An Interview with Austen Rosenfeld (Issue 79)

Austen Rosenfeld’s poem “Threat from Above” will be featured in our upcoming issue (79), scheduled for release on October 19.  She has a BA from Stanford and an MFA from Columbia, where she will be a 2013 Teaching Fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Indiana Review, Antioch Review, Gulf Coast, and AGNI and has received distinctions from The Atlantic. She currently lives in New York City and is from Los Angeles. You can find more of her work here: http://www.bu.edu/agni/poetry/online/2011/rosenfeld.html

tmr: Who are some of your influences?

AR: Mark Strand, Wislawa Szymborska, Louise Gluck, Italo Calvino, Dolly Parton

tmr: Why Dolly Parton? Do you have any favorite songs?

AR: Her songs are so sad and sincere. She is an odd combination of artificiality and genuineness. In an interview she once said that she modeled her look after the town tramp who, as a little girl, she thought was the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. I like that. The song “Jolene” and “False Eyelashes” are favorites of mine. She’s a real feminist in her own particular way.

tmr: Regarding your writing process, do you have any comfort items that you keep nearby, things that help you write?

AR: I drink lots of coffee.

tmr: Do you have favorite places or spaces you write in?

AR: I usually write in my room, early in the morning. When I was in college, I wrote in the laundry room. It was the most private place I could find and I liked the sound of the washing machines.

tmr: What do you do if you’re struggling with a piece?

AR: If I’m stuck, I find it’s helpful to do something physical. I’ll go for a long walk or do the dishes. I let the thought come to me, like a cat.

tmr: What inspires you to write?

AR: It totally depends. Memory does a lot of the work. Like everyone, I remember some things more than others––a particular line I’ve read or part of a dream. Eventually, they reveal a narrative that teaches me something I didn’t know. If I don’t write, all the things I don’t know begin to pile up. My brain begins to look like my gmail inbox.

tmr: Would you say you are driven by a desire (or need) to keep learning or discovering? Or is this more of an effort to not forget these things? How does writing help you learn and discover or help you remember?

AR: Writing is way of finding myself. If I don’t write, I tend to evaporate, especially over the course of the day. Life begins to feel like an over-crowded house party with all these people entering that you don’t know. You don’t know where to look or how to act. I am not the kind of person who can live in a state of unknowing. But I also think writing is an effort to keep myself from forgetting. It’s a safe space to store memories, especially when you are tired of keeping them in your body. If they are your memories, you can do what you want with them, you can transform them.

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