura Hirneisen?
LH: I’ve been very fortunate to have my work appear in many excellent journals so far, and I hope to continue that tradition. Eventually, I’d like to start tying all these little parts I’ve been writing into a whole, mixed-genre collection. Or two. Or three. Keep looking for me.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
LH: Of course I love coffee—it’s black sludge that only tastes good if you shoot syrups and cream into it. Plus, it’s caffeinated. My favorite type is a mocha latte. And my favorite spot to drink it is the table by the window.
OA: What type of music are you currently listening to and who are some of your favorite artists?
LH: Mostly folk and old rock. Favorites include Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna, Led Zeppelin, The Band, Pink Floyd, Neil Young.
For more information on Laura Hirneisen visit her blog.