Talking to Melissa Broder

Interview by Molly, Image by Rachel Davies

Melissa Broder is a poet whose writing will make your heart sigh, your brain awaken, and your arms want to carry her books with you everywhere you go. She has written three collections of poetry: Scarecrone, Meat Heart, and When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. In addition to slaying the literary game, she also slays the Internet game with her flawless web presence. Her twitter account is poetry in and of itself, her website is A+, and she is also the Director of Media and Special Projects at NewHive. I got to talk to Melissa about Scarecrone, the difference between poetry and twitter, and shrines.

Molly: Has poetry always been your favorite genre of writing, or are there other types of writing and self expression that you enjoy as well?

Melissa: Poetry has always been the one. Twitter is a close second (I think tweets are their own form). Lately I’ve been writing a bunch of essays. I use Siri and Simplenote to write them. I dictate while driving around LA.

I read in an interview that you did for Emily Books that you said that you mostly write poems on your iPhone, which makes it feel like technology and your poetry are inherently connected. However, the Internet is only mentioned a few times in Scarecrone, and does not seem like a driving force in your work. How do pop culture and the internet culture figure into your poems and your process, if at all? 

Without the iPhone I wouldn’t write so much. Like, not even half. I like to write/dictate when I’m not supposed to be writing. It allows me to be more creative than I would be if I set aside “official writing time.” In New York I wrote while walking and on the subway. In LA I dictate on the highway and write in parking lots or on the beach. But you’re right–the Internet doesn’t appear in my poetry and pop culture definitely doesn’t. The older I get and the more my environment seems to be saturated in brands, the more I want to protect my poetry from that or something. Like, I only want to use primal nouns–words that hundreds of years ago would be totally identifiable. I would go back to the beginning of time and write from silence if I could.

You have an amazing Twitter account and I love whenever you bless my TL with one of your tweets. Do you feel a connection between tweeting and writing poetry? 

Awww, thank you so much. I see my tweets as separate from my poetry. They are too glib for me to consider them part of my poetry. Other people call them poetry though, and that’s cool. But for me, they are written from a different place. When I write poetry I seek to get out of my ego, to channel something higher or other. Whereas my tweets, well, I tweet from the ego.

After I got Scarecrone, there was a period of time where I carried it in my backpack with me to school so that I could read from it to center myself when things got overwhelming and I needed to escape. When you were a teen, did you have any favorite books, albums, or movies that you liked to read, listen to, or watch when you needed to escape? What are some of the books, albums, and movies that you like now that help you escape?

Oh my gosh, that is so amazing to hear. I love teens. Like, your backpack is a holy place for me so it’s an honor to be carried in it. And it’s even more of an honor that I could provide you some escape, because being a teen was really hard for me. I’m not a big movie-watcher, because I don’t have an attention span. Weird twitter is my version of movies and also where I get my news. But music, I go hard in the music. Lately it’s the new Earl Sweatshirt album, the new Kendrick Lamar, Drake’s mixtape (ashamed to say but it’s so good), the Caribou album that came out last year, the new Grimes single. Also, always lots of electronic stuff like Machinedrum and PC Music-type stuff. Trap beats, too. Here’s my spotify. 🙂

Your poem “Hope This Helps is really comforting to me because it feels like a reminder to yourself and the reader that we are who we are, even when other people try to hurt us, or when we try to hurt ourselves. If you were trying to comfort or give advice to your teen self by reading her one of your recent poems, which one would you share with her?

Let’s say that one!

Who are your favorite poets?

T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath (I’m basic.)

At Pop Culture Puke, we like to write about our obsessions. If you could create a shrine to anything that you’re obsessed with, what or who would it be dedicated to, and what would it look like?

A shrine to my dog, Pickle. Other than that, every shrine I’ve built or crystal I’ve bought or magic candle I’ve burned always ends up just looking like meaningless stuff after a few days. I feel like my shrine is in my heart, maybe? Or, like, in the subconscious. A shrine to nothingness.

You can find Melissa on Twitter @melissabroder and at her website melissabroder.com.

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