Open Alphabet welcomes Lori Desrosiers and her new book The Philosopher's Daughter, published by Salmon Poetry (ISBN 978-1-907056-98-7).

Lori Desrosiers

Lori Desrosiers' poetry has appeared in numerous journals. She was awarded the Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts award in 2010 for "That Pomegranate Shine", which is included in this book. Pudding House Press published her chapbook Three Vanities in 2009. She publishes Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry with an annual contest. She teaches at Westfield State University and holds an MFA from New England College.

The Philosopher's Daughter is in four sections. The first three deal with the father, the mother, and the daughter. The final is an exploration of metapoetic interior space. Although the poems are primarily remembrance sourced, each has its own local architecture and tone. There are poems set both in the past and in the present tense as in "Redhead at the Miss Flo". There is the humorous indictment of contemporary culture in "The World is Flat". There is a sonnet, "Room with Feathers". Form follows content in "Train Ride in Winter". There is a lot to love about this book -- a lot of variety within a common framework.

Emily Dickinson said "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." Desrosiers' poems often bring a physical sensation, not of a Dickinson-like explosion, but of a sprung weightlessness. We feel the surface tension of a poem hold, hold, hold, and then the bottom drops out. In that moment we simultaneously lose the world and gain it.

Open Alphabet: What initiated this project? Was this book going to be "The Philosopher's Daughter" all along, or did the title come later? The Philosopher's Daughter

Lori Desrosiers: I had written a chapbook about my grandmother, mother and myself called Three Vanities. This book was written partly as a memorial to my father, who died at age 63 when I was 28. He was a professor of Philosophy at Fordham, as well as a Psychoanalyst. His philosophical curiosity was a great influence on me as a person and as a writer, thus "The Philosopher's Daughter".

OA:Did assembling your first book change you personally? Has it altered your daily creative process?

LD: It is true that trying to find an order for a book is a creative process in itself. You want an arc that presents some sort of story, while allowing the poems to speak to one another. You need to strike a balance between working on the book and your own writing. I don't think it affects my writing process as much as my submission habits. When I'm putting a book together, I tend to submit less individual poetry for a while.

OA: Where there any challenges in putting it together? What do you know now that you wish you had known then?

LD: I changed the book many, many times between first sending it out and finally getting it accepted. Many poems were replaced with newer poems, or edited for strength. It took many rejections before the book was "just right". What made it right was that each poem stood on its own, rather than depending on the others to hold it up. I'm sure this is always a challenge with a full-length manuscript. You need to take the time to let the poems tell you what is missing. I think if I had waited a while before beginning to send out the manuscript, it would have been ready sooner.

OA: You seem equally at ease with structure and with free form. How did "Grandmother's Hands" become a pantoum?

LD: Maxine Kumin told us in workshop "When you have something difficult to write, pound it into form." I wanted to tell the story of my grandmother's big secret, which was that she had been married long ago in Russia. Apparently there was a scandal and she and her mother left and made their way to the U.S. My grandmother didn't tell anyone until the last year of her life, when she told this story to my mother. She had one other secret, which was that she was older than she had ever admitted. Even my grandfather didn't know.

OA: In many of your poems, you maintain surface tension before dropping into a very personal space. Can you talk about the tension in your work?

LD: Jeff Friedman said of my work, "Lori's best poems are like snapshots, capturing the emotion and mood in a fleeting instant, and as in a David Ignatow poem each fleeting instant suggests something of the whole life and shakes the reader with its sudden intense light." I think he said it better than I can. I like to take the reader for a very short roller coaster ride that drops, deeply and unexpectedly.

OA: You are both a poet and an editor. Does your editorial persona interact with your poet persona?

LD: I think the editor lives in my left brain and the poet is in the right. I do well most of the time, but there are situations where it is hard to get into "poetry mind", such as when I am organizing an event or have been cataloguing journal submissions for an extended time.

OA: What question would you not like to be asked?

LD: I'm pretty much an open book. Go ahead and ask.

OA: Can you give us a hint at what we can expect in your future work?

LD: I am waiting to hear from my publisher on my second book, which should be out in 2016. It is a collection of poems inspired by music and art. I'm also working on a collection of children's poems and a chapbook about a woman's journey through an abusive marriage.