Q&A: Lisa Marie Basile
A: Aesthetically, I’d like to think it would be something by CocoRosie, like Smokey Taboo, but that is because I find that music rhymic, sensual and a little eerie—so, I’m associating the music’s feeling with the perception of my poetry. In a more literal sense, less dependent on thematics, I would say my poetry sounds like something Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns might write. I listen to his work often, and I like that is unpredictable but still beautiful. I can hope for that in my work.
Q: Did you choose your writing style, or did it choose you? What does your style allow you to do with your poetry, that other styles would not?
A: I do not choose to write with concept in mind, though I find that I usually fixate, romanticize or otherwise necessitate what I’m writing. With my chapbook Andalucia (Poetry Society of NY) I live inside a dream-place inside my head. I saw white sand and horses, and sad old women and the sea and lemons like they were things on the table before me. I didn’t ‘create’ a narrative or world; it just appeared.
That said, I don’t believe work is manifested without our guidance. It takes discpline to know what parts of your dreams you should write about, and which don’t need to make an appearance. For my next chapbook, war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), I focused on life with a being who kept me imprisoned and under a sort of spell. I imagined a whole apothecary of herbs and poisons, things that kept me broken and sad, and for me, telling my story through this place of magic both black and white allowed me to convey it the way it needed to be conveyed.
I suppose there is a certain music in my poetry in that it functions as a story, with high points and low, choruses and verses both predictable and organic—and not. I think my ‘style’ allows me to tell a whole tale, and build a world based not only on linguistics but definitive story, like a lot of music does. You can identify a band or artist based on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. That’s my dream as a poet.
Q: How do you choose what a poem will look like on the page?
A: Usually I listen to my feelings. I know that sounds obvious/pretentious. If what I’m trying to convey feels like a memory I can’t access or don’t know how to approach, I will play with white space. I want the reader to know they’re in the cracks with me. Typically urgency leads to something more frenzied, prose-poetry, something trying to burst onto the page.
Q: How do you choose your punctuation, or lack thereof? Does it have more to do with grammar, visual cues, or auditory/musical cues?
A: It always has to do with auditory cues for me. I like to imply ‘break’ or ‘breath.’ I will sometimes speed words along so that they run into the general, larger sound of a phrase, making one word really rhyme or pop with another. I’m not the most musical of poets but I let the poems sing at times.
Q: Do you think that punctuation can be equated with musical notation symbols such as note value, rests, and dynamic markings?
A: I definitely think poetry and music have more in common than one thinks; they’re not altogether different art forms. They tell stories in a sort of space and way that doesn’t always seem to be ‘perfect.’ Stories have a beginning, middle and end, usually. But some poetry is made from the intangible and craft, just as some music is. It is in part emotion and in part structure.
Look at Britney Spears. Her music is pretty standard pop stuff. A bad poem would be a Britney Spears song. You enter into it thinking, “This is a song with a verse and a chorus and words I can understand.”
What if someone else—someone with a less poppy sound, like Tori Amos— recorded that same song? It would change; it would take on a structure but be peppered with nuance and imperfection (since Pop Star production strives for some idea of perfection and simplicity). I think poetry does just that. Good poetry says, ‘Hi, I’m a Poem. You know what you’re in for, right?" Then, it fucks with your whole idea. It is a poem, and yet it is another magical being all at once. Or maybe I just really like Tori Amos and am being totally elitist. I’ve been known to listen to shit, you know, too.
Q: How do you think of white space? Between words and stanzas? As it relates to the size and shape of the paper your work is printed on?
A: White space is the most amazing, beautiful magic little tool ever. I think most people enter into writing a poem using white space without thinking about publishing, and overrall, that is good. But it usually changes when it hits the printer. And that’s why online lit journals can be such good outlet for such poetry; it has the space to let the poem breath.
I’ve played with white space in my newer chapbook, war/lock, coming out next year. It allowed me to grieve in the spaces it filled.
Q: Do you think your poetry gives visual auditory cues to the reader? Do you think the reader hears the way you read your poetry by sight alone? If not, what do you think impedes this transfer of information?
A: I do. I use spaces and white spaces and parenthesis to signal breaks and inside thoughts. I haven’t aced it, yet, though. I want to continue composing poetry.
Q: How do you notate your poetry to make up for the lack of your voice being there? Do you try?
A: I often notate with parenthesis. I’ve not perfected it. Sometimes I wonder if the reader will or won’t read it, or if it will echo in the back of one’s mind, as I intended it.
Q: Do you consider yourself a performer of your poetry, or a reader? How come?
A: I consider myself a performer of my poetry because, to me, poetry is a story and a world. It must be expressed this way, for me, because nothing sucks more than taking the blood from a poem. I write my poetry, obviously, but I don’t think my poetry is written from the voice of a 20-something in NYC who used to lived in NJ. I think my poetry has another voice. I’m going to give it that voice when I read it.
Q: How would you describe your performance/reading style? Do you think that popular reading styles have shaped the way you read, or have you actively worked against the pull of mainstream performance style?
A: I have never let other performances shape my own. I hate the academic way some poets read these days. They break lines oddly and drag sentences into spaces they shouldn’t be. They sound like robots. Drones. They sound like a professor they admired read that way and it is the only way they know how now. The poems with every sentence that ends as though it has a question or a dash. The worst. They make the poem sound like it fucking hates itself. I won’t do that. I’d rather be conversational than rehearsed. Or, I’d rather just speak it like it needs to be said. And I know my feelings aren’t monotone. That said I do not mean I am a spoken- word poet. It's all very individual.
Q: Do you think you’re the best performer/reader of your own work?
A: No! I bet there is someone out there who could bring it to life in a much better way, because I’m biased and scared-of and assumptive of my own feelings and work. I bet it would actually be more honest from someone else, who could interpret and translate it objectively, maybe. Maybe.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Poems by Lisa Marie Basile: PANK - poems and audio recordings from Andalucia
Read her article for SOUND: Poetry in Translation: Marosa Di Giorgio’s Music of Life & Death) ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Lisa Marie Basile comes from the bloodline of Giambattista Basile, the fairy-tale writer. A graduate of The New School’s MFA program, she lives in NYC. She is the author of Andalucia (Brothel Books, 2011) and triste (Dancing Girl Press, 2013). Her chapbook, war/lock, is forthcoming from Hyacinth Girl Press in 2014. She is the founding editor of Patasola Press and Luna Luna Magazine, an editor for The Gloss, assistant editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal, and a managing member of the Poetry Society of New York. She contributes to a few secret projects and wears Joseph Quintela's #bookdress. You can read her work at PANK, elimae, Prick of the Spindle, decomP, Saudade and other lit journals.