A conversation with Blueberry Morningsnow

Blue enjoys a sunny day

In May, THERMOS instigated an interview conversation with poet Blueberry Morningsnow, who was featured in THERMOS’ inaugural issue in 2008.

Blueberry Morningsnow writes poems, teaches composition, plays music, sews, and lives in Iowa City. She is the mother of Finnegan and the wife of Peter. There is a good dog Quinn and a cat Monster.  Recent poems are published at www.notnostrums.com and www.350poems.blogspot.com.

THERMOS appears below in the person of Melissa Dickey, who also keeps a blog called Each Small Thing.

Question 1: What are you writing now? How are you writing now?

Blue: Mostly lately I have been writing lists; not list-poems, just lists. I have a notebook now just for lists.  But when I was working on poems last month, I kept writing poems from the perspective of seeds or even from before seed – from the spread-out nutritional matter that is before seed! For the past couple of years, ever since I gave birth and subsequently have lived with my growing human child, I have been writing birth poems/shocked-stunned poems.  They’ve evolved into an epic of sorts, with characters speaking in each poem; there’s a midwife, a psychopomp, a growing baby, a seed, the part of a seed that I imagine as a thread, a wizard-mother, a father-mother.  You’d think I’d try to write something smaller, since I have so much less time now, but no; it all insists on being epic.  And by epic I do mean that there are adventures and that I’m attempting to make it a sort of verse-song, with refrains and all. We’ll see.

Today finally I worked on poems, and I worked on these little guys called “ode to joy.” I’m writing about twelve odes to joy, I think. And as I write them I have been concentrating on joy, on what that means for me; on how I see it happening in Finnegan, my son, in the springtime. I feel like I started out writing them as self-help too; like, here, concentrate on joy, maybe then you’ll remember you have it in you and that also you can produce it if you think about it (for I’ve had a particularly stressful & depressed late winter/early spring).

Melissa: I wrote a long list last night, yesterday evening rather, after watching Esmé for most of the afternoon and then just losing it, running out of patience, too many whines, tantrums, and Andy told me to go take a walk but I sat down and wrote a long list instead. It’s like, if I could just have all the time in the world, I’d complete these things, and then there’d be completeness, that list. If I look at it again, that will be something. If I do half of it by the end of summer, that will be.

And I’ve been avoiding list-making, too; I read on a blog to just choose one thing each day, and do that one thing that you want to do, with joy, and you’ll have no need for lists. After a week of that, I was brimming with this list.

This morning I finally worked on poems (why does it always feel like, finally?) and was disappointed. I’m disappointed in myself as a writer these days. I don’t see myself making the progress I’d like to make. I think, you’ve been doing this for 15 years and this is what you’re writing? How different is this, really, from what you wrote 10 years ago? Why are you still doing the same bullshit? I met with our writing group today — all professors, poets, teachers here in town — and it felt good, but then came home and babysat. I know it’s not babysitting when it’s your own child. But. I had wanted to write.

Question 2: What sort of writing community are you currently a part of? What does it give you, if you have one? What do you feel lacking, especially since outside of a university now? Who reads your drafts?

B: You know, funny that you would ask that question! Tonight on a walk with Peter  (husband) we were discussing our recent move (we recently moved back to Iowa City after having just left it 3 months before to live in a suburbs-like place half an hour away) and also just talking about how things have shifted in our lives and consequently in our brains & hearts; Peter has decided to finish his PhD; I am contemplating attempting a PhD; but we had had a discussion after our last move, in which we deliberately discussed our tangible dreams, as in, What are we going for, here, together? And, do we really want to do this, to be in academia and swim in this world? What else could we possibly do to make ends meet and still be able to write and have community? And we decided we wanted to live in a farmhouse on lots of land and with many outlying buildings that could be renovated for artists and writers to live and work in; yes, we decided that’s our dream, to start a residency, to build amazing community, sustainable, in cahoots with the earth and family life and all that!

And then tonight, three months later, on our walk we had a conversation echoing that conversation–and it was decidedly different. After our experience living outside of town, far away from the community we do have here, our dreams seem to now revolve around the small things.  Peter said his is just to be able to write the stories in his head, have his health, be with his family.  And I thought really hard and. . .that artist residency was still there, but actually in its basic, simplest form, it was simply my dream of having a community—a community of my amazing loves and friends who are musicians and poets and artists–to simply have you all around me to hang out with and share work with even though we are now adults with families (many of us).

So, in answer to your question – community is my dream right now. It is what I dream of and work toward, but I don’t feel I have too much of it close by – at least not writing community. Since having Finn, the community that has begun to happen (and this amazing in itself!) is more of a mom-community.

In the past 4 months, no one has read my drafts! That makes me sad to think of. I have read them here and there to Peter. Last semester, I was meeting with another poet who happens to be a mom–that was wonderful when it happened, but hard to coordinate, since we are both adjunct comp. teachers and moms. Then, with busyness and my living far away, it completely stopped happening. Sad! But I have a good feeling about right now and this season: perhaps because I am emerging from this difficult time into a summer! I have many plans for community beginnings, do not worry.

M: Mom-community is something I feel lacking in my life, actually, right now. And hard to forge.

Sometimes I shy away from making the grand plans of which you speak, the plans of the residency in the country which you’ve abandoned for now — sometimes it makes me sad to think, oh, that’s the way to live, there’s how we ought to be doing it, which seems to disavow the hard work we are putting into this, this version of this life. But then why not dream. There must be a mid-way, a way to make the community and have it happen right now, where we are. Even if where we are is many miles apart. The online community? I guess is what we have.

Today Andy had the idea to open a Speakeasy bookshop in our front room. Just have boxes of carefully selected, wonderful books for sale, and word of mouth to bring people by. I love it. To make a living and have a community in one! I heard Greg Brown say (on an album, I think) that all this talk about intentional communities is bullshit: it’s need that creates community. I see my brother a lot more now that we babysit his daughter. Etc. I think it’s true.

Question 3: What are your dreams for this summer? What do you hope to get going? To keep going?

B: I’ve put a lot of pressure on this summer; I’m very excited about it for various reasons. I’m needing it.  It feels so great to think that I’ll be hanging out with Finn all summer; this is the summer right before he turns 2; that feels important.  My task is to find a way to write everyday while I am with him even when he is awake.  I want to make it part of our routine.  So far what I’ve been doing is playing piano or guitar and singing lines of poems, and he either plays along with me, or tries to drag me away.

So that is a dream for the summer: to find this new way of writing that lets me be with Finn at the same time, so that writing and singing–work like that–is normal, becomes part of our routine, like drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.

I want to finish the poems I’ve started this past year, and I want to submit them to magazines, and I want to really really make that something I sustain throughout the year.

Inspired by you, I am going to make a self-education plan; I want to read!  I want to read War and Peace.  I want to find some inspiration; things feel a bit dry now.  I want to start some research ideas I’ve had–I have arranged several babysitting swaps, so I have a couple of days with a couple of hours in them for me–I intend to spend them in the library, taking notes, reading and writing.

I dream that I can catch up with everything this summer–friends, myself, projects (sewing, writing, all of it) that I’ve had on the backburner for so long. . .

What about you?

M: I, too, have big plans! Continuing the self-education program, I made myself a class. It’s fourteen weeks long, the length of my summer break. I am to read at least twenty books, critique them, and write at least one poem/essay per week inspired by them. Also: one field trip per week (this very broad but I’m excited by; museums, obscure parks and trails, nearby towns). Also: one project per week, something left undone, like sewing the curtains for the study, e.g.

I hope it’s not too much. So far it’s working. I love summer. Today I said to A: Life is so pleasant when we don’t have to work! (meaning the paid work, the other work is work, too, of course)

Last question, unless you have more: Tell us about the laugh child, the concept, where it’s going. And, what do you think of THERMOS? Any ideas you wish we’d try?

B: the laugh child, as of right now, is an online magazine that I started last year. I really wanted to make an online mag that “followed” the same artists and poets through the seasons of the year, in terms of their creations. So I picked some poets and artists that I admire to the extreme and I asked all of them if they’d be down with submitting a new piece to my magazine at every solstice or equinox, starting in the fall of 2009, and then for the whole year. Is that explained well? What I mean is, all the poets and artists that were participating were to submit 4 times in that year; the same poets and artists for the whole year.

So far, I really love how it is turning out, because of course I love everyone’s work, and I feel really happy and proud and inspired to be part of putting these poems and images out into the world; but of course it hasn’t worked out in this nice neat 4-submissions-and-4-issues way. (An owl outside just hooted in agreement.) Partly this is because it was more work than I expected, and partly this is because I had a crazy busy and stressful couple of (teaching) semesters. Oh I am sounding so complainy in this e-mail conversation I feel! I know everyone is busy and crazy feeling. But, as we (we being Lauren Haldeman, the awesome webmaster and also poet, and me, the editor sitting there looking over Lauren’s shoulder as she does computery things) are finishing up the second issue of this year this week, I am really feeling like yes! Because I love it; I love seeing people’s work from over the whole year! It worked!

the laugh child was, before its present incarnation as this online magazine, a record label that I made to put out my own music and a couple of my friends’ cds as well. This was when I lived in St. Louis, about 8 years ago. The phrase “the laugh child” is itself from a Minutemen song; D. Boon (who was the singer/guitarist for the Minutemen) is/was a (serious) hero of mine; I think the phrase “the laugh child” embodies a D. Boonish kind of idea or ethic of art-making as (serious) play – but it’s got to be play, and it’s got to be with your real heart, like your ways of being a friend, or your ways of deciding how to exist, even. Or your ways of being in a family, even (my idea).

But! I am getting beyond what I was wanting to say, concerning D. Boon, and concerning St. Louis, and concerning what I want to do with the laugh child after this year. I am thinking of the laugh child in a kind of selfish way. I want it to help me integrate my creative selves, and the different communities I’ve participated in the past 10 years or so. Living in St. Louis and being part of a close community of incredibly creative musicians transformed everything for me.  It changed the way I see and write and listen and am. I want to be true to the visions that guide and hold me from that time in my life; my plan for the next incarnation of the laugh child is to ask poets and musicians and sound-collectors that I admire for recorded pieces; audio files.  I think the laugh child will be always changing and adapting; but I also hope to keep people involved that have been participants, just as THERMOS has done. I also want to support parent-poets in a particular way; I may invent a cosmic-parenting theme someday and ask the appropriate poets to submit! Photography; chapbooks; animal themes; erasures; collaborations; poemeos and other poet-movies; it will all happen. I am 33.

THERMOS is just right, I think.

Thanks, Blue, so much. THERMOS wishes you the best.

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