Apr 7, 2014


Thanks to Martin Woodside for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.  His own response is available here.
what am I working on?

My first full-length book of poetry, Vestigial, was just published by Barrow Street Press—it was selected by Lynn Emmanuel for their 2013 contest. So I’m working away from that book, to something new. I want to evolve, hoping that if I’m lucky enough to have a second book, it will embody a different reason for being. The poems in Vestigial are splayed and opened, eroded, reduced to the bone, restless. I’ve just started to write in a compact regularized format of long, across-the-page lines, and I’m trying to speak a bit more directly instead of only through juxtaposition. But they still feel like my poems: fractured in places, interwoven in others, a mix of personal and cultural that is elliptical and layered.

how does my work differ from others of its genre?
Someone else may be better at answering this. I don’t think about genre. Maybe that’s because I’m not in academia. I just write, and I try to keep my head down so that I focus and keep going. If I stop—it’s so difficult to start again. I was glad that on the vacation I took a couple of weeks ago I could write every day all day long. That’s ideal for me.

why do I write what I do?

It’s instinctual and automatic and necessary. I write a lot about nature, which is odd living in two cities, New York and Minneapolis. But living on an edge, say like Manhattan, on the ocean, there is an intensity to everything including the number of birds. So in many ways I feel more connected to nature. Two red tailed hawks live in Washington Square Park and we follow them on a video cam; I’ve gotten to know three sets of their children. Rosie, the mother, is a passionate hunter, I wouldn’t want to be a mouse in her territory. She seems a bit of a tomboy, but maybe I’m projecting. Bobby is a gentleman, and loves to bring her a sprig of greens or a flower, sit on the top of the NYU flagpole, especially as the sun sets and he’s washed in gold, copper and silver.

If I didn’t write I would be terribly unhappy. In fact I stopped for 20 years and since I started again I’ve been happier at work, and in my personal life. I think that if you don’t do what you are meant to do you will encounter regret, and a lot of misplaced frustration and anger. I turn to this quote by Louis Auchincloss to remind me to get on with it:

“A man can spend his whole existence never learning the simple lesson
that he has only one life and that if he fails to do what he wants with it,
nobody else really cares.”

how does your writing process work?

I have a full-time job, copy director at the beauty company Aveda, so it’s hard to find time during week days. That said, I spent six months getting up at 5 am. Now, I write all weekend long. If I stop for longer than a week, it’s terribly difficult to begin again. It’s even hard after a week. I think it would be a good idea for me to look at the poem I’m working on every day, say, every evening, and that would keep me more connected. I’m glad you asked this question, now I have a new way to stay with it!

I clip every day, whatever catches my eye I save, underline, investigate further online. I store these in vanilla folders and date them. They hand together in themes. They spark ideas as well as visits to galleries and museums which feed into general themes or initiate subjects. Sometimes I catch myself thinking the clipping won’t be of interest—but if I edit too much I find the folders then aren’t that surprising. It’s really following my instincts and trusting that there is something there.

I’m interested in substrates and shallows and coves that lie under or behind. I probably would like spelunking if I didn't’ feel claustrophobic. Oxford English Dictionary makes the histories, many obsolete, immediate—unfolding each word on the page back in time through their conflicting and dovetailing evolutions. Their new Thesaurus traces the meanings back. I like focusing small, on one word; within, flies out a macrocosm of life.

I often start by writing the first sentence with pen on paper. I like gel fountain pens from Staples right now. They flow smoothly and they have a black matte rubber shaft. Very comfortable. Nothing fancy.


Page Hill Starzinger lives in downtown Manhattan, and has worked for 30 years in New York as Copy Director at Vogue and Estee Lauder and is currently Creative Director for Copy at Aveda.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, Literary Imagination, Volt, and many others. Her poem, “Series #22 (white),” was chosen by Tomaz Salamun for a broadside created by The Center for Book Arts, NYC, in 2008. Her chapbook, Un-Shelter, selected by Mary Jo Bang as winner of the Noemi Contest, was published in 2009. Her first book, Vestigial, came out in August 2013 as winner of the Barrow Street Poetry Prize.

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