Teacher and poet Nettie Farris will read along with fellow Indiana University Southeast faculty members Jack Ramey, Steve Bowman, Sarah White-Thielmeier, and Michael Jackman Saturday Oct. 6th @JavaBardstown (1707 Bardstown Rd. Louisville, KY 40205). Keep Louisville Literary, organizer of said event, caught up with Ms. Farris to ask about her poetic technique, upcoming poetry chapbook (from Accents Publishing Lexington, KY), and teaching at Indiana University Southeast:
KeepLouisvilleLiterary: Your poems often have a terse, imagist quality to them; for example, your poems in Slow Train are actually broken via lineation into component syllables. Can you elaborate on your use of this technique?
Nettie Farris: The shortening of my lines was a pivotal transition. I submitted a packet of poems to an Axton Writing Workshop led by Susanna Sonnenberg at the University of Louisville a few years ago. At the time I was trying, unsuccessfully, to develop longer lines, because I thought I should do that—Susanna said to stop it. That was so freeing. So then I went in the opposite direction. My lines got shorter, and shorter, until they became sometimes a syllable in length. My goal is to arrest the attention of the reader, slow things down, and direct attention to the smaller component. There’s so much to think about in one syllable.
KLL: Tell us a bit about your influences, both literary and otherwise.
NF: Initially I was a dancer. I’ve always tended to think in terms of movement. I didn’t even realize that people thought in words until the end of graduate school. Fairly recently, I began thinking in sentences, but it’s the motion of the sentence that most appeals to me. Jamaica Kinkaid writes glorious sentences. My chapbook was partially influenced by Chopin. My son was playing a lot of Chopin on the piano before I began writing these poems, so I was hearing it. My favorite ballet, Les Sylphides, opens with a nocturne, so there’s a nocturne poem. I’m most fond of the mazurkas. The opening poem is “Mazurka”—it’s a dance.
KLL: Though you are primarily a poet, you have also published micro-fiction. Tell us a little about these super-short stories.
NF: They’re short and getting shorter, like my hair. Words more often separate us rather than bring us together. Also, I think the reader should participate in the conversation. When the writer says less, the reader tends to fill in.
KLL: You have a book forthcoming next year from Accents publishing. Tell us about that collection.
NF: This little book was written as a collection over the course of about two months—and they’re just about a year old—so they’re still very fresh. The first poem I wrote was merely a bit of impromptu play. It wasn’t a very good poem, but I liked the form, and continued to use it again and again. I like to find a form and exhaust it. This allows me to write more quickly and spontaneously (I begin to think in that form). The title is Communion. The world is so fragile, and it’s only those little moments of human connection that’s keeping it from flying apart.
KLL: Accents publishing has a very interesting format: perfect-bound chapbooks which always sell for $5. Did their unique format interest you, or was it something else about the Lexington, KY publisher?
NF: I love the Accents format. However, the character of Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is what makes me most comfortable. She has an incredible ethos. Also, Accents Publishing has a red door. They’re hospitable. I feel very honored that they are publishing this collection.
KLL: Do you plan to do any sort of reading tour to promote the book?
NF: Invite me and I will come.
KLL: Though they do not offer a creative writing program, Indiana University Southeast does have a supportive faculty of long-time writers who teach everything English related from literature to argumentative and technical writing. Has teaching at IUS influenced your writing?
NF: IUS clearly values writing. Historically, IUS students have been prominent prize winners in the Metroversity Writing Contest. These students are blessed with opportunities. They have a yearly writing contest, publications (IUS Review and the Undergraduate Research Journal), and conferences (Indiana Undergraduate Research and Indiana Women’s and Gender Studies). It’s a productive environment.
An IUS student, Jana Morgan, inspired me to write micro-fiction. Jana’s micro-fiction is superb. At the time that met her, I had been wondering what micro-fiction was and how it differed from prose poetry. I’ve still not figured it out. But I’m working on it.
I’ve written about works of art in the Barr Gallery housed in Knobview Hall. I’m tactile, so, I confess, I touch anything with an interesting texture and housed in a space without a security guard.
Nettie Farris’s poems have appeared in Journal of Kentucky Studies, Louisville Review, and Appalachian Heritage. She is the recipient of the 2011 Kudzu poetry prize. You can find her poems online at Slow Trains and The Single Hound, and micro-fiction at CyberSoleil. She lives in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, with her husband and three sons.