Jenny Molberg, 2009
In Capital Letters: What authors/poets/books/poems/stories/writing do you return to again and again?
Jenny Molberg: James Wright, Mark Strand, Naomi Shihab Nye, The Art of the Lathe by B.H. Fairchild and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
ICL: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process? The most surprising? The most challenging?
JM: My favorite part is reading, being inspired, and the process of discovery through writing. My least favorite part is revisiting a poem when I am no longer invested in it. Most of the time, I am surprised at how my poems end. If I know how it will end before I begin writing it, it won't be any good. The most challenging part of the writing process for me is having something I want to write about and not being able to write it well.
ICL: What was the first piece of writing you ever wrote, and when?
JM: I have kept a journal ever since I can remember, but the first poem I ever wrote was in seventh grade. It was an ekphrastic poem called "Bare Feet and Bongo Drums." I don't remember the painting. I was convinced I was a hippie. My mother had it framed.
ICL: Are certain techniques central to your writing?
JM: Hand writing everything before I type it—this helps me to write a poem all the way through without stopping to edit myself.
ICL: Are certain themes central to your work?
JM: My family, the South, floods—for some reason that is beyond me—and little wonders in nature.
ICL: How have those themes changed over the years?
JM: I continue to come back to these themes again and again.
ICL: How do your poems come to you? For example, is it by an image, character, line, phrase, idea?
JM: As brown paper packages tied up with string.
ICL: Do you have a set writing schedule/any writing rituals?
JM: I did learn a little trick from Mark Strand. Before writing, I stand before the mirror, point at myself, and say, "YOU are a GENIUS."
ICL: If your life had a theme song right now, what would it be?
JM: "Nothing Short of Thankful" by the Avett Brothers
ICL: Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
JM: I can do the human pretzel.
ICL: What projects are you working on right now?
JM: I'm trying to fuse all of my flood poems into one long poem—a prelude—for my book.
ICL: If you weren't focused on writing, what would you be doing?
JM: I'd be a postwoman. Or I'd be on Whale Wars.
Out the moon roof of his Honda,
on a drive along the levee,
a college boyfriend flicked his cigarette. Tiny sparks
rushed into the static air. I was young.
Or, just last week, on the Chesapeake,
the water pulsed with bulbs of phosphorescence,
and in bursts of neon,
little shrimp drifted in and out of our wake.
Here, hundreds blink
in late spring evening. When I see them, I imagine
the souls of people
that lived a long time ago. At daylight, they go back.
If you take one in your hand, it quiets, the moves
lazily around your fingers, and when it is released
back into the dark blue light, you'll know
you don't have it yet—that you might never have it.
When you came back from Westhampton,
you brought a handful of shells.
One, an oyster, was splintered and coarse in places,
and in others, layered with dark silt.
There was a hole in the palm of it, where life
must have been. I know a shell can't feel
but wonder anyway—
he absence of the muscle, that spot, its belly,
like that spot in me you left. It's funny. It seems for months
I've been waiting.
Everything is just how you left it. If you look closely,
there is a ring, mother-of-pearl, around the hole.
It's the place closest to pain