THERMOS interview: Maggie Ginestra

A view of the poet...

A view of the poet...

...and a view of the shop.

...and a view of the shop.

Each month, THERMOS interviews a past contributor; late-September-early-October’s star is Maggie Ginestra. She answered our questions and sent along an excerpt from a long poem, “The Lifeguard Wakes Up.” (Here are her poems from our second issue). Enjoy!

THERMOS: You’ve recently opened a chapbook store. Could you tell us about that experience and how it has changed your thinking about poetry?


I’m Internet-phobic, so I didn’t know the first thing about chapbooks when I started—I just suspicioned I was lonely for them, and when everyone at the presses was so nice and started sending things to me in the mail, I suddenly had my own library. Thinking about presses’ bodies of work feels truer than thinking about writers’ because presses have a responsibility to believe while writers have a responsibility to doubt.

The big shift, though, is selling these chapbooks to other people—that moment of curiosity and then conviction they experience—how private it is! My personal aesthetics take a backseat to seeing that happen, and it feels great. 

TH: What’s your typical day like this month?

MG: This month, two big things changed for me at once: I started social work school and fell in love with someone in another city. So it’s doing homework in buses and bars, writing letters to friends during class, eating tomatoes like they’re apples, being confused by all the good weather—you know, multitasking.  Life doesn’t feel like it’s about poetry right now, but that probably means it’s more so than ever.  Right?  I don’t know.

TH: What’s something you noticed about the poemsor a particular poemby other contributors in the issue of Thermos you were in? Things that intrigue you? Techniques you’d like to try or have tried? Ways you see your work as distinct from or related to other poems in the issue?

MG: There are several poems in Issue #2 I want to be when I grow up. Sold boat, Italian song. *

Michael Comstock’s line-breaks in “Home Movies” win the prize for most tender ever. It’s like a big hug in the face every time.

(* line from Jen Denrow’s “California”)

TH: How does what you’re writing now differ from the poems we published?

MG: It’s become much more important to me for my poems to have a voice.  I think I was trying to work against that in the poems you published—I wanted a landscape alone to hold a story.  I tried to take voice out. Now I’m obsessed with voices.  How much can we believe one person believes?

But all of my current creative plans are collaborative, and a few leave out language entirely.  Life doesn’t feel like it’s about poetry right now, but that probably means it’s more so than ever.  Right?  I don’t know.

TH: If you had to give a brief lecture on some aspect of poetry right now, what would you enchant us with?

MG: Embarrassment as a divining rod for the good stuff.

TH: What do you dream of but feel in some way limited from achieving?  Does that affect your poetry in any way?

MG: It’s more that actually achieving the dream would affect my poetry.  If I really get to help other people write and/or perform all day, will I still need to make, or will I have made?
* * *

from The Lifeguard Wakes Up

The problem of each other’s penises.
      Can’t not acknowledge beauty.
The problem of plants.  They know
            I’m strange and deaf to them.
      more generous with their men than their god
I kissed five boys in one day that time.
       and that was her soul


Maybe a belly,
      then always your belly, your blue suit,
my neon float takes the light,
            you take my float,
      and I’m you.
Something beside us unbraiding,
      I’m beside you.


A black teenager surrounded
      by a bunch of white girl-children
makes a wildflower I love.
            So does the dark
      of his throat
inside the bloom
      of his teeth.


Sex as a metaphor for the present, the now
      and now and now and
everyone so past and future.
            I don’t even have I don’t have anyone
      Coming wise.
Leaving dumb.
      Mean is secret sad.

2 responses to this post.

  1. hey, just picked up the fall 2009 issue at maggie’s shop… cool beans, as they say….


  2. Maggie, this poem (or piece of one) is incredibly powerful, loud, gentle, quiet and wonderfully unsettling. Thanks.


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