Wade Stevenson interviewed by Sandy Fluck
The Absence Of The Loved
, your new collection of poetry, is being released by BlazeVOX in February, 2017. How would you describe this collection? What is the significance of the title?
There is a lot of meaning in the title. It’s not “one” absence, it’s The Absence. It’s a particular, well-defined, absolute “Absence.” It’s an “Absence” that everyone has experienced in their lives, because life and love always involve an absence, a sudden departure, a going away. In the same way, it’s not just any loved, it is “The Loved.” The “Loved” could be a woman or a man. It could even be a Goddess or God.
Departure, especially, an unanticipated one, always creates a terrible void, a space left behind, an absence that cries out to be filled. That’s how this book was born. That’s why poetry exists. The Absence Of The Loved ripened slowly over many years. I started it when I was living in Paris in 1969. It took all that time to find the exact words to fill up the space of a departure.
Dear You, A Memoir With Poems; The Little Book of He and She; A Testament to Love and Other Losses; and Flutes and Tomatoes (A Memoir with Poems) are the titles of your previous books. They seem to be precedents for The Absence Of The Loved. How so? In what ways do they differ?
Of course they are linked. The common thread is love, loss, sex, absence/presence, death/life. These are universal themes but I’ve treated them differently in all my books. What changes is the language, the degree of intensity. The Little Book of He and She is more graphic in its representation of Eros. Flutes and Tomatoes is a haunting, simple story about how a young man uses the metaphor of a flute and a tomato to transcend a tragic loss. If you were to read them all, you would see they are all steps in a ladder leading up to the summit of The Absence Of The Loved.
Dear You is subtitled A Memoir With Poems. How does the memoir part of Dear You influence the poetry, or is it the other way around? Maybe it’s an interaction that is more equal? And is the writing process different when memoir is involved?
My first memoir One Time in Paris (IUniverse, 2008) was a straight literary memoir. There were no poems. It’s a great coming-of-age story that takes place in Paris in the turbulent 1960s. Dear You (BlazeVOX, 2015) is dramatic love letter addressed to one woman. I thought it might be helpful to the reader to have an accompanying text to “situate” it. The poems came first, the “memoir” later.
Which authors and books influenced the writing of The Absence Of The Loved? Your previous books?
A new book is a giving birth, it’s always a new adventure. My other books didn’t help at all. Or rather, they helped in the sense that they gave me the courage to take what was a difficult experience and to try to turn it into a transcendent one. I wanted the book to have a certain edgy tone to it so I used some popular language. I think the result is a very readable book, it has a nice progression, many gradations of thought, feeling, language, etc. It’s a different kind of poetry book.
When did you realize you wanted to write poetry? Was it a conscious decision, or did you just fall into it?
It was instinctive, like breathing in and out. It just happened. I was seven or eight years old. I taught myself to type on a Smith Corona. Writing and reading were my passions. I don’t control my writing, to a large degree it controls me. I let it happen. That also requires some courage. It requires precisely the courage to “let it happen.” The interesting question is: what is “it?” It’s interesting how I myself found out a lot about love in writing The Absence Of The Loved. And I’ve also learned new things from reader’s reactions to my book.
For example, could you share some of the things you’ve learned?
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of absence and presence, plenitude and the void, negative and positive space. My book taught me this: there is really no such thing as absence, because absence, to the degree you are conscious of it, is in a state of continually becoming presence. I learned that the absence of the loved does not mean the death of the loved — it is actually the rebirth of the loved, the continuity of a presence, on a higher, more spiritual, level. To bring the loved one back by an act of remembrance is ultimately a victory over solitude.
Read the whole interview here