Some Animals details Kelli Allen’s unique perspective on how everyday women handle different kinds of relationships. With allusions to animals and nature woven through each poem, this gives the entire collection an almost dream-like or fantastical feel. Whether she is trying to handle the death of a loved one, a fight or an everyday moment, she manages to slip into the female psyche while pulling the reader along with her.
“I want this experience to be unpolluted. I want the end/to be a trajectory of my own making.”
from ``Some Animals,`` p. 25
Interview with the Author
Etchings Press: Where do you think most of your inspiration comes from?
Kelli Allen: The honest answer to this is—the body. The more authentic answer is to elaborate and say the body, yes, but only as it responds to language. When I hear a line, or consider an image, the experience is visceral. I cannot cleave sensations from words. Like this: When William Stafford wrote that “the world happens twice-/ once what we see it as;/ second it legends itself/ deep, the way it is” I instantly felt Ivan’s Firebird brushing my shoulder. I am ever conscious of that second happening. If the world is a circle, (and it is) I elect to believe we are one foot in the moss, and one heel in the river. We are straddling something serpentine while holding a fist of smoke-hot feathers. My inspiration comes from the recognition that we have to face one direction or other.
EP: What do you do to get around writer’s block?
KA: For years, I have been telling my students that there is no such thing as “writer’s block.” If we are Awake in the world, if we are breathing, we have something to communicate. Sometimes, we need to take a felt-tip pen and draw a square inch on our knee and describe every visual, every sensation on the flesh, within that tiny box to get the narrative flowing. Even if we are only able to lament the wilting celery in the grocery as we go about wandering the aisles mundanely, we must craft such a litany beautifully. There are no recognizable reasons for a writer to deny their words propulsion.
EP: Where is your favorite place to sit down and write?
KA: Everywhere. I mean this. I do not have a favorite, daily spot. When allowed, I prefer to be on white sand, with glass-still seawater on the periphery. As I am currently landlocked, my ocean days are isolated to just a few weeks a year. This geographical limitation means that any space that offers a bit of quiet, and even those where noise makes its own hush, becomes my place to write.
EP: Who are a few of your favorite and/or more influential authors? Why?
KA: This is such a difficult question, every time. My favorite writer list is too long to be inclusive here, so I’ll let immediacy rule the response: Robert Bly, Rilke, Stafford, Paz, Audre Lorde, Henry Miller, Milan Kundera, Anais Nin, Thomas Pynchon, DFW, Neil Gaiman, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Kabir, Mirabi, Umberto Eco, Lewis Hyde, Ursula Le Guin, J.G. Ballard, Simic, Galway Kinnell… These are a few. Each of these writers have informed something of who I am as a person, first, and as an artist next. They speak to the shadowy spaces, the crevices in imagination where we hide our longing. They are braver than I am, and when they put words in whatever magic order, every millimeter of Self wants to watch, to learn, and contribute.
EP: Has you idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
KA: When I began writing, I was concerned with myth—with the stories that stitch us, hold us close to the elements, and with those tales that lick at the joints. Everything I recognize as vital in my own world is recognizable because of myth. The Tricksters, with their green apples and many legs, the witch’s basin and promise, the princess’s fear, the dragon’s choices…These are the figures and objects that began showing me their poems. Poetry, now, is still the mud on the hedgehog’s tiny feet, and it is the vicious coral edge that cuts the calves when we swim too far out to try to catch a lover. Poetry is still myth, but instead of devouring others’ stories, I have learned to trust my own.
EP: What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
KA: Ask questions. Every day. Even when you are exhausted, and the world is too benign to be allowed, maintain your curiosity. Stay vigorously, wildly Awake. No one cares if you spend all your hours marveling at your own fur. No one will notice if you are easily seduced by calligraphy. Just be certain to inquire –of yourself- why you yearn, why you praise, why you rage. Carry that self-presence into every minute and all the little secrets you pocket will poke head and snout into the air and sniff long. We are here for such a brief time—pay attention.
EP: How has your experience as a dancer influenced your poetry?
KA: Poetry has always been about courting the duende. This is true, too, of dance. The body has its own language, and its phrasing is not so different than that of the line when situated in a poem. I have been rooted in the physical self as a means to keep anchor—otherwise the esoteric bent of my yearnings take me too far outside the quotidian. Dance is tethered between these spaces. It allows the body to say everything syntax forgets, or it is not yet ready to explain. Poems offer a luxury in meaning that dance is too temporal to maintain. The two have long occupied the same fleshy hut.