An Interview with Julia Wendell

Julia Wendell’s work has appeared in TMR vol. 8.2, 12.2, and 19.1. Her new collection The Sorry Flowers was published in November 2009 by WordTech Communications.

Q: The Missouri Review first published your poem Fireside” in 1985. What is the biggest change in your interests as a writer since that time?

A: There have been a lot of joys and disappointments since then, and lots and lots of change. Since I’m a writer who writes from my own experiences, what is happening in my life affects my poems in a singular way. Back in 1985, I was rather freshly out of Iowa, still a publisher and teacher. At 54, I’m an equestrian athlete (specifically a three-day event rider) and am about as far away from the academy as possible. Somehow that seems to suit me. I draw life and energy and purpose from my horses, in much the same way that I do from my poems. Three-day eventing is as much about determination and bravery as poetry is about self-doubt and questioning, and somehow these oxymoronic elements in my life feed each other.

Q: What poets do you read frequently or particularly admire?

A: In a pinch, I’d say, Billy Collins, Louise Gluck, Mark Strand, Wordsworth, Keats, T.S. Eliot, and Milton are my favorite poets. They’re the ones whose poems I can read a thousand times and still find something illuminating and delightful on the 1001.

Q: In the last poem of your new collection, you wrote, “I want to fly on my new wings / I want to leave the barn and its longings.” Does that sentiment apply to you as a poet?

A: In much of The Sorry Flowers, the poet is hemmed in by sickness, depression, loss of her parents, conflicts in family life and life in general. There’s almost a claustrophobic feel as she confronts these issues, but I like to think that the poems open up a bit at the book’s end, offering resolutions and [an] escape from the self-consuming earlier poems. Life is change, and if we can change with it, then we can escape our boundaries and limitations as poets and as people and even identify with the natural world, [becoming] the young bird in the rafters.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: After finishing a memoir about my life as a three-day event rider called Finding my Distance, I’ve gone back to writing some poems and am enjoying a new narrative element that is infiltrating them, probably because I’ve spent the last five years writing all the way to the edge of the page. I would love to write more prose in the near future, and am waiting for the right spark.