Constance Norgren is a wonderful Brooklyn-based poet, teacher, and political activist. She is the author of the award-winning Tonight’s Quiet, which was selected as the winner of the Bright Hill Poetry Book Competition; she is also the author of several other excellent poetry compilations. Yesterday, radio station WBAI 99.5 FM, NYC, aired an interview I did with her in which she talks about the crafting of, and the necessity of, poetry. In addition, she reads some of her evocative poetry of domestic detail, everyday frailty, and the struggles and joys of modern life. Click on the gray triangle above to listen to this wise poet’s words.
Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
Nope. Everywhere and anywhere. I try to have an inside book (for reading at home), an outside book (for the subway and waiting in line), and a bathroom book. (Uhhh…self explanatory!)
Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Anything. Lots of those advertising cards and jokers from the various decks of playing cards strewn around the house. Also electric bills. Note to Con Ed—how come you didn’t send me a bill this month? Oops—never mind: page 183 of The Goldfinch.
Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain number of pages?
Given my lousy bookmarking system (see above), I try to stop at a chapter or at least at the top of a page. But usually the bookmark falls out and I end up re-reading the same fifty pages over and over. As I’m in training for my coming dementia, I feel like it’s a good use of my time.
Do you eat or drink while reading? Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
Magazines, yes; books, no. Also, I’ve tried to have particular mood music play while writing, but so far that experiment’s been a disaster. It just distracts me.
One book at a time or several at once?
See above. Usually lots going on at once. Then I buckle down and concentrate on one at a time.
Reading at home or everywhere?
When I can just leave my damn smartphone at home, I surprise myself by how much reading I can get done on the subway, or waiting for a license renewal at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Reading out loud or silently in your head?
Mostly in my head, but when I’m reading my own stuff for revision, reading out loud is a must. It used to be, in the old days, that if you were seen talking to yourself in public, you were considered a crazy paranoid schizophrenic. Now people just think you’re talking on your Bluetooth.
Ha! The laugh’s on them. I’m a paranoid schizophrenic.
Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
No, never. I’ll abandon a book first, if I feel as if I want to skip parts. Maybe I’m not ready for it, or it isn’t the time for it. I’ll give it another try some other time in my life. (Yeah, right. I’m looking at you, In Search of Lost Time.)
Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
“Books are your friends,” said my mother. We don’t break the spines of those we love. Except if you’re a professional wrestler and your name is The Crusher. Then it’s okay.
Do you write in your books?
I underline and mark off passages in the margin so that a few decades later I can go back and ask, “What kind of idiot marked up this book?”
And now my nominations for this exciting chain letter-like project that will annoy and flatter the nominees into answering: