Remixing the vocabulary of orchids: an interview with Diane Lockward

This is the tenth in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our tenth interview is with Diane Lockward (websiteblog).


1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.


DL:
Letting someone else work with my poem was not at all a difficult choice because I was familiar with The Poetry Storehouse project and had seen numerous examples of the work that was being done there. So I knew the poems were going to a good place and that if they did get picked up for a video I’d be happy with the result. (That’s kind of like submitting poems to journals, i.e., it’s important to be familiar with the journal before you submit or you might end up being sorry you submitted.)

The idea of seeing my work in another format was exciting, not intimidating. I’d previously had poems set to music, a few set to dance, and one sung by a choir of opera singers! So this video project struck me as a nice possibility for my work.

Certainly, I feel that I own my own work and would be less than pleased if someone just took it and used it without permission, but everything with The Poetry Storehouse is out in the open. I chose to submit, knowing that my poems might be used for a remix. The result is a true collaboration.


2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at The Storehouse and your own reactions to them.


DL:
I was absolutely thrilled with Nic’s video interpretation of my poem “Orchids.” She got it just right, although I had no idea what “right” was until I saw what she’d done. Then I said, Oh yes, oh wow! That’s just right! The artwork selected, a group of still images by Adam Martinakis, is deliciously sexy and mysterious, much as orchids are, so the artwork seemed perfect for the poem. The music track and the pacing all came together just right, even though there’s not one single orchid pictured in the video. It’s really a new interpretation.

I consider myself to have been extremely lucky in that another filmmaker, Paul Broderick, selected the same poem and Nic’s reading of it for his own video interpretation. This second video is very different from Nic’s but also wonderful and full of sexiness and mystery—and lots of gorgeous orchids.


3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?


DL:
I absolutely would do this again. There’s no downside, no reason not to. This is one more way of spreading the word about poetry and of breathing new life into individual poems. My advice to other poets considering submitting is to choose poems that have a strong visual element and that appeal not just to the sense of sight but to the other senses as well. I suggest selecting fairly short poems as the video will include some lead-in time and some closing time for credits at the end. I read somewhere that the typical viewer won’t hang around to watch a video for more than two minutes, so the submitter should keep that in mind. Finally, I suggest lyric poems rather than narrative ones, poems that suggest, that are open to interpretation, poems with some layers.


4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


DL:
No, I can’t think of a thing I’d suggest changing. Just keep on doing what you’re doing and continue to get the word out about what you’re doing.


5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?


DL:
It was fun from start to finish. I’d like to mention that I wrote the poem “Orchids” after reading The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orlean. The book is about orchid hunting in Florida. I found the vocabulary of orchids fascinating and the lure of the hunt intriguing. I used some of the vocabulary in the poem and tried to capture the intrigue that orchids exude. So you could say that my poem is a sort of remix of the book. There’s also a movie based on the book, Adaptation—another kind of remix. So it pleases me to see yet one more incarnation for orchids.