Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Stabbed In Stanzas Feature Poet: Linda D. Addison
Linda Addison won the Bram Stoker Award for a poetry collection twice: in 2002 for Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Ashes and in 2008 for Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. She earned a BS in mathematics from Carnegie-Mellon University. She’s married to fellow horror writer, Gerard Houarner.
KLN: You’ve authored three poetry collections, all published by Space & Time Books. Which is your favorite collection and why? Do you prefer traditional horror or dark fantasy? Why?
LA: Each collection was written at a different stage of my writing life. It’s really hard to ask which of your children is your favorite, but I’ll go with the latest collection, ‘Being Full of Light, Insubstantial’. The three sections in the book, Being/Un/Ing, are a direct reflection of my life journey at that time. I had just read an incredible book, ‘Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate’ by Rick Barrett, who runs an amazing Tai Chi Retreat in Sedona each year that I’ve attended.
I started playing with the concept of becoming/un-becoming; substantial/insubstantial. I wrote everyday and fit the poem into one of those sections. The darkness in many of the poems is more emotional than obvious like about monsters or demons, although there’s some of that there. There is a fair amount of dark fantasy in the book also.
I don’t think the artist can always tag what their work will be called. I enjoy reading traditional horror and dark fantasy but I don’t think about what the poetry I’m writing will be as I’m creating it.
Clearly my imagination plays in the shadows. The interesting thing is that my life is filled with much light now. I feel very comfortable listening to the dark song in the world around me. I wrote ‘Being Full of Light, Insubstantial’ by sitting down each evening and reacting to what I heard, read or felt during the day.
KLN: You’re the poetry editor for Space & Time Magazine. What are your criteria for selection of horror or dark poetry? What percentage of horror or dark poetry do you buy?
LA: I trust my ear when it comes to selecting poetry. I read the submissions and set aside poems that interest me. There is a limit on how much I can buy so I read the poetry out loud. A deciding factor is how I feel while reading a poem, either a smile or a chill. If anything makes me trip in the poem, a word, an image, I put the poem aside. Sometimes it’s a fine poem but it didn’t connect with me emotionally.
When a poem comes close I will send a personal note to the poet saying so. I’ve gotten those kinds of rejections and they were significant. In fact our writer’s group used to keep personal rejections and celebrate them almost like an acceptance. It means your work will probably be accepted somewhere else.
About a third of the poetry we publish is dark. You won’t always find that darkness based in obvious ways, sometimes it’s in the atmosphere. There is often a mix of other genres, like science-fiction or fantasy, and shadowy mood.
KLN: Why did you major in mathematics instead of English or creative writing? Why did you start to write and what were your influences?
LA: I was very young and held one of those ‘See Dick Run’ books in my hands. I realized that another person had written it—I knew I wanted to do that.
I loved daydreaming, still do. When I was in school, if I wasn’t fully engaged by the teacher, I was staring out the window creating a world of cats with wings and monsters or space ships.
My mother was my earliest influence. There weren’t many books in our house, but she would entertain us with made up stories that often weaved us into the plot. It came as a surprise to later find out that other parents didn’t do that.
When my mother came home with a new baby it was my job to entertain my brothers and sister, especially at bedtime. I would make up stories that were a mix of my imagination and fairy tales I had read.
Some of the authors I loved in junior high and high school were Poe, Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Hemingway, Kafka, Heinlein, Asimov, Pohl, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and Bradbury.
I grew up in some tough neighborhoods and money was tight. There were no examples of artists making a living around me and I was good at math and science. I didn’t consider writing (aka my constant daydreaming) a way to make a living. College scholarships based on my math and science skills allowed me to get a degree.
I never stopped writing stories and poems no matter what I studied, no matter where I worked. Writing is more an obsession than a choice for me, the natural outgrowth of daydreaming. I tried not writing for a while years ago and I was a very unhappy person.
KLN: You married Houarner in a Voodoo temple. What are some common misconceptions you see in the horror literature about Voodoo? Do you plan to write a story or novel that centers on Voodoo, or if you have already, what are those titles? Are you and Houarner going to collaborate in the future?
LA: We were married in a Voodoo temple during Mardi Gras, by Priestess Miriam—ha! It was great fun. I’ve done some reading on the history of Louisiana Voodoo, Gerard has read more, and you can tell if someone writing about Voodoo has done any research.
Any fiction that looks like it’s a riff off the movie version of Voodoo with people writhing in pain from voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them means the writer didn’t spend time reading about Voodoo. There are different kinds of Voodoo.
New Orleans Voodoo developed from a mix of African-based religion and Christianity from slave trade. There’s a rich history of creating spells for good and bad. The cool part of having our wedding in a Voodoo temple was seeing pictures of goddesses like Mami Wata next to pictures of Jesus.
I wrote two stories, ‘The Power’ and ‘Milez To Go’ about two cousins and Voodoo magic. The stories were published in Dark Dreams I and II edited by Brandon Massey published, by Kensington Publishing. I’d like to work on a novel at some point with the girls.
Gerard wrote an awesome story, “She’d Make a Dead Man Crawl,” from ‘Mojo: Conjure Stories’ edited by Nalo Hopkinson, published Warner Aspect. We’ve talked about collaborating on a couple of ideas, but nothing is set yet.
KLN: How has being raised in a large family and being the oldest of nine children affected your writing?
LA: Even though there weren’t many books in my house, there was a large dictionary that I would read often and made me fall in love with words. The fact that my mother was a natural storyteller supported the idea that it was natural to give form to imagination. I would also entertain my brothers and sister with stories.
On the other hand I loved to read. Books were a perfect escape from the work I had to do at home to help my parents with my brothers and sister. Books allowed me to travel to the future, to fantastic places and be part of grand adventures. Any spare time I had, I spent reading. I loved going to the library, being surrounded by books and quiet.
KLN: You started the writing group Circles in the Hair. How is your group different from other writing groups? What’s most commonly discussed? What’s the most common advice given? Is your group web-based or near where you live?
LA: I’m one of the founding members of CITH, which has been meeting since 1970. One of the comments I hear from other writers is how amazing it is that we’re still together after so long. Originally we worked with mostly short stories (sf, fantasy and horror), but over time we began to evolve as writers and submit novels for feedback. Of course I’ve submitted my poetry to the group.
The main thing we do is try to detail what works and what doesn’t work and give suggestions that would help. We often look to see what is the story promising in the first couple of sentences as far as the genre, etc.; is there an emotional through line for the characters; is there telling or showing in the story. We also try to break down the story into its parts: character, setting, plot, sensory details, etc.
Right now the group meets in NYC, although some members send in their comments through email. The group has been pivotal in the growth of my writing. The feedback has helped identify problems that I need to work on and sharpened my editing chops when I critique others work.
KLN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Linda. I appreciate your time. Is there anything additional you’d like to share with our readers?
LA: I have work in a couple of awesome books. I was delighted to write the introduction to the poetry section in ‘Prince of Stories, The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman’ by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette. Also, I have a poem in ‘The Big Book of Necon’ edited by Bob Booth which is full of wonderful work by people like Stephen King, Gahan Wilson, Peter Straub and many others.
Track what’s doing with me at Linda Addison Poet.com
--Karen L. Newman
(The Black Glove thanks Linda Addison for her time and efforts)