Laurie Saurborn Young

Patriot (Forklift, Ink., 2013) patriot

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

Three chapbooks I have read lately and love are:

Anne Carson’s The Albertine Workout

Lydia Davis’ The Cows

H.D.’s Kora and Ka

What’s your chapbook about?

Patriot follows the movement of the mind amid geographies and relationships. It’s a road trip, of sorts, one that jumps not only between the past and the present, but also swerves among imaginative possibilities for ways of being in the world.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The poems came into being in one large collaborative rush. “Collaborative” meaning the poems are interlinked not in a linear fashion but in a laterally associative pattern. During a series of road trips I took several years ago, I made voice recordings as phrases and thoughts came to me while I was driving. Many months later, I found that in backing up my iPhone, I had saved the clips to iTunes. Listening to these small fragments, I heard the noise of the highway, various car noises, and the sound of my dog’s tags as I walked her at rest areas. Feeling this might be a productive bank of material, I took notes—dictation, really—from an earlier self, and the Patriot poems appeared.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual poems in the chapbook?

This part was easy—the poems and chapbook all have the same title. Ordering became a matter of figuring out how the content best worked in conversation and contrast. Did I want the echoes to be immediate, or drawn out? Ultimately, the repetition of the title turns into an incantation, which turns into a meditation. I liken it to being mesmerized on—or by—a long drive or train trip.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

The cover image is a double-exposure photo I took in Austin, of my dog, Chloe. I sent it, along with several other photos, to Forklift, Ink., and this is the one they chose. Basically, I sent them pieces, which they (Matt Hart, Eric Appleby, Tricia Suit & other amazing folks) turned into a beautiful chapbook. They are creative wizards.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on my third collection of poems, various short stories, and a personal essay. And I’m always taking photographs—or thinking about taking photographs.

What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?

What are your thoughts about the relationship between chapbooks and full-length collections of poems?

What themes and images “bridge” your work? Have you found that composing a chapbook alleviates these inclinations, or amplifies them?

I think the chapbook form works especially well for work invested in an intense examination of a theme (or themes), an inquiry that lends itself to fewer, instead of more, pages. A full-length collection of 70 poems, all titled “Patriot,” sounds horrifying to me. More space, a longer arc, might dilute the power of Patriot—its pulses of dissatisfaction, violence, and movement. Words on paper can contract many years into three bright breaths. Some books are meant to be small and immediate. This is one of them.

What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?

At one point I had more than twenty of these poems, and chose those I felt were the strongest. As poems near “completion,” I find they need space. I’ll work on them a couple times a week, shifting words here or there. Then I step back, let some time pass, and return to examine the effect of small changes (which can often be immense). Willing a poem to be done doesn’t work for me. I need distance to have a clearer perspective. But to answer the question: I revised them as a group.

What kinds of writing (comics, dictionaries, magazines, novels, etc.) that aren’t poetry help you to write poetry?

Luckily, nearly every kind of writing helps me write poems. Writing poems means you attend to language, and when you attend to language you can find gems—phrases as small as two or three words; strange juxtapositions—on any page or in any conversation. Movies also help.

Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook? Does your chapbook follow a clear arc?

I fully owe the existence of Patriot to Matt Hart, editor of Forklift, Ink., and Forklift, Ohio. We read together when he was teaching at UT Austin, and he thought the poems would work well in chapbook form. The poems are all now interspersed in my second book, Industry of Brief Distraction, recently out from Saturnalia Books.

What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?

For a writer, there’s no such thing as down time. The world is always hurling material before your eyes and under your feet. 

What inspires you? What gets you to the page?

I am both inspired to write and compelled to write by the love of discovery and the fear of wasting time.


Laurie Saurborn Young is the author of the poetry collections Carnavoria (H_NGM_N BKS) and Industry of Brief Distraction (Saturnalia Books), as well as a chapbook, Patriot (Forklift, Ink.). Her poems, fiction, essays, reviews and photographs have appeared in such publications as American Microreviews & Interviews, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, The American Reader, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, and Waxwing. A 2015 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship recipient, she teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin.


Mostly Americans, my friends are getting married
Again so I forswear to a bird this time.
But now I want a house along Blue Ribbon Avenue,
Where sloths are elastic because they feel safe.
Standing in one room they look at the bed in another room.
Everyone’s smarter than me: Yeah, I get it.
Still, down the long hall they did not walk.
So sing along the highway: This is America
Irreplaceable and yet
Unnecessary and yet loved.
Meanwhile, Fate is a city in Texas.
Far away those homes next to homes of men, yelling.
Season of black powder of wrenches rusting in the rain.
But is it true, one sign along the Arkansas
Highway: I love and miss you.
But is this America, still debating
Whether as a woman whether I am worth.
Our roads, imported from Spain.
Our telephone call, nearing ancient.
Within a room constructed of shut doors he reads
Pages back to her, his back to her.
Lines disintegrate and it is ever so late.
After she voted she took her body she took it back home.


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