The Colorado Poet, #23, Summer 2013
Inside this Issue:
Interview: Renee Podunovich
Let the Scaffolding Collapse (Finishing Line Press, 2013.
Bob King: When I finished your book I thought ‘Hey, these are all about relationships!” Then the information on the back reminded me that you’re a licensed professional counselor. You also give workshops on using creative writing as a tool for personal growth. Can you say something about your profession connected to your poetry? Is this why you focus on relationships? How does this help in your workshops?
Renne Podunovich: This collection definitely focuses on relationships. My writing always reflects my own experiences and tends to be confessional in style. In this collection, I explored the ways in which relationship to self and to others becomes too small at some point. I was interested in how to “let the scaffolding collapse” or let the structures that have defined me go so that I could grow and expand in new ways. These are typical midlife themes, but the poems narrate personal struggles more than anything. They aren’t about other people so much as they are deeply about myself in relation to others, my point of view, my uniqueness. But what I always hope for in my writing is that my personal story transcends itself so that what is universal in the experience triumphs and touches others.
BK: Some poems use the pronouns she/he, and some have I/you as well as I/him. And you have one poem titled ‘This Poem Is Not About Me’ where you say you sometimes use one or the other. Where does this come from? How does this work in your practice? Have you changed pronouns sometimes during revision?
The poems are narrative in this collection and this was somewhat new for me. I’ve focused more on lyrical, nature-based work in the past.
RP: The poems are narrative in this collection and this was somewhat new for me. I’ve focused more on lyrical, nature-based work in the past. I very consciously played with pronoun swapping and found that sometimes, I don’t want to say “I”. It’s too much responsibility for the emotional content of what I’m saying. I’d rather create a character and assign it to her! In the poem you are referring to, the title references and finds humor in postmodernism and the questionability of objectivity. Can I really ever say “she”? Aren’t we always saying “me”?
BK: A lot of your poems function as extended metaphors, whether it’s learning something about life from a bowl of ramen noodles or “Single Male Friends” being like a cricket you keep in a cage or “her life” as a ball of yarn. And you don’t say these things lightly—you develop them throughout the poem. Why do you think metaphor is so appealing to you or to your poetry? How do metaphors ‘come’ to you?
In my poems, the metaphors generally reference an emotional state that I am examining (within myself or what I perceive in another person).
RP: In my poems, the metaphors generally reference an emotional state that I am examining (within myself or what I perceive in another person). In these poems, I drilled the tropes for all they had to give. Staying with one metaphor throughout an entire poem is perhaps another reflection of how these poems came from a place of feeling stuck, limited. The lexicon of this collection is built largely on everyday items: ramen, the kitchen sink, utensils and other objects of daily living. As a collection about long-term relationship and cohabitation, I found these images worked well to explore being trapped, uninspired and looking for more than the mundane.
BK: And after my foray into a basic principle of poetry I have a much tinier question. You use periods to end a sentence but don’t capitalize the first word of the next. This is obviously your conscious choice so where did it come from? What does it do to your—or our—reading of the poem?
RP: That unusual punctuation creates a “voice” in the poems. In trying to highlight a sense of being limited by outgrown structures, the punctuation gives a sense of being stopped, stuck. I like the staccato nature of it combined with the ordinary language I described above. I didn’t think this all through when I wrote it. It was an organic thing that emerged and I allowed it to live in the writing.
BK: Psychology is not my area so I may be treading on dangerous ground here, but I can’t help but notice the frequency of water images, whether it’s a child’s swimming pool or a stream or, more often, the ocean itself. What is it about water that makes it so appealing to you as a theme or image?
RP: My poems are always explorations of emotion. Water is a very traditional symbol for emotion. Also, my home in CO is between the mountains and the desert. Others have noticed all this water (or yearning for water) in my work too. Maybe it is time for me to talk more about air, earth or fire…or to move somewhere tropical!
BK: What are you working on now?
RP: I always feel the same way at the end of a collection, like I need to shake loose from it. I want to shed the vocabulary and imagery I had been using and find what is fresh. It is a molting process and some of the old style keeps re-emerging before the new tender skin is truly found. I don’t know what it will be. How exciting is that?