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“Writing Allows Me to Approach My Life with a Greater Passion”: Micro-Interview with Katherine Larson

Katherine Larson’s poems “Lake of Little Birds” and “Crypsis and Memory” are in the Spring 2011 issue of KR, available here. Two more poems–“Metamorphosis” and “Solarium” can be found at KROnline.

Kenyon Review: What’s one book, contemporary or otherwise, that you wish you had written?

Katherine Larson: It’s impossible to pick one–or even twenty–books that I wish that I had written. Instead, I’m going to list five books at random from my “favorites” bookshelf; these are among the books I return to again and again:

Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, Gaston Bachelard’s The Psychoanalysis of Fire, Vladimir Mayakovsky’s The Bedbug and Selected Poetry, Julio Cort??zar’s Hopscotch, Tomas Transtr??mer’s The Great Enigma.

KR: Have classroom experiences (as a teacher, as a student) figured largely in your development as a writer?

KL: Certainly I’m indebted to my creative writing professors at the University of Arizona and the University of Virginia: Rita Dove, Charles Wright and Deborah Eisenberg most especially. But I’ve not been in the classroom for more than seven years now and instead of teaching, I’ve spent the last ten years working in the field of molecular biology. Since I believe that one’s development as a writer is an ongoing process, I would currently say that it’s largely relationships–with individual minds, with literature, with landscapes–that are most influencing my development as a writer today.

KR: What advice would you give yourself five years ago?

KL: As a sci-fi fan, I’d have to say that I’m suspicious of messing with the future–I’d be too afraid of a butterfly effect. I’m fortunate enough to feel that the last five years of my life have unfolded in surprising and deeply fulfilling ways. I wouldn’t want to change that.

KR: Of all the things you could be doing, why do you write?

KL: I live more authentically when I write. I pay more attention. I’m more curious. More imaginative. I ask more interesting questions. Writing allows me to approach my life with a greater passion: I risk more; I challenge myself more. When I’m able to spend at least part of my life fully traversing the landscape of my mind, I’m paradoxically able to be more present to the people and the world around me.

Writing offers a tremendous sense of freedom–the freedom to engage, to invent, to shape, to approach, to imbue. At this point in my life, it’s really no longer a choice. It’s impossible for me to think of being without it.

Katherine Larson’s first collection, Radial Symmetry, was chosen by Louise Glu??ck as the winner of the 2010 Yale Series of Younger Poets and will be published in April 2011 by Yale University Press. She lives in Arizona.