Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Conversation with Steph Colburn and Lizy Mostowski on Sheryda Warrener's "Hard Feelings".

SC: I feel that this book should have been prefaced with no hard feelings, eh? --an expression to put these pieces into a perfect picture- slightly hurting, slightly funny, always sincere in its sentiment. Sheryda Warrener’s Hard Feelings explores connection between people, place, and objects seamlessly throughout four very distinguishable sections, though some more humorous than others. Did you find the tongue and cheek humour easy to pick up on? Which sections resonate best with you? In this way or in another?

LM: I disagree with your idea of having a preface, it would take away from the interiority of the poems. Warrener’s sincerity can speak for itself.

Sheryda Warrener’s humour hit me at unexpected moments throughout. A moment which stood out for me, in the section entitled “Ordinary & Remarkable” was the line: “I took ‘flight of stairs’ literally and took off from the top landing—if dreams count, not only have I flown, I’ve also spent some time with Nixon.”(12) Warrener’s prose poetry seems to strike a personal, nostalgic tone which really resonates with me. She ties humour in with curiosity, a fascinating fusion.

My favourite section of the book was Mother/ Father. I felt as though they were in conversation with one another while being in separate worlds. Warrener’s formatting seems to speak directly to the two worlds becoming closer to each other from the original divide. Did you feel the same?

SC: I felt the Mother/Father section was the section that stood out to me. But I think because it is the most directly moving of the sections, as it most honestly portrays “hard feelings”, being the struggle between family dynamics and a child’s relationship to that.

I think Warrener does a beautiful job of being extremely involved in this section emotionally, while her character, the child, is involved almost strictly as an observer. This relationship, or rather disconnection, really put the sentiment in the foreground. And emphasized the family’s “hard feelings” toward the situation, rather than the situation itself.

SC: “Ordinary and Remarkable” was exactly that, it took an ordinary moment/experience/person/situation and concentrated around its remarkable quality, whether that be in a positive or negative light. I thought it was kind of mirrored because this section was composed of a bunch of prose poems, which also seem like a big moment that needs to be delved into to find the remarkable. Did you find that the prose poems worked in these sections? Why/why not?

LM: Although the section had many prose poems, I don’t think that they overwhelmed the sections. I did find each remarkable on their own, and did not feel like I needed them to together represent something. I think that each poem not only stands out on its own but stands out on its own. “What does it feel like to reach in, pull that white bulb out?” asks the speaker in the poem Glass Eye, this poem was the most sensory for me.

How did you feel about the prose poems which were both titled “Hard Feelings” in the section? Were they the strongest, in your opinion, like the title story in a collection, or was it just a coincidence that they described scenarios of bitterness?

I actually found these two to be the two that stuck with me most in that section. Though the bitterness in these two prose poems is definitely a substantial, I don’t think that emotion is all that the title of this collection is getting at. I think “Hard Feelings” was meant to reveal the genuine but bizarre human impulses and the primal moments of anxiety that are involved with that. I think that both of these prose poems depict this perfectly, and that the bitterness was more of a connection to loneliness, rather than a main focus.

SC: I personally felt that “Unequal Hours” felt sort of loosely curated, as it tied together in the sense that they were all about travel throughout Argentina, Spain, New Mexico, Japan, British Columbia and Ontario, but I didn’t feel as though they were connected in a structural or contextual sense. Did you feel the same? Did you find a strand through each of these that tied them together differently?

LM: I felt a strong strand running through “Unequal Hours”: a clear motif of outdoor settings with repetitive imagery and a somber tone, to me, this was context enough. The speaker in each poem finds themselves in an outdoor space for example a patio or a balcony in a place where they are disconnected and are merely an observer. This sense of disconnection and observation, in my opinion is tying the different experiences of travelling together, making the reader realize similarities amongst both the places, the spaces and the poems.

SC: That being said, I appreciated “Unequal Hours” once I got to “Last Door”, as I feel like it took you through a world travelogue but avoided the sort of inner movement, and then placed you in “Last Door” where the character is completely opposing this as they are stuck in one physical place but working inward as well. Do you think that the contrast of the two sections works well together, or did you find it jarring? Did you also find “Last Door” easier to connect with?

LM: Last Door—the last section of the book in which the speakers interior and exterior dialogues are put side-by-side is jarring aesthetically, but I would disagree that it avoids inner movement. The poem displays an exterior dialogue of confidence, and an interior monologue of loneliness. This poem is something similar to a travel journal—tracing the speaker’s journey through the places O’Keeffe once wandered

“A poem is an opening without edges.” (67) The analysis of a poem within a poem reminds me of Marianne Moore’s “Poetry”. How do you think that this line works or doesn’t work in “Last Door”? Why/ why not?

SC: I think it has a lot to say about an opening and getting into something, being poetry, and this all very obviously ties in to the concept of the “Last Door”. In that regard, I think this line works well. This section of the collection really ties together, and allows “Unequal Hours” to stand after the two first sections, which were all in all unique and impressive. I’m excited to see what comes next from Warrener.

Warrener, Sheryda. Hard Feelings. Montreal: Snare Books. 2010. Print.

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