Interview with Melissa Broder

Written by Andrew Keating
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Cobalt: How has your writing changed from your first book, When You Say One Thing but You Mean Your Mother, to Meat Heart? Do you feel that this book is more abstract? And if so, what brought that out?

Melissa Broder: I think that Meat Heart is less narrative, less linear than Mother. What brought that out was reading writers like Bernadette Mayer and Blake Butler who showed me I’m allowed to do that.

Cobalt: Are there particular limitations that you place on yourself when writing?

Broder: Often I’ll build in my own constraints, like syllabics, just to kick things off and give some shape to the endless expanse of possibility. Another generative tool I use is writing from a word bank comprised of nouns I’ve stolen from other texts. This helps me soften my controls, my own narrative. But in terms of denotation, no constraints.

Cobalt: You published your first two books with independent publishers. Do you find that working with the different publishers produced different results?

Broder: One publisher has a ponytail, the other has a beard (sometimes). I think I was about half as neurotic with the bearded publisher, because it was my second book, though he’d probably be surprised to hear that’s what half looks like. Both of them made fantastic books, believed in me and edited the crap out of the text. What more can you ask for really?

Cobalt: Define “all-night burger magic” for me, please. (I have my definitions, but I’m sure we all see this differently.)

Broder: In this poem, which is the title poem — Meat Heart — the language of meat embodies bravery and serenity and the language of fruits and vegetables embodies fear. I don’t actually feel this way about vegetables. I’m very pro-vegetable and was a vegan for a while. But in this poem, all-night burger magic is a letting go of fear — an “it’s all good baby baby” if you will.

Cobalt: How does poetry shape your life? In other words, how do you structure your time as a poet, and how does your poetry impact other parts of your daily life?

Broder: I write most of my poems on the subway and walking down the street. I write them on my phone. I will not switch to an iPhone because I need the Blackberry keypad. Poetry will probably impact my life the most when I am hit by a taxi, which seems scarily inevitable.

Cobalt: What are some examples of subject matter, or inspirations, that drive your writing?

Broder: God/mystery, aging, want, kindness and death.

Cobalt: Are there any key takeaways that you want your reader to experience in Meat Heart?

Broder: I want people to enjoy it. And I am totally cool with them making their own meanings.

About Melissa: Melissa Broder is the author of two collections of poems, most recently Meat Heart. Poems appear or are forthcoming in Guernica, Redivider, The Missouri Review online, Court Green, Drunken Boat, Barrelhouse, The Awl, et al. She edits La Petite Zine. By day she is a publicity manager at Penguin.

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