Posts Tagged ‘Lauren Haldeman’

The New Census: A Conversation With Lauren Haldeman

This week and next, we’ll feature The New Census: an Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, a lovely new book edited by Lauren Shapiro & Kevin A. Gonzalez, and published by Rescue Press. You can purchase the anthology here. Today’s conversation is with two-time THERMOS contributor Lauren Haldeman, who did artwork for the anthology.

Phrases about The New Census from an Online Chat (Continued):
…in their introduction, the editors hope that The New Census will be “tucked under the arm while riding the train or spotted askance on the floor of a dorm room…bent in the library, lent to a new friend, and scarred by the marks of a reader’s pen”…saying, it’s more fun than your boring high school English teacher…does a center of argument nonetheless emerge…(to be continued)…

1. Your illustrated author photos in The New Census are SPECTACULAR. Could you tell us about your process for making them?

Alright, but get ready to be really BORED. It ended up being a much lengthier process than I thought it would be. I started by creating a grid-system within a 5-inch by 7-inch framework in order to keep everything uniform. And then I cropped all of the bio photographs to that size and merged them into the framework. Using those as references, I would draw each of the photographs by hand, in pencil. (I even bought a special new sketch pad for the project). So I ended up with these pages and pages of portraits. This took the longest time. Then, I scanned them all into a computer. Imported to Photoshop and employed some manipulation there, Curves and Levels mostly. Then I brought the images into Illustrator and had a very exact Live Trace set up for the drawings to turn them into vector. After this was done, I sent them over to Sevy and he basically made them all 3000% better.

2. Whose picture was hardest to draw?

By far, the hardest pictures to draw were the pictures of the people I actually know, in real life. Knowing someone really changes the way you represent them in your mind and skews the way you THINK they should look. You can’t actually see how they REALLY look anymore. Does that make sense? So that makes the details so much more intricate and frustrating in a two-dimensional representation. I would spend hours on a 2 centimeter long line, just to define the edge of a smile to get it to be how I thought it should be. Because it had to be right. Because, second point: drawing people who you know comes with the enormous fear that they will not like the drawing. That they will be mad. That they will stop being friends with you because of the drawing! It is a ridiculous fear; I mean, can you imagine saying to someone “Yeah, we used to be friends. But then one day she drew a picture of me, and it was not up to my standards. Now we are not friends”? But it is a real fear.

Other than that, teeth. Teeth are the hardest things to draw ever.

3. Whose was most fun?

My favorite portrait was Yona Harvey. I just loved drawing her face, because of the line of her profile. No offense to everyone else, but her drawing just ended up being my favorite. There. I said it.

4. Whose facial hair is your favorite?

Any facial hair. All the facial hair. Bring me some facial hair, friends and I will draw it.

5. Did you read or avoid reading the contributors’ poems while working on the drawings? In general, are there poets/poems you like to read when you are working on visual art?

I didn’t read any specific poetry while I was drawing. I set up a space in my basement with a table and a lamp. I would put on Netflix basically to have it playing in the background. The portraits were almost exclusively drawn to Doctor Who episodes. The 10th doctor only. I could probably tell you which episode for which portrait. It was a long winter.

Later, I read everyone’s poems, after the drawings were done. It was really amazing how much CLOSER I felt to each poet. It was like “Oh I know you! You had those great earlobes!” (I do love drawing earlobes). It made the reading much more personal. So now I declare that every reader should have to draw the writer before opening the book. Law.

6. I’m trying to pass a law saying that all author photos have to be illustrations. How do you think that would change how people read and write poetry?

Dangerous stuff there, Zach. Within one generation, all the children of the world would sleep under sheets printed with poets’ faces. They would wear poet-face-themed underwear. I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing, really, but that’s what would happen.


THERMOS 9: Lauren Haldeman

Continuing with work from THERMOS #9, our newest issue, here are 8 new poems by the amazing Lauren Haldeman. Lauren lives in Iowa City, where she works for The Writing University. You can read her poems from THERMOS #2 right here.


Making a baby
is strange: how a golden fish
dies in a cave full of
plasma–& pretty soon there’s this
huge crying computer.

Mortal Friends

I fell in love with Ellie & she became my friend.
She touched the face of the state of Iowa.

Inga drew a picture on Vera’s back. Vera drew
a picture on the earth’s back. A stack of waffles

and a radio became friends. It was early March and
they were making burritos in the kitchen. You could see

the rice stick to the air. Clouds & a croquet match:
they made a baby. The baby was named A Perfect

Afternoon. Inga drew an elephant on the
back of the antique store. The drawing was so

intricate–a mix between petals & snow. She said
“This is a portrait of my mortal friend.”


As Cynthia eats the sweet potato, a rainbow grows
from her brain. That tiny door opens

for a split second which allows her to notice all her many names through time
which were also many other people’s names…

Inside two capsules
are two tiny boats

catching two fish. When Cynthia takes these capsules she realizes she

shouldn’t have

yelled at the Information Technology guy
about the scanner. She was not in danger. It was not personal.

And now, ladies and gentlemen,

a short film of squirrels
premiering outside
the window. O!


I cried because your head came out of my body. Your whole body came out of my body & it was nuts. It was absolutely insane. Then your hands kept hitting your face. Over & over, you didn’t even know what your face was, but it still kept getting hit.

Everything we did was wrong. The cat put his butt in your face. My milk got in your nose.

At night,

I pulled you




on the bed

where we slept




The baby carries her fever in a basket, stopping at a squirrel. Look at this fever she says. Her hand reaches out in the way that someone not yet hurt by giving reaches out a hand & it is good. Exam books fall from the sycamore. In the baby’s mind, the sycamore’s bark is a magnetic talisman. A gift. It is the reason she came from outer-space.


We are in a forest
we find a deep spring

a metamorphic rock face
& carved symbols:

*next to the banded-face god
a plume of feathers

*an alligator looking to the sky

We hear a sound it is
the story of giving birth

coming from the rock face
no, we mean

actually being said out loud
by the rocks

behind the hidden pool

saying to us: see those
glowing dots in the small cavern
like bits of prisms

those are souls

They look white
yet as they flicker you will notice

it is every color

See now
one of those lights
is passing into your belly

you will have to push
Somehow this is not a surprise

We look at the water
out of which a face now rises:

ambient layers of rich
minerals and sediment

maybe the chest of a jaguar
or a bird with a toothache, no

it is a woman, the face
of a woman we know


My human, I held your head against my breastbone. I called a seagull and asked for more taffy to be flown in. I wrote the boardwalk committee and ordered up surreys, ferris wheels, kites in the shape of seagulls. To the mirror-house, I said “no.” To the seagull, I said “seagull.” On the beach we applied meat tenderizer to a friend’s jellyfish sting. My human, it helped. My human, there were sentences in the sky. My human, there were popcorn-tins flying through the air. Glow necklaces. Grandmothers. Slideshows. Matterhorns. If I were told to start a collection, and it seemed wise to start a collection, and everyone else was starting a collection, I would start a collection of you.


I wore my Orioles shirt today & tried to “be
in the now.” Met up with my friends like carrying

a beach. Last night, I thought a different baby
was in the bed with me. Lonely lonely lonely.

No one writes me back
on the Font Face forum.

The clock says 11:42 pm. All the
different times are one time.

If a baby turns a year, what does the parent turn?
Someone sleeps

& it is quiet. We sleep & it is magic.