After reading your story, I thought about the Winchester Mystery House with its stairs to nowhere, doorways without thoroughfare, rooms leading to rooms leading to dead ends, chimneys built just shy of the ceiling, and how it might have come into being in the world of your piece, how literal a structure dysfunction might take. Where did you get the idea for this story and how does it play with our beliefs about sex and responsibility?
At heart, I think I’m still a ten-year-old watching a laser disc presentation on human sexual reproduction in science class. That we, as human creatures, contain a drive and capability to create new life using only our own bodies is just a wild concept.
This story came out of thinking about the various privileges associated with reproduction, the access points that are afforded depending on gender, sexual orientation, ability, financial resources, family support, etc.
Then I started thinking of other privileges, other needs. What if instead of more humans, we could create our own shelter?
You have two previous books, Sightseer and Paper Doll Fetus, which also operate as project books. What is your attraction to the genre? What does it offer you as a writer?
I believe there is never just one poem to be written about any one subject; often, the first poem just scratches the surface. Ever since I became “serious” about poetry, I have been fascinated with how a poet, who typically writes small things, builds a larger body of work—brick by brick. The more poems I write, and the longer period of time I spend with a subject, the deeper the dive.
And in the case of Call Me When You Want to Talk about the Tombstones, there was such a sheer mass of genealogical research, so many rich lives of my ancestors on the family tree, one poem could never hold it all. Even a book of poems leaves me feeling there is still more to discover.
What was the gateway poem that got you started with poetry? What would you suggest as a gateway for people, especially teens, interested in poetry? Can you suggest one of your own and one from another author?
The first poem that really engaged me, that wrestled me down, made me cry uncle, is an odd one considering that I was in my third or fourth semester of college (though credit-wise I was still a freshman) and the poem was sophisticated in ways I couldn’t, wouldn’t understand then). It was an important moment: I sat in the library with someone I adored, when turning to me, they said, I just found the most amazing poem. You should read it.