OBJECTS AND THE SPACES THEY OCCUPY
A CONVERSATION WITH HEIDI RESZIES
OS Collaborator Heidi Reszies talks about her new book, Illusory Borders, available now from The Operating System.
Greetings! Thank you for talking to us about your process today!
Can you introduce yourself, in a way that you would choose?
Hello! My name is Heidi Reszies (pronounced REZ-zeez). I currently live in the city of Richmond, Virginia.
Why are you a poet/writer/artist?
I am at home/myself when I’m making things.
When did you decide you were a poet/writer/artist (and/or: do you feel comfortable calling yourself a poet/writer/artist, what other titles or affiliations do you prefer/feel are more accurate)?
I’ve considered myself an artist most of my life. I came to poetry/writing much later — during a traumatic shift, in my late 40s. I stopped painting and eventually turned to poetry as a way of healing. I don’t think I actually thought of myself as a poet until my first poems were published; I remember introducing myself as a poet on the first day of my MFA Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
What’s a “poet” (or “writer” or “artist”) anyway? What do you see as your cultural and social role (in the literary / artistic / creative community and beyond)?
I like to think of poetry/writing/art under the umbrella of poiesis, derived from the ancient Greek, meaning ‘to make.’ Because I work across many disciplines in my creative practice, it’s difficult to label myself/what I do. I usually choose transdisciplinary artist or maker.
I believe that human beings need poetry/art. Poetry saved my life. For me, poems exist in constellations, as potential/vital points of contact/ connection/of being in the world.
Talk about the process or instinct to move these poems (or your work in general) as independent entities into a body of work. How and why did this happen? Have you had this intention for a while? What encouraged and/or confounded this (or a book, in general) coming together? Was it a struggle?
When I first began writing poems, I approached them as independent entities. At some point I discovered that the most natural way of making/writing, for me, is to work in series/sequence just as I had done in my years as a visual artist. When I set out to write this manuscript, I envisioned the text as a long poem/continuous stringing together of fragments.
Did you envision this collection as a collection or understand your process as writing or making specifically around a theme while the poems themselves were being written / the work was being made? How or how not?
I began writing the series of poems in the second section of the book, ‘satellites & margins,’ as a collection. The series titled ‘preface(s)’ was completed shortly after. I felt these two parts belonged together as a book. In terms of theme, I was writing/making with attention to marginality, dailyness, and my necessity to work in a series.
What formal structures or other constrictive practices (if any) do you use in the creation of your work? Have certain teachers or instructive environments, or readings/writings/work of other creative people informed the way you work/write?
My creative practice negotiates text and textile; I typically begin with an accumulation of fragments of text, typed on a manual typewriter. I pin them to the wall or stitch them together (sometimes literally). I’ve found inspiration in the work of poets like Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen, and Rosmarie Waldrop — poets who have described their creative processes as a sort of collage method — everyday objects assembled and arranged in a new composition. I’m grateful to Jody Gladding and Jen Bervin, two of my faculty advisors at VCFA, for their inspiration: for introducing me to ‘gap gardening’ and experimental ways of making poems.
Speaking of monikers, what does your title represent? How was it generated? Talk about the way you titled the book, and how your process of naming (individual pieces, sections, etc) influences you and/or colors your work specifically.
The title for this collection is in some ways a reflection on the in between, and my “tendency to linger at edges.” I chose to name the two sections of this book, but individual poems are simply numbered (in the second section, footnotes are numbered), so as not to interrupt the nature of the series/sequence in which they were written. The section ‘preface(s)’ is… just that. The title ‘satellites and margins’ refers to book terminology, but also to the notion of fragments/objects and the spaces we/they occupy.
What does this particular work represent to you as indicative of your method/creative practice? your history? your mission/intentions/hopes/plans?
All I know is that these are poems that I had to write, one after the other, beginning again and again. And I continue to make poems in this way.
What does this book DO (as much as what it says or contains)?
This book cycles through a natural process…to borrow Allison Titus’ words: ”burgeoning and brimming and collapsing.”
What would be the best possible outcome for this book? What might it do in the world, and how will its presence as an object facilitate your creative role in your community and beyond? What are your hopes for this book, and for your practice?
Once it’s launched into the universe, I hope this book resonates with my readers / that it breathes / that it inspires.
Let’s talk a little bit about the role of poetics and creative community in social and political activism, so present in our daily lives as we face the often sobering, sometimes dangerous realities of the Capitalocene. How does your process, practice, or work otherwise interface with these conditions?
Words matter. Language is not something we own; it is something we share.
I’d be curious to hear some of your thoughts on the challenges we face in speaking and publishing across lines of race, age, ability, class, privilege, social/cultural background, gender, sexuality (and other identifiers) within the community as well as creating and maintaining safe spaces, vs. the dangers of remaining and producing in isolated “silos” and/or disciplinary and/or institutional bounds?
We should be striving for inclusivity in publishing. I appreciate what Audre Lourde writes (in Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference): “…it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation.”
About the Author / Artist
Heidi Reszies is a poet/ transdisciplinary artist living in Richmond, Virginia. Her visual art is included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts CLARA Database of Women Artists. She teaches letterpress printing at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, and is the creator/curator of Artifact Press. Her poetry collection titled Illusory Borders is available from The Operating System. Her collection titled Of Water & Other Soft Constructions was selected by Samiya Bashir as the winner of the Anhinga Press 2018 Robert Dana Prize for Poetry (forthcoming in 2019). Find her at heidireszies.com