Cobalt: First off, quit bugging me to send you interview questions. I’ll get to it when I get to it.
Donora Hillard: Sneef sneef. (That’s my crying in French sound.)
Cobalt: Whatever. I’m over it. So explain to me what you do, since I really have no clue. Something about poetry, right?
Hillard: Let’s never know. It’s just a sequined distillation of anxiety.
Cobalt: What’s the deal with Theology of the Body? You re-pub’d that as Covenant? Are you some kind of religious whackadoo? What does Jeff Bridges have to do with God/god-like beings?
Hillard: Theology of the Body was published in 2010 and re-released last year as Covenant in collaboration with Zachary C. Bush’s first book. The thought was that the collections worked well together, and I went on a six-city summer book tour of the South with some ladies in a van to promote it.
I was raised and educated by the Catholic system and briefly taught inside it. The book is an embodied response to lines like “If we ever need to know how to properly love a woman, all we need to do is look at a crucifix,” which is an actual thing promoted in schools by Catholic apologist and “chastity speaker” Jason Evert and others. My own belief structure hinges upon the Gospel of Thomas and the phrase “Talitha cumi,” which is Aramaic for “Girl, get up.”
Jeff Bridges is, as I call him, the Muse of the Age. I’ve been writing poems about him for what seems like 15 years. I mostly do them by request now; they’re like my “Freebird.” He’s here to tell us that everything’s going to be all right.
Cobalt: Give me a quick little Jeff Bridges poem right now. You have five minutes. Go.
You go on a water fast
because you hate yourself
and Jeff Bridges laughs.
“Baby Sister,” he says. “Why?
Remember me in Fearless.
My hair was so long
and I wasn’t afraid
of any strawberry.
I stuck my head out
the window like a beagle.
I yelled at God
‘You want to kill me but you can’t.’
So let it go. Let’s drive our
Volvo into a brick wall to make
Rosie Perez feel better.
Let’s buy presents for the dead.”
Cobalt: You mentioned to me earlier that you were hungry. What have you eaten since noon?
Hillard: The milk in my tea.
Cobalt: Look at shorty, she a little cutie, yo. The way she shake it make me wanna get up in the booty, yo. Right?
Hillard: Right. I respect anyone whose moisturization agenda is as compelling as mine. That is not a euphemism.
Cobalt: Tell me more about this van of women touring the South. It sounds like something that many churches would frown upon.
Hillard: One notable thing about the tour was that a boy I didn’t know drove three hours to see me read and gave me a music box that played “Hey Jude.” I never thanked him properly.
Cobalt: When did you begin training for Olympic Hugging, and how did you discover the sport?
Hillard: I have been training since the womb, no discovery.
Cobalt: How do you carve out time for writing? Any specific schedule? Or a place that you like to write?
Hillard: I take forever to do anything, as you now know. You also know I agreed to marry a cowboy who moved back here from New Mexico then suddenly decided he wasn’t done being a cowboy. This is all to say I’m often hobbled by perfectionism and find writing painful, especially when my stupid little heart is hurting.
I also do about 18 different things on a daily basis. I’m finishing a doctorate and teach at a university and work full-time as a disability advocate and mentor, so the rest of it is basic time management. I prefer to write longhand, and I revise obsessively. Apologies to all those whom I’ve ever made wait for me.
About Donora: Donora Hillard is the author of the poetry collections Theology of the Body (Gold Wake Press, 2010) and Covenant (with Zachary C. Bush, Gold Wake Press, 2012) as well as several poetry/hybrid text chapbooks. Her work appears in Best of the Web (Dzanc Books), Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton), Monkeybicycle, Pedagogy, and elsewhere. Her projects have been featured by Chicago Public Radio, CNN, Lybba, MSNBC, and the Poetry Foundation.