Unlikely micro-interview #2.
KR: In my world, Language Arts and Mathematics are on opposite ends of the cognitive spectrum. In fact, numbers have never really registered on my poetry radar at all. Yet, in your book, #specialcharacters, you gel the two together so well, it’s like milk and Pepsi all over again. What gives?
LS: Language is an indispensable part of mathematics, be it the word problem (which is what I call some of my poems) or the narrative behind the Big Bang. Also, math and language centers are quite close in the brain, and math, according to neurologists, requires cross-talk.
Jung loved numbers, and so do I. Like him, I romanticize them and give them mythic numerological symbolism. The opening poem of #specialcharacters, "Aging," is based on the Fibonacci sequence, which creates the whorls of sunflowers, spiral galaxies, and many other beloved objects. The final piece, "Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan," is about that dominant number in many lives, symbolized by the $. Everyone gets that number.
KR: Aside from Jung, what other non-poet(s) most greatly influenced this particularly compelling poetry compilation?
LS: The late, great, and underrated David Markson, for his poetical prose in single sentences, which I tried to emulate in "Mirror" (I could not approach his encyclopedic and wickedly detailed knowledge of literature and the arts). Joyce and Joyce and Joyce and Joyce; although he is also a poet, it was Ulysses to which I responded multiply-orgasmically when I first read it two years ago.
Others: The Canonical Gospels, Tolstoy, Old Church Slavonic, The Paris Review, the PBS program Nature, and Blade Runner. But the people who most informed this collection are all poets, in one way or another. As was Jung, for that matter. I especially thank the Otherstream Poetry group (see the great new Madhat anthology, Shadows of the Future) for inspiring some of the experimental poems in this book.
KR: Ah, the experimental poems; those for which #specialcharacters is named, those challenges of the form, those teeming with special characters, and those, I feel, to be the most captivating. Tell me, if you had to define yourself, as a person, a poet, a lover, a friend, using only one such symbol, which would it be and why?
LS: &: The ampersand, meaning "and"- I am an and person, inclusive. I invite Peter and Paul to the party, I like vanilla and chocolate, I work on six projects at a time. And the character looks female, hippy, a plus size like me. The symbol is a ligature of the Latin et, and I am an etcetera person; I sometimes have the quality of too-muchness, but l contain multitudes (Whitman and I share the same birthday).
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