Lara Glenum

recorded in Baton Rouge, LA

 

Lara Glenum

Hi, I’m Lara Glenum, I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’ve been here for a little over a year now. I came here to join the creative writing program faculty at Louisiana State University, where I now teach and which has a thriving, amazing community of undergraduate and graduate writers. Louisiana is as gothic as you imagine, and then some. I’m originally from the south, so the gothic south is quite familiar to me. In fact, I think it’s instrumental to my sense of aesthetics and the way I formulate my poems. Baton Rouge is a little isolated, we’re about an hour from New Orleans. It is not New Orleans, in the sense that it is, you know, a little flatter in terms of culture. But it’s also intriguing and strange and beautiful and swampy and murky and the air is palpable and it’s deeply deeply polluted. I think we’re the lowest ten percent in the country for air, water, and soil quality. Pretty stunning. But it is a remarkably strange and rich place to live and, for me, provides lots of good, organic fodder for my writing.


The Knox Writers’ House

Where were you before here?


Glenum

I came directly from Athens, Georgia. I got my PhD in the creative writing program there—they have a PhD in English with a creative dissertation, so I lived in Athens for a number of years. Before that I was in Prague and then Chicago and spent my 20s living all over the place—Santa Fe, Boston, all over Europe, so I’ve travelled quite a bit.


KWH

Where are you from originally?


Glenum

From Georgia. I grew up in Atlanta.


KWH

You hit on this a little, but we’ve been noticing that it seems like we’ve been encountering more experimental writing in the south than we have in the midwest. It could be a factor of who we’ve recorded in the midwest, certainly, but do you think that there’s a voice or aesthetic of contemporary southern writing?


Glenum

Oh, I don’t know. I see a lot of common preoccupations of poets who come out of the south, but I don’t know if they’re necessarily formal preoccupations. I think that may be a result of hitting on different groups of writers, because I think that the Midwest has a cranking good school of experimental poets, too. But in the South there’s a lot of insistent preoccupation with the image, so even if you get somebody like Abe Smith or myself, who are considered move avant garde in their tendencies, we’re still deeply image-driven, unlike, say, the language poets, who were a previous avant garde, who ideologically denounced the image as being base, crass, low art. We know the image is a medium, or a sight of cultural propaganda and I do see southern writers as being deeply, deeply engrossed in the matrix of the image, and trying to work that space.


KWH

This is maybe another very uninformed question, partially because we’ve only talked with and recored a handful of people around here as opposed to eighty-something in the Midwest, but the poetry that we've been recording so far seems somehow more sexual.


Glenum

[Laughs.] Because we live in a hothouse. You can’t wear clothes most of the year. It’s a complicated question and an interesting one, because, of course, the South is deeply religious, so the question of sex becomes not just one of ethics, but of transgression and taboo, right? So that becomes a boundary which is impossible not to tinker with and push. Also, having lived a lot of other places in the country, and outside the country, gender stereotypes in the South are much more rigid, and not flexible, so it’s impossible not to be a southerner and to respond in some way or another either in co-opting or in really trying to retaliate against those gender norms, because they're deeply, deeply inflexible. So I think you get a lot of people who are interested in working the material of body and gender and gender performance in the South, for sure.


KWH

Speaking of performance, have you done any performative art before? The way that you read suggest that you’ve….How do you read so good?


Glenum

Oh, thanks [laughs]. Practice. And I did have  a lot of drama coaching, but that was when I was in middle school and high school. My performance right now exists at the level of the poem, though I’m doing more collaborative art projects and multi-media projects that are starting to have more performative edge to them. And I’m actually about to start working on a series of videos called “This is not a penetration zone” which will actually have performance-based videos, whereas in the past I’ve been doing text-based videos.


KWH

Are those available online?


Glenum

“Meat Out of the Eater,” which is a collaborative text-based video that I did with Josef Horáček, is on Vimeo.



[Please bear with us; the entire interview will be available soon.]

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