A smart person once told me “If you have nothing good to say, keep your goddamn mouth shut!” I wish I took his advice, but I didn’t, and neither did Terese Svoboda. She’s Noah and the ark & Joan and the Arc in one. If you haven’t read her work, do it now, because she’ll make you feel like you’re wearing smart glasses like Clark Kent. She’ll let you inside her head and leave you stranded like a show poodle at Westminster Kennel Club. And that is way cool. But not as cool as being T. Hey, she’s even got a trailer for her latest book, Weapons Grade. (See below.)
Almost Dorothy: Do you ever fear we’re all idiots?
Terese Svoboda: Fear is not the operative word.
AD: On stage, do you ever feel written up?
TS: Mostly cornered. Washed up. Even washed down. Watched. I’m reading four minutes from Pirate Talk or Mermalade, a new novel written only in voices which comes out next September, on a stage the day after tomorrow. The big problem on a stage is that you can’t do it in the dark. The reading will be December 17, National Maple Syrup Day. Since my book comes out just before Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I would celebrate National Talk Like Maple Syrup Day as a warm-up.
AD: I love syrup. I didn’t know it had a day. How many days a week?
TS: Fewer and fewer. Somebody asked to see my manuscript Great American Desert (not Dessert). I thought it was done but I saw as soon as they asked that it’s not. I’ve been having a lot of dry thoughts that take up too much time.
AD: Your position on being T & the screenplay possibly starring John Malkovich?
TS: This would entail the alimentary canal, not such a good position.
AD: Favorite non-vegetable that acts like one?
TS: Tom Cruise. I like to watch his eyes crinkle. Crinkle, crinkle. This has nothing to do with acting but more about admiring how long he’s been using that skin. But speaking of vegetables, I’m reminded of Forrest Gander (trees and ducks) who wrote you the world’s longest and best blurb for Almost Dorothy, your fabulous book of poems that is coming out soon. He says (among many other compliments): “Infusing poetry with theater, Neil de la Flor is at once bitingly original, funny, and uncompromising.” Take that, Mr. Flowers.
AD: You always gotta’ trash it up with this Dorothy character, don’t cha? Anywho, for the kids, what is your position on sex in poems or sex poems?
TS: Sex is a good idea. Theoretically. In practice, it has kept the race going. It has also produced many positions. Vis-à-vis poems, sex has kept the genre alive. People read poems hoping to read about sex the same way they go to art galleries to see the nudes. Theoretically, and in many positions. We are not talking about my work, are we? I like to duck this question by invoking Yeats and his comment way back in the uptight past, that sex and death were the only subjects for poetry. A ducky quote but one that narrows the poet’s moves, a sort of straight-jacket of interpretation so you don’t have to say anything else unless it’s about Freud.
AD: If you could be a law of the universe, which one would it be?
TS: Thermodynamics. Nice and warm. You never asked whether obedience was involved. Hail, Thermodynamix, you cute hot Greek.
Terese Svoboda’s newest book is Weapons Grade, a collection of politically-inspired poems about sex, death and occupation that have appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Tin House, Yale Review and elsewhere. Her honors include an O. Henry for the short story, a nonfiction Pushcart Prize, a translation NEH fellowship, a PEN/Columbia Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships in poetry and fiction, a New York State Council on the Arts grant and a Jerome Foundation grant in video, the John Golden Award in playwriting, the Bobst Prize in fiction and the Iowa Prize in poetry. (She’s lousy at anything to do with a ball but buttons are different.)