Beth Dulin’s writing has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Atlanta Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, New York Quarterly, Wigleaf, and Wild Roof Journal, among others. In March 2021, she was featured as Yes Poetry’s Poet of the Month. She’s the author and co-creator of Truce, a limited-edition artists’ book, in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Visit her online: https://www.bethdulin.com/
*painting by Meret Oppenheim, “Stone Woman”
LPR: I was haunted by your poem, “Survivor’s Guilt”, which appears in our current issue of LPR. I’m thinking of the line “Eventually I ran out of bottom.” You don’t necessarily identify what the narrator has survived or who, but I sensed addiction, although it could be anything. Which is why I admire it so much. Was that a conscious choice or a happy accident?
BD: I wanted it to be non-specific so I guess it was a conscious choice. I do visit the subjects of addiction and trauma in my work. It’s part of my experience. But I don’t like telling the reader what my work is about. I want it to be open to interpretation because that makes it more accessible. What means the most to me is capturing something that resonates for whomever is reading it regardless of their experience.
LPR: “Silver-tipped fingernail clippings”. What a striking image and one that both the narrator and reader can’t classify except to the extent that it is part of the past. I wonder if it’s the sound of it when it’s read or said, or the word silver? What do you think?
BD: I wanted to portray the hyper-focus that comes with being in a highly emotional state. You notice things that aren’t normally noticeable. I’m not sure I even had the word “silver” in the first draft. Adding “silver” tells a back story. And since it’s an element and not just a color, it carries some weight symbolically. And yes, I do like the sound of those four words together.
I wanted to portray the hyper-focus that comes with being in a highly emotional state. You notice things that aren’t normally noticeable.”
LPR: I know you write articles and poetry. What do you prefer focusing on? Do you have a preference for fiction or nonfiction?
BD: I feel like there’s more freedom in fiction. At this time in my life, I enjoy writing poems and stories more. But I’d like to go back to nonfiction to explore writing personal essays on subject matter that is deeply personal to me and that desperately needs to be talked about.
LPR: What writers do you especially admire? Which ones or which novels/poems/essays have influenced your own work?
BD: I admire women writers who tell the stories I’m familiar with: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Diane Seuss, Kim Addonizio, Dorianne Laux, Dana Levin, Linda Gregg, and many others. They help reinforce that it’s valuable to tell my own stories and set a bar for how I want to tell them. Then there are certain books from way back that have deeply influenced me: Ai’s Cruelty/Killing Floor, Sam Shepard’s Motel Chronicles, Jayne Ann Phillips’ Black Tickets, Audre Lorde’s Zami, Kathy Acker’s books, Raymond Carver’s short story collections, and again, many others.
LPR: What are you reading right now? Any recommendations?
BD: I Will Pass Even to Acheron by Amanda Newell, Dead Dog Poems by Lynne Schmidt, Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood (all extraordinary poetry collections), and Michael K. Williams’ memoir Scenes from My Life.
LPR: I like to ask the LPR contributors about their personal experience with rejection as I do think it’s an unpleasant but unavoidable part of the process. Do you have any advice or barring that a particular method you use in terms of working through it?
BD: Rejection kept me from submitting work for years and years. If you let the fear of it debilitate you, you’re just feeding the monster. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting. I’ve probably gotten 30 rejections over the past 6 months. But you’ll never know unless you send your work out. It’s certainly not going to get accepted for publication if no one ever sees it. This is something much easier to embrace as I’ve gotten older.
LPR: What are you working on now?
BD: I have numerous unfinished drafts of poems and micro/flash stories. I seem to be always working on those. I’m trying to wrap my head around writing a memoir, but the vulnerability factor is huge. So I’m thinking about it in terms of verse instead of prose.
The writer Beth Dulin