Lucia Perillo: ‘Find a community of other poets who are willing to read one another’s work’

By Maryann Yin Comment

Happy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we have interviewed poets about working in the digital age. Recently we spoke with award-winning poet Lucia Perillo.

To date, Perillo has published six volumes of poetry. In May 2012, Copper Canyon Press will release her seventh poetry book, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths and W.W. Norton will release her first collection of short stories, Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain.

Next week, Perillo will have a conversation with fellow poet Heather McHugh at the 92Y Uptown. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you publish your first book?
A: My first book was published after I won a book contest: in this my poetry-writing life is typical. The book was published by Northeastern University Press, which may be more of an oddity these days, since the university presses, once the backbone of the poetry book business as well as the contest system for poetry publication, seem to be going extinct at an alarming rate.

Q: Has the Internet changed the way you interact with readers?
A: The Internet hasn’t changed the way I communicate with people because I try to ignore it as much as I can. The pervasive nature of cyberspace makes it dangerous for writers, at least undisciplined writers, because of the amount of time it has the potential to consume. Even ignoring the internet, I waste a lot of time there.

Q: Any advice for reading poetry out loud?
A: As far as reading goes, my advice is the same as for writing itself, and that is to become familiar, and comfortable, with yourself, with whatever you identify, or create, as your true nature. To fully inhabit an authentic self, even a pseudo-authentic self (if you think authenticity is a delusion)—I think this leads to a strong voice both on the page and live.

Q: What advice can you share for aspiring poets?
A: My advice to aspiring poets is to find a community of other poets who are willing to read one another’s work. And to read widely, in a variety of time periods and cultures, to identify which traits of poems are appealing and which aversive. And what can be stolen.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I don’t like to talk about what’s next for fear of jinxing it, since as soon as I work up a plan something in me wants to sabotage it. But it seems I always come up with something.