interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson

DeWitt Brinson: What’s one of your most irrational fears and what advantages have you discovered from having that fear?

Laura Theobald: My biggest irrational fear is that I’m going to be attacked. I think it’s some kind of warped form of vanity. It prevents me from leaving my house a lot. I mean, it’s rational to an extent. Like I probably shouldn’t walk alone at night in my neighborhood. But I probably have more anxiety about doing things than the average person, maybe.

Advantages? I guess the logical advantage of fear is that it’s a survival mechanism. I have less of a chance of being attacked because I’m afraid to go places. I’m making more of this than it is though. People are going to think I’m some kind of Dickensonian recluse. I’m really not.

On the other hand it’s taking a lot for me to resist really delving into this question right now and make myself seem really insane. Maybe I should change my answer to “insane.” Why would you start with this question?

DB: Have you ever been physically attracted to a poem? Explain why or why not as best you can.

Laura Theobald:: I don’t think so. I’ve felt that a poem is sexy; I have been “turned on” by a poem. Maybe I’m being close-minded here, but I think I reserve physical attraction for human people. It seems kind of stuffy.

I have felt that certain poems draw me to them. I guess that’s physical attraction. But maybe it’s actually more emotional, or intellectual, or metaphysical. That’s the strongest, sexiest kind of pull, is the kind that resonates with you on that level. Doo-do-do.

DB: When you construct a manuscript, how do you determine the order of poems?

Laura Theobald:: Yes, order. Good. I read the other day that David Foster Wallace said about the ending of Infinite Jest: “Musically and emotionally, it’s a pitch that seemed right.” I’m really happy he said this, because I want the same thing from any kind of poetic arrangement. It’s intuitive.

To be honest, these days I try to just let the order be what it is: This poem was written first, so it appears first, etc. That makes sense to me. Like, I’m going through this personal thing, and it’s happening on a linear timeline, and I think that will come through in the work. It has to, right? I wish you could say “right” at this point so I could feel like I’m making sense. I’ll pretend you are doing that.

DB: When I read “i need a dictionary for feelings” I thought, that would be a great book. A Dictionary of Feelings. How do you come up with titles for your work?

Laura Theobald:: Ha. Titles are hard. I guess I’m some kind of hippy, because I feel like it’s another really “feely” thing. A phrase gets stuck in my head. I don’t know where it comes from. It comes from somewhere. I don’t know where.

How do people come up with music, is what I want to know. To me that is mystifying. Like to have a melody appear in your head. I guess it’s a culmination of things you’ve heard before, but it must be a really similar process (to writing). Your brain makes something new out of the things it’s come across before. And then it’s just a matter of what you pay attention to, what thoughts you take seriously, and give room to.

DB: How has your poetry changed and how do you future its growth?

Laura Theobald:: Did you say “future” as a verb? How do I future it? My poetry went through the same kind of shock that I did when I started grad school. The poems in this issue reflect that somewhat. It was a fun shock. Good things came out of it. A whole manuscript if anyone wants it.

There was a lot of trial and error that led up to these poems. I tried to emulate what I thought poetry was supposed to be for a long time. I still struggle to not do that. I think I still fail at that a lot. We like to feel safe in what we’re doing, is why we adopt traditions.

But the future, I don’t know. I’m working on a new manuscript now. It’s more myself, and more subdued. It’s quieter. It has less to prove maybe. I’ve never thought about what I expect my future work to look like. Just, better. Jetpacks.

DB: Which of these poems is your least favorite?

Laura Theobald: My least favorite poem… Would have to be “spring” because of who it’s about. Some of the details of this spring… There’s almost a synesthetic shade to it. I just look at this poem and feel like “no.”

DB: The natural world is alive within your poems, but how does it affect you in life?

Laura Theobald: I had to look up “the natural world.” Is that weird? It’s a British TV series. But, like, no. I get it. Nature. When I was writing these poems I was really hung up on flowers. It was my first spring in Louisiana, and it was really pretty to me. It was kind of an escape to be walking to or from class back to my apartment and to just look at this Southern landscape in bloom. I wanted to celebrate that.

I actually started soliciting pictures of flowers from all my friends, because I thought I was going to make something—a video or something. I collected like 200 images that people had taken of their walks, and backyards, and bouquets, on their cellphones and cameras, that they sent to me. And now I just have them. Like, what a weirdo. These people expected some kind of return and got nothing. Maybe I’ll do something with them one day. But probably not. Spring ended. I don’t know.

DB: Get a pen and some paper. Close your eyes and scribble furiously. Describe what happens inside yourself when you look at the page.

Laura Theobald: I thought you should have a picture of my scribble. It’s not as pretty as I thought it would be, was my initial reaction. No, wait. My initial reaction was, “I don’t think this is going to be as pretty as I am imagining it’s going to be.” And then I confirmed that when I opened my eyes. I think I should have worked on it more. Like put more time into it. I think that would have helped. I was trying to be furious.

DB: Who are reading these days?

Laura Theobald: I’m so busy with school that I don’t get a lot of time to read things I want to read much lately. I’m reading blogs. Like, blogs about Infinite Jest because I feel nostalgic for that book, but don’t have time to revisit it. And a blog that one of my professors writes. There’s always a few poetry books I’m peeking at whenever I have a minute: Ben Fama’s new Spork Press book, and Dara Weir’s You Good Thing. I have Claudia Rankine’s new book, but I’m afraid to read it because like how can it possibly be better than Don’t Let Me Be Lonely? I don’t believe it. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten a hold of My Apologies Accepted, but it’s probably because I’m some kind of idiot.

DB: Plug yourself. Talk about what excites you in your future work!

Laura Theobald: I’m excited about this new collection I’m working on. And I’m excited about the idea that the last manuscript I finished might get published, even though I don’t have anything really to base that off of. Maybe it won’t. Please publish my manuscript.

I’m excited about collaborating, and some top-secret stuff I can’t talk about. I’m excited by the idea that I can always keep getting better. And that maybe if I stop being good at poetry at some point, I can do other things. Life is short, but it’s also long. I guess when I’m optimistic I can feel like a lot might happen.


Laura Theobald is a poetry student at LSU and the Assistant Editor of Spooky Girlfriend Press. Her chapbook eraser poems is available from H_NGM_N Books. Her works are forthcoming or have appeared in Sink Review, Hobart, and Volta: Medium. She has a website and a Twitter