Hope everyone’s Christmas shopping is about done and you haven’t murdered your family and put them in the crawl space. Mostly because that’s a dumb way to hide a body. Just saying, if that’s the most creativity your mind can muster, maybe Bop Dead City’s not the place for you.
ANYHOW, on a better note, this is Allyson Whipple’s interview. In addition to the information she’s been so kind to provide, might I add that she is the distant, distant descendant of one of the THREE signatories of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. (probably. I mean, they have the same last name).
Describe your writing in 25 words or less.
Invariably born out of either love, obsession, or contemplation. Or some combination of the three.
Tell me about your poems “Hawks Don’t Circle” and “Bar Joke.”
I spent a year trying to write a poem with the title “Hawks Don’t Circle.” I’d taken my boyfriend to a bookstore to hear a reading by a poet I really love. In my favorite poem in the collection, there’s a reference to hawks circling. My boyfriend leaned over after the poem was done and whispered, “Hawks don’t circle.” He wasn’t actually trying to be mean or anything. He was astounded that a poetry collection could make it through to publication (through a prestigious press no less) with factual errors about nature. So I spent a year trying to write a poem with that title, and I was trying to write about hawks, and then I was trying to do an ars poetica, and what happened 11 months later was that I wrote this one last poem about a breakup. This one poem that had to be written so I could really and truly let it go. This was not the way I wanted to use the title, but it’s how things ended up. And for those who would ask if the way I describe things in the poem really happened: Yes, they really happened, and no, the definitely did not happen.
“Bar Joke” is addresses the same subject matter. I had a sweet, wonderful, three-year entanglement with someone. It was not the kind of relationship where things were ever going to progress beyond a certain point, though. And one day, I found myself in a position of having to choose between the delightful thing I had, and the deep, emotional connection I had unexpected developed for someone else. I could not do both. So I had to stick with the familiar, or I had to take that proverbial leap of faith. The fact that I met both of these people in bars has always amused me. The idea of trying to frame it as a joke also amused me. It was, again, a way to reconcile the fact that making the best decision is sometimes painful.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Deep down, I think it all comes from obsession. I’ve never been someone who responds well to someone telling me, “Just get over it” or “Just let it go,” even if they mean well and they’re totally correct. But my poems aren’t just about purging past events. I have an obsessive tendency to write about landscape, especially with regards to Texas. Every time I think I’ve written my last place poem, no, the old obsession comes back. I just can’t get enough of my literary explorations of geography. I have always been a curious person. Writing is the outlet to that curiosity.
What are you working on now?
I’m focusing on completing coursework for my MFA at the University of Texas at El Paso, and trying to decide what to do for my thesis.
Is there a website/blog where we can keep up with your work?
My website/blog can be found at http://allysonmwhipple.com
Any advice for your fellow writers?
Miles Davis said, “It takes a long time to be able to play like yourself.” (I’m not sure if that’s the exact wording; I went to fact-check and found five permutations of this quotation.) The same is true for writers. It takes a long time to be able to write like yourself. Longer than you think. I started writing poetry when I was 12, in 1996. It wasn’t until 2013 that I even began to feel like I was finding my actual poetic voice.