INTERVIEW WITH THE POET ERIN DORNEY by TYLER BARTON

One time, years ago, the poet Erin Dorney and I walked through the Baltimore IKEA showroom and wrote a poem inside each ridiculous space.

Every time the poet Erin Dorney and I go to an IKEA, our energy skyrockets. It’s something about the affordability. About the lighting. Maybe it’s the language. The meatballs. Some of my verrrry best tweets have come from letting IKEA wash totally over me. As Erin said in our interview, “The first time I was in an IKEA, I was blown away…I had never heard of it before…I didn’t know it was a thing…I was overwhelmed…everything I wanted to buy could fit into my two-door Honda Civic.”

We were inside an IKEA showroom in Bloomington, Minnesota last weekend when I asked her some questions.

int-1

 

Erin, picking up a white tea-kettle:

I will buy a vessel today. 90% sure.

int-2


Erin, after a woman behind us says, This is more me than my living room is me

One of the weird things about being in IKEA is that I’ve shopped there with different partners who I have lived with over the years. So when I come here, I’ll see things I used to own. And it makes me think about that person, that time in my life, like why did I even like that magazine holder?

 

int-3

 

Me, pulling a Swedish book out of a chic, orange bookcase:

Make a found poem out of this.

 

Erin’s poem, sourced from page 51. of Klaus Rifbjerg’s Bilden:

Hon hann
virvel
satt som de
nästan I
inte se att
armarna
moster
lite för sig
bestämma
hade sagt
punkt och slut
och ut på
bra bild
skuggorna
sig I helfigur

 

Erin’s poem translated:

she could
vortex
sat as
In almost
not see that
arms
aunt
some of the
determine
had said
point and end
and on
good picture
shadows
In the full-length

 

int-4


Me, by the window overlooking the parking lot and Mall of America:

Can you explain how the poem “Test” was written?

 

Erin:

I searched for the different phrases on twitter. Like “the boy questioned” and then from all the tweets that came back, I wrote down the ones that stuck out to me. Anything that was interesting. There were so many ways that each phrase was taken. So, I just did a bunch of different phrases like that. Then I went back through and deleted until the ones that were left worked together.

Then I had an idea to make it a multiple choice test. I thought that was an interesting form. Basically, I got the content and then put it into a form.

It was fun to play with.

 

Me:

What is ‘interesting’?

 

Erin:

Language used in a surprising way. Like, a combination of words that I wouldn’t think to put together. But as soon as I see it, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s exactly it.”

 

Me:

Is it a feeling?

 

Erin:

It’s more like a visual. Especially if it’s on a page, like with my erasure poetry. A word or a combination of words will just pop out of the page. My eyes are just drawn to them.int-5

 

Me, holding the above FEJKA:

Give this thing a name.

 

Erin:

SPRIGSTEN. It’s like the Swedish Bruce Springsteen.

int-6


Me, behind a stack of Christmas presents addressed to “Dylan” and “Lydia
:

Avian Quarantine is one of my favorite poems of yours. I remember when you wrote it.

 

Erin, also there with me behind the presents:

You were there.

 

Me:

And I remember workshopping it with our friends at the big dinner table at our old house in Lancaster.

 

Erin:

We didn’t live there then.

 

Me:

Okay well…

 

Erin:

I think it’s almost like three years old.

 

Me:

Well I remember you always saying it was your favorite poem too.

 

Erin:

Yeah, for a long time it was.

 

Me:

Why do you think it was rejected so many times?

 

Erin:

I don’t know. It wasn’t resonating with anyone. Maybe it’s because I know the picture that inspired it but other people don’t?

 

Me:

Say more.

 

Erin:

Avian Quarantine is an ekphrastic poem in response to a photo in the book called “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” by Terrance Simon. There’s these birds in glass boxes, a quarantine before they can enter United States. Any bird coming in to the country has to be quarantined for thirty days or something. The poem was a response to that image.

I don’t know. I don’t know why it was reject so much. I remember sneaking it into batches of other poems that were nothing like it. And some would get taken but never that one.

 

Me:

I didn’t even remember that it was ekphrastic. I do remember you saying, “No one likes this poem.”

 

Erin:

Yeah

 

Me:

Except us.

 

Erin, as Nickleback’s “Far Away” plays through the store:

I don’t know what to say. It resonated with someone at Reality Beach. As an editor, I know that some poems hit you and some don’t. Maybe it just wasn’t catching people the way it caught me, the way it caught Reality Beach.

int-7

 

Me:

Why did you submit poems to Reality Beach?

 

Erin:

I was blown away by the first issue. I never read online lit mags cover to cover. Especially in one day. But I did with the first issue.

Their aesthetic is like what a person on TV in the 80s would be warning everyone what the future will be like.

int-8

 

Me:

What risks have you been taking in your poetry lately?

 

Erin, as both a man with one leg and a woman with one arm shop behind her:          

I’ve been working on projects lately. I’m almost done with the October project, which was to create a found poem every day from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. I had never read the book or seen the movie. That was a challenge because the vocab he uses is so strange and dark. That’s been fun. The book is not quality writing at all. I would like to think Stephen King agrees with me. Because he never wanted it published anyway.

int-9

 

Me, by the baby beds:

Tell me about a time you couldn’t write poetry

 

Erin:

*is silent for awhile*

 

Me, whispering:

 Just let the question wash over you.

 

Erin:

Right now.

int-10

 

Tyler Barton and Erin Dorney edit Fear No Lit, a web and IRL literary organization.

For more information about Tyler, visit him here.

To learn more about Erin, visit her here.

To read Erin’s amazing poems in Reality Beach Issue Two, click here.

 

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