After Nyne’s Dominic Stevenson meets poet Loren Kleinman,
Your latest book of poetry, Breakable Things, has just been released, can you tell us about where the collection came from, and what inspired it?
I worked on Breakable Things while I was working on The Dark Cave Between My Ribs. It was one of those books that happened organically. Even though I’m always working on many projects simultaneously, I never know which poems will become a whole collection, which is why I never title anything until the book is done because the book, the poems, the stories are going to tell you where they want to go, where they want to be.
On inspiration: I’m inspired by everything. I look out the window and see a crack on the top of a roof, I hear a scream, a horn blazing, smell smoke—it all might become a poem. But this particular book took a turn to relationships, to focusing on what happens after the fracture, after the breaks in life. But it also looks at the notion that we must enter the darkness, the pain in order to be able to experience the stars again. I don’t look at sadness as being isolated from happiness. In a way, it’s all the same; it’s all part of the whole. We are never totally free. We are never totally happy. We are never whole. And that’s fine. Really.
Breakable Things is your third collection, how do you think this work shows your evolution as a writer?
The book is a departure from The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, but it’s almost a companion book. Breakable Things looks at how we put ourselves back together again after the crack, after the fissures. It’s a look at love in all the hardest places: break ups, breakdowns, etc.
I’d hope that the book takes a turn from my previous collection in that it focuses on the aftermath, the ability to rise from other painful parts of life. I try to always look at love with minimal sentimentality too. Catharsis doesn’t do much for a finished collection. It might help you get there, but that’s about it. And the book is that kind of account, that look at the moments that break us, but how those same moments empower us to become more aware of ourselves.
You spent time living and writing in England, how do you think that experience has impacted on your writing?
I always joke that England is my second home. It’s a retreat for me and I’ve written so much there. I feel completely away if that makes any sense. England has always been so very good to me. The people there appreciate my writing and my work, and I’m forever grateful.
I studied writing at the University of Sussex and lived in Brighton, which was filled with art all the time. But l went there after experiencing a terrible traumatic event in my life. England saved me, I think. It gave me another chance to rebuild and create art. I try to return every year just to pay my respects, so to speak.
Having written and performed on both sides of the Atlantic, what differences have you found between the British and American poetry scenes?
I’ve had wonderful experiences in both places. I don’t get too involved in the scene if you will. I concentrate on the work, not about writing what’s trendy. If people don’t like my work, or want to hear me read then they’re not my audience, and I move on.
I’m dedicated to the craft, to learning and teaching others. I apply to read all over, and if I don’t get accepted or invited to read, then I just try somewhere else. There are cliques everywhere, tons of people in groups who feel they are more important than everyone else. I’m not interested in that attitude and I always find the most extraordinary writing and poetry outside those cliques. I could care less if you have a PhD, if you’ve been invited to read for the president, poetry is for everyone, not just you and your special group.
I love what I do, and I work hard at it every day. Any place I’ve read at I’ve met amazing people and assholes. My point is, love what you do. If you’re getting frustrated because a magazine, an individual is not giving a chance then make your own chances, start your own mag, publish your own book. That’s the beauty of art. No one has a fucking monopoly over it. If you think that, then I feel sorry for you.
I’ve always had positive experiences on both sides of the Atlantic because I love what I do regardless.
Which writers have most inspired you, and how?
- Christopher Hitchens: He taught me that your voice is the most important thing you’ll ever have. Use it. Read Mortality.
- Charles Bukowski: He’s raw and has his own voice.
- William Styron: I can’t read anything else on depression because he wrote everything I’ll ever need to read about it in Darkness Visible.
- Tomas Gösta Tranströmer: Read The Half-finished Heaven translated by Robert Bly. If poetry is about preserving the emotion than Tomas wins.