Rosalind Palmero Stevenson – Trampoline Interview

Wed 1 Jul 2009 - Filed under: Authors | Leave a Comment

Trampoline: an interview
Rosalind Palermo Stevenson (Insect Dreams)

Writers/Stories that influenced “Insect Dreams”

Carole Maso, Anne Carson (especially Autobiography of Red and The Anthropology of Water), Marguerite Duras (The Lover), Clarice Lispector (The Stream of Life). They are all writers who break from traditional forms, and whose work exists on that blurred line, or intersection, between prose and poetry. I had been working on “Insect Dreams” for a very long time and had most of the text written, but was having difficulty making it cohere. I knew the solution would be in finding the right form. I started re-reading these writers and that gave me the push I needed to embrace rather than resist the fragmented nature of my material. I knew absolutely that that was the way the piece had to be expressed, was, in fact, expressing itself. Carol K. Anthony, in her translation of the “I Ching” says of the hexagram The Well, ‘Don’t remain locked in a conventional view of the way things work.’ My natural tendency as a writer is to work in somewhat experimental forms, and pretty much always on the line between prose and poetry. But I find that it fuels and inspires my work to read others whose works are also driven by language, rhythm – who write prose that is lyric, poetic. It is, perhaps, more a matter of inspiration than of influence.

Is my Trampoline story representative?

I would have to say that “Insect Dreams” is stylistically representative of my work. The stories I write usually contain the same basic elements of style as “Insect Dreams,” that is, a prose narrative style driven by language, rhythm, image, pacing. And in “Insect Dreams” as in most of my stories, there is generally more white space than is typical of traditional prose. The white space accommodates the compression — allows for the breath and silence. I’ve also worked with historical material before. In “The Temple Birds Love Incense” I worked with the 1993 events leading to the death by fire of cult leader, David Koresh, and his followers in Waco, Texas. “The Guest” is a fictional account of Mussolini at the time of his rise to power. “Kafka At Rudolf Steiner’s” is an imagined narrative based on two incidents in Kafka’s life: his visit to the mystic philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, and his love affair with a young Italian girl during a ten-day stay at a Sanatorium in Riva. I would say that “Insect Dreams” is longer than usual. I didn’t intend that originally, but there was so much ground to cover. I think it’s true anyway that every piece has its own length. What was ‘new’ for me in writing “Insect Dreams” was the degree of research required and the exotic nature of the subject matter. It required a level of research beyond anything I had ever done before. I had to ‘imagine’ my own story within the context of this massive amount of historical and related material: Surinam, 17th century Amsterdam, ship travel in the 17th century, entomology, jungles, clothing, customs, food, conditions of the slaves under Dutch rule, etc. I don’t know that I would characterize the approach as a ‘new direction’ for my writing going forward, but I expect to push it further — in my planned novel, for instance, (which is in the early research stages right now).

Favorite cocktail?

Manhattans are a family tradition.

Favorite deadly sin?

Trampoline: an anthology, edited by Kelly Link.Sloth. Though it’s not a bed of roses.

Favorite rule of thumb?

Follow your first impulse.

Writer’s role in inhabiting commercial spaces of publishing?

I don’t know that there can be an intentional role. I think of Samuel Beckett who actually tried to make his writing (in the early days) more commercially viable. And could not. So he wrote the only way he could write. And was basically obscure until “Waiting For Godot” generated so much interest. I respect the independent publishers the most, and the writers they publish. My personal interest, or aspiration, is for my work to be respected by those I respect. For someone to pull me off the shelf when they are looking for inspiration.


Next — Christopher Barzak


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