Lora Fike is a poet. I mean that in the full encompassing meaning of the word. This woman is a living, breathing embodiment of poetry. There are few people who live to write, who write to survive, and she is one of them. I’ve had the pleasure of being exposed to her poetry at several different stages of my own life and have always found that her words have the ability to touch me and move me in whatever phase I’m in. This is rare. Her work lies on this edge of being deeply personal, as well as widely relatable. It reaches out to its reader and asks them to enter, to think, to consider, to question where their own humanity interacts with the world. This week I had the privilege of interviewing Lora on her inspiration and process. This is what transpired:
LMB: Your poetry, even from what I remember of it from years ago, has always held this strong theme of ancestry. Can you speak to this theme and what it means to you? Where it comes from?
LF: I have always been fascinated by relationships between people and the unique languages each relationship develops. My mom has done genealogy throughout the years. That, paired with my understanding of psychology’s imago theory and family dynamics in astrology, informs who I am and what I write. Ancestry is a more conscious theme today than it was before because the patterns that have been present in many of my relationships, for better or for worse, are something I work to transform.
LMB: Much of your poetry is quite visual. Images that jumped out at me during reading through this collection were those of bones and dryness – dried bones, dried riverbeds, bones seen through skin, almost a sense of wasting away. Does this imagery have a specific importance that you can touch on?
LF: Dry is a huge symbol for me. Dry, dry bones, dry skin–it reflect a lot of things about my life. Spiritual atrophy, working to the bone for the people I love and the things I believe in, often for little compensation. Self-care is something I’m working on to date.
LMB: Now, I know from personal knowledge, and as well could feel through certain pieces in this collection, that your life has been going through some dramatic changes in the past couple years. How has your writing been evolving during this time? Has it changed?
LF: I was caught up in some of the cycles of violence and compartmentalization before I quit drinking in May 2013. I have had to face a great deal of patterns I have inherited and start taking responsibility for who I am and who I am going t be instead of looking at life as something that just happens to me, the victim, My writing is more honest and transparent in some ways, for growth’s sake. I am dancing more in between different voices that comingle in my mind and heart, and writing is more for thriving these days than surviving. I used to write to survive experiences.
LMB: Can you speak to some of your biggest literary inspirations? Are there certain authors or certain genres that affect you and your writing? Have any changed your process or the way that you write?
LF: Reading Sarah Fox’s The First Flag felt like I was reading a book written inside of my soul. I adore surrealism, but dadaism even more so. Leonora Carrington, Baroness Elsa von Loringhoven, Toni Morrison, Jaime de Angulo… I try to read more female, queer, indigenous and PoC authors these days to compensate for the white male cannon inundation. I can’t say I have deliberately changed as the consequence of reading but certainly I am influenced though and through by the themes and particularly the absurdity or “queering” of the mundane aspects of life found in DADA.
LMB: You are probably one of the most dedicated writers I know, updating your blog collection with incredible consistency. I love keeping up with it. Do you write every day? If so, how? Is there a ritual to it for you, or does it simply happen?
LF: I really appreciate you using the word dedicated to describe me because I am not a daily writer just yet. When I used to keep a dream journal, I was, because that was how I started my day. When I don’t write, I am pretty miserable so the most I go is a week. But generally, I make writing dates with close friends and keep those dates weekly. Sometimes I write when I’m not supposed to, like at work. I try to let the muse run when it comes but I have finally accepted that I can’t just wait. I have to create the conditions. For me? The best writing? Nobody around but strangers, strange situations, a coffee shop, my own music and hours unfolding before me without anywhere to be. So I have to give myself that on weekends sometimes.
LMB: Great, Lora, thank you so much for sharing that with us. You can find more and evolving work from Lora on her WordPress, which I highly suggest following, as well as at her less filtered Tumblr. Now, without further ado, a collection of work by Lora Fike:
because I wanted it that much, because i could touch it, taste it, lick it, and press it hard against my chest pretending it was a part of me. because I didn’t care what venom anyone could spit about me. because i didn’t acknowledge tomorrow. because i didn’t believe in the sunrise. because it was mine to keep. because i imagined breath in its still lungs. because i saw a light in dead eyes.
if I were, I would
to sleep in the scent of sandalwood
pain rock-a-byed love
&—with the sober smooth landing of today
still waiting for the heavy stone thud
wait & wait & wait—until baseline
until riverbed ancestry revealed and oh, the bones
all the bones licked clean by
the water needle weaving
in and out of flesh
the ouroboros of time
swallowing measure away
& back again
why I say ‘love’ sideways
why I serpentine to stand
rib for rib—fit to your frame
and then square to you
as I spit sour in your flame
why I will always love you
pain-cradling arms of dead body
why I will always be known
to you as only an absence
the one that got away
I got away
I got I got I got
is it rusty now, the dagger? is it blunted by fooling at the cement with an absent mind–a cinderblock on my shoulders for half a year. a cinderblock to fall through my ribs, I lied my heart stone, though. I lied it stone until it was hard enough to break a bottle over it
again & again
bottle after bottle
I didn’t count on finger nor thumb
and I wasn’t proud
of all the broken glass at least
I wasn’t proud of how the sheets fell off the bed
or the piles of dust
or the dirty laundry
I wasn’t proud of the way my hair fell
or the crust in my eyes
it was the hanging lightbulb I revered
somewhere in the basement
I worshipped it, a moth
to my own light
other people’s faces
and lipstick smears
the way my arms my legs could fall
so far so open
the way I could stomach so much soot and ash
until I spit and shit green and told myself it was temporary
that the coal cleans the system
that I am a system of simple machines
but what of the wedge? forget the clever lever a moment
and then I remember the cinderblock
and the lightbulb is broken glass
and I am not a moth and I am not a light
I am a dry river bed sucking fish bones
and the stone is never was cannot be stone
because it was always heart
and I am crushed flesh beat beat
simple machine turned two-dimensional art
no, just sleeping
until the water starts flowing
and I am rich in the slate colored smooth
tumble of stone beneath my toes
and I don’t have to count the suns since all the broken glass
or finger red on faces or spill red down my own front
just grass now
against empirical evidence
and that color running through every thread of my being?
that color lives within but is greater than
the word for love in all the tongues
Start by giving away the knot in every muscle.
Let all your fingers and toes unfurl.
Give up the catch in your breath, the stoop in your shoulders.
Give up the grind of your sleep against waning molars and canines.
Give up your ideas about right and wrong, or make it seem as if you have.
Pretend you never stole the color blue from anyone who was still crying.
Have your friends pretend to be bridges, have your enemies pretend they are your family.
Speak peace or if it’s just too hard, learn to speak it in another language.
Carve a tunnel out of your castle and realize it was just this one wall the whole time
and plant caraway when you come up the other side with dirt under every last fingernail.
Leave every book you borrowed and never returned as stepping stones away from who you are unbecoming.
Bring your chin down level and don’t pretend to dance with the answers to why anymore,
just link arms with what and let all fingers fall away from pointing out who.
Give each other bullet shells.
Give a name to every wound and move your lips slow over the pronunciation so that the sound sleeps in the ear drum and wakes up in the heart.
*inspired by Gift Event adaptation of Kwakiutl Indian poem from Technicians of the Sacred
what a rusty door
unhinge me(if you) please
to put the pages back on the calendar
after they’ve already been torn
not quite but maybe just so
to join the cake fight in the bathroom
instead of becoming a pair of beady eyes
clucking tongue & washing dishes at 1am
while everyone else passes out
howDO you get the wisdom out
intravenous needle pull me out of the amber
pull seed from the sown hollow reeds of ancestors
scatter me—-cast me out—-no hook—-no line —-
funny how the belly crawls away from the fall
funny how a picture hooks the belly button backwards
funny how an imagining turns heart beat visible
just beneath the marigold and pink flesh
funny when I grab the tiny water gun and don’t think twice
about the idea of ruin or spoils
& in this hammock I will sleep
& cry fat tears as moved
& sing as song tugs on notes quivers thrushes of the ruby red throat
dry dry river bed
watch hands claw at sucking sand
watch little bones lift little bodies into strong jaws
watch until I forget the way I take one step toward kin
& two babysteps back again
a tapestry of my advances and backpedalings
I weave & weave, birth cold clay
birch wood mask, let me wear thee yet
heavy heavy sighs as if
breathing, be ye burden?
teething on the rings of the tree
not kindling for the family fire
cobalt blue flame of the ache
the sadness no finger reaches
& I call to her
wisdom wisdom wisdom
& the resounding echo
no face no face no face at all