erica lewis

camera obscura (BlazeVOX, 2010) may be purchased here from SPD.

A.) What's the first poem you remember writing?

i was about 12 or 13 and i was a student at a performing arts school; writing was one of my majors, so I kept a creative writing notebook. my father was visiting one afternoon and for some reason I had this notebook out and started writing in it while he was there. we were sitting at the dining room table and my father was sitting at the head of the table and maybe he was talking or reading, i don’t remember; i just started scribbling something in this notebook. it wasn’t a career-defining poem, but it was personal, something about my aunt, who later died of cancer. i remember when i read it to him, his reaction was less than i had hoped; it was the first time i had ever really shared any of my work with him and he just didn’t get it, or the person in front of him. there are a lot of things i could have taken away from that experience, but really, the main thing that i took away from it, the thing that really sticks with me today, is that is the first time that i remember the physical act of writing a poem. sitting at that big wooden table in ohio, scribbling in a notebook…

B.) What are three songs you've listened to on repeat lately?

limit to your love, james blake
power, kanye west
fun girl, jessica 6

C.) Do you carry music around with you throughout the day? If so, what are you listening to and when are you listening to it?

i have the luxury of being able to work from home, so it’s easy to have music with me while i work throughout the day. The first thing i do when i sit down at my computer in the morning is turn on music, usually an internet radio station like Soma Radio (their PopTron and BeatBlender stations are my go-to stations) or log on to RCRDLBL (a great way to find new music). i need to set the tone for the day or the work that i’m about to do. when i’m driving, i play mixes that i’ve made instead of straight artist cds, and when i do go into the office, i bring my ipod or log onto one of the internet stations. i need the constant flow of something interesting or creative going on around me, even if i’m not writing or doing something creative. i make mixes for my husband to play at his restaurant as well – i got tired of him complaining about the lack of music choices there so i started putting together music for him; i’m in the process of mixing volume XVIII right now.

i listen to such a mix of stuff. right now i would say i’m going through a dubstep phase, mixed with a little electronic, hip hop, and singer/songwriter. i’m really loving the sort of neo-disco that’s out now as well – Jessica 6 is a great example. jj is also on constant rotation – the mixtape they just released, “kills,” is so so good. diane birch is an interesting singer/songwriter that i got turned onto recently from, and don’t laugh at this , Live From Daryl’s House. she was a guest on daryl hall’s (from hall and oates fame) web performance series and i just sort of fell for her sound; she’s reminiscent of carole king from her “tapestry” days, very earnest piano-driven stuff with a good, groovy beat.

there’s always music playing. i get inspired by lines or lyrics for my own work or work off of the mood that certain songs put me in. for instance, the project that i am writing now is sort of, well, sad, to put it bluntly. to get into the place where i need to be mentally and emotionally in order to write into it, sometimes i put on james blake’s “limit to your love” or m. ward’s “post war;” they help me tap right into those places.

D.) Do you carry poetry around with you throughout the day? Whose books are you carrying?

i used to carry poetry around with me when i was commuting more, but now it’s more like i carry it from room to room with me. right now it’s “dayglo” by james meetze. and i have “the new american poetry 1945-1960” and w.h. auden’s “selected poems” on the table by my bed. it’s funny, but one night about a month or so ago i was having immense trouble sleeping, and after tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, i got out of bed and went into my office and pulled out new american poetry and auden from the shelf – i just had this overwhelming feeling that there was something in them that i needed to read that would make me feel better. i read leroi jones’ “in memory of radio” in new american writing – i love that poem. as soon as i started reading it my anxiety started to dissipate; there is just something about it that honestly makes me feel better whenever i read it (there is a piece by stephanie young in the With+Stand lisa robertson issue where stephanie and dana ward have this conversation about poetry that makes you feel better; it rings so true - i think about that piece a lot). so, i read jones, and spicer’s “imaginary elegies” and a few auden pieces i had highlighted from college and was able to sleep after that. maybe it’s like a poetry security blanket, but i’ve kept those two volumes by my bed since then.

i just today received matthew zapruder’s “come on all you ghosts” and donald sturrock’s biography of roald dahl – it’s not poetry, but i’m going to read it in tandem with “come on all you ghosts.” and i’m waiting to receive noah eli gordon’s “the source” as well as keith richard’s autobiography “life” (again, not technically poetry, but i’m trying to mix it up a little).

E.) In Issue A, your work became part of a collaboration with Dan Thomas-Glass. How much creative control did you give up in the process and how big of a challenge was this for you?

I was worried about that to begin with…i’ve worked on several collaborations, one with another poet, and two with a visual artist, but working with dan didn’t feel like a collaboration as much as it did a conversation; i honestly feel that there was never an issue of creative “control.” i think this has to do with the nature of the project and how we approached it. the back and forth exchange of responses felt really organic. he just went with what i sent him, and vise versa. i think that a more formal or stricter rule-driven collaborative model might not have allowed us to have the “conversation” that we had. when we started, and while we were writing, i don’t think either of us knew what would happen, or the shape that it would take, but we just went with it and i think the resulting work sort of dictated its own shape and structure; mostly, i was just flattered that dan wanted to do a project with me.

as an artist, the moment you realize that your work has moved beyond you, that it has taken on another life outside of you, that’s hard. but then you accept that you don’t have control, and that you lost what control you did have the moment you sent your work out into the world. i liked what dan did with camera obscura and really felt that he understood the original project. i loved his visual breakdowns and re-interpretations. and i would love to work with him again.