Untitled Country Review (ISSN 2152-7903), published quarterly during 2010-2013, features poetry, book reviews, photography, and short works of non-fiction. Thank you for visiting.

Issue 5: Featured Poet - Lyn Lifshin

Interview with Lyn Lifshin (LL) by Scot Siegel (SS)


Lyn Lifshin’s recent prizewinning book (Paterson Poetry Award) BEFORE IT’S LIGHT was published winter 1999-2000 by Black Sparrow press, following their publication of COLD COMFORT in 1997. ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME was published by Black Sparrow at David Godine following Lyn Lifshins recent prizewinning book (Paterson Poetry Award) BEFORE ITS LIGHT. TEXAS REVIEW PRESS published her prize winning book of poems about the famous, short lived beautiful race horse, Ruffian: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: MY YEAR WITH RUFFIAN. Also, IN MIRRORS from Presa Press, AN UNFINISHED STORY, from Foothills Press and THE DAUGHTER I DON’T HAVE from Plan B, A NEW FILM ABOUT A WOMAN IN LOVE WITH THE DEAD, March Street Press. She has published more than 120 books of poetry, including MARILYN MONROE, BLUE TATTOO, won awards for her non fiction and edited 4 anthologies of womens writing including TANGLED VINES, ARIADNES THREAD and LIPS UNSEALED. Her poems have appeared in most literary and poetry magazines and she is the subject of an award winning documentary film, LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS, available from Women Make Movies. Her poem, No More Apologizing has been called among the most impressive documents of the womens poetry movement,by Alicia Ostriker.  An update to her Gale Research Projects Autobiographical series, On The Outside, Lips, Blues, Blue Lace, was published Spring 2003. Other new chapbooks include, NOVEMBERLY from ETC Press, WHEN A CAT DIES and ANOTHER WOMANS STORY, BARBIE POEMS,  SHE WAS LAST SEEN TREADING WATER, WHAT MATTERS MOST,  AUGUST WIND from Portrait Press and IN THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT from Concrete Meat Press. Her most recent books include BARBARO: BEYOND BROKENESS from Texas Review Press, PERSEPHONE from Red Hen, NEW WORLD PRESS published DESIRE and just published ALL THE POETS (MOSTLY) WHO HAVE TOUCHED ME, LIVING AND DEAD. ALL TRUE, ESPECIALLY THE LIES.   Other new books include 92 RAPPLE, LOST IN THE FOG, NUTLEY POND, LIGHT AT THE END: THE JESUS POEMS and LOST HORSES and BALLET MADONNAS. CHIFFON and KATRINA were published in 2010 as well as BALLET MADONNAS and BALLROOM. She is has finished a book of new poems and a book of new selected and collected poems as well as working on other manuscripts. For interviews, photographs, more biographical material, reviews, interviews, prose, samples of work and more, her web site is www.lynlifshin.com.


SS: With the exception of the book review “ALL THE POETS” and the poem we have reprinted from that collection, the poems of yours that we are featuring in this issue have their roots in the European-Jewish Diaspora of the Pogroms and Holocaust. How is it that the Holocaust, more than sixty years later, is still front and center in your writing?

LL: Both the Holocaust and the Russian pogroms are still important themes in my writing. My father came from Vilna or Vilnius and because he told me so very little of his life there, I had to make it up out of slivers of images and stories he told. One grandparent came from Covna and another from Odessa with their samovars and fears and hopes. This fall I read poetry in the house my mother and uncles grew up in, now given to a Havurah where the old Russian images are startling and beautiful. Because my mother grew up during Hitler’s time, during the Holocaust, I think the terror was always in the back ground, the sense that it could happen again. I was asked to do a workshop, as I had often been asked, to go with the New York State Museum’s exhibit: The Story of Daniel. For half a year I read everything I could on the Holocaust—lugging 50 books or more from the library and I watched every video and film I could. From all the reading and dreaming and imagining, my book BLUE TATTOO came.

SS: What current events in the world most significantly influence your writing today?

LL: I wrote KATRINA following the hurricane and I wrote many poems about Vietnam: they are among my earliest poems. Today I wrote about women in China. I feel compelled to write about atrocities in various conflicts. Like probably every poet, I am writing about Japan today.

SS: Untitled Country Review is interested in personal discoveries and how story-telling promotes human development and, possibly, contributes to a more humane world. How does writing help you better understand the world and put the past in perspective?

LL: I think it is extremely fascinating to write and read about lives different from my own, to get into others feelings and experiences in any way I can. I know BLUE TATTOO has touched people who might never have had a feeling or understanding of the Holocaust. A few nights ago I read a poem called “Why I wear My Hair Long” -- a poem that starts in the ordinary world and moves into the Holocaust and the next day got an e mail from a young student who knew nothing about WW2, said it was her favorite poem, that she was wild to know more.

SS: What is your next project?

LL: After having maybe 10 or 12 books and chapbooks out in the last few years, I am working on a kind of new and selected but also hoping to type up 50 or 60 new.

SS: Thank you.

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