Erica Bernheim "I’ve been tinkering with a James Bond sestina"

Erica Bernheim "I’ve been tinkering with a James Bond sestina"

an interview 


1. Have you recently found yourself in conversation with another writer or artist?

Yes, all the time, and I love that! Because of my job (teaching at small liberal arts college), I interact with numerous colleagues in the arts. I recently found myself having a conversation about the ways we respond to student work in different artistic disciplines and the specific language we use to do this. I have a good friend who directs the college’s chorale and she has inspired me to teach my writing students to perform their work and to read and answer questions like “professionals.” 

 2. How does geography or landscape influence your work? Do you need to be in a certain environment to write?

I have spent a lot of time in the American Midwest, and that has been a factor in my writing, I would say. I write the best when I’m at home (wherever that is) and at my desk, which has to be near a window, and with a lamp and a desktop computer. I never imagined I’d turn into someone who was fussy about this, too, but it turns out I have. I can write in other places, of course, but at home is where I put things together and revise them. It’s where things seem to make the most sense to me.


3. What is the poem you have always wanted to write, but have not been able to?

I’ve been tinkering with a James Bond sestina for a terrible amount of time and it’s not done. Yet.


4. Describe the value of being a published poet in an increasingly digital literary landscape. What is the future of the published poem?

I’m pretty terrible with predictions, but for me the value of a published poem remains what it always may have been: a way to share our work, to insure that someone will read it, whether accidentally online (perhaps while googling “dissimulation” or “ambrotype”) or deliberately, by picking up a hard copy of a magazine.


5. What is your biggest pet peeve about your own writing? Other writers’ writing?

I’m not sure if it counts as a cliché or not, but I worry sometimes that I’m writing the same poem over and over again, that my poems are too similar and boring. Clichés and lazy writing in general stand out to me. I am tired of reading about “inky darkness,” for example.


6. How do you know when a poem is done?

For me, reading aloud is a good indicator. There have been moments where I’ve been reading a poem, one I think of as “done,” to an audience, and I realize that I’m editing as I go along and that I’m seeing all kinds of things I want to change. If I’m happy with what I’m reading, then it may well be done.

7. If you had to give your life a title, what would it be?