Rickey Laurentiis Recommends...

“I take my cue from visual artists, who can spend an entire career consumed by a singular shape, or color, or a set of strokes, meticulously working through ‘the problem’ canvas by canvas with no or very little or only very subtle changes. Think of Rothko, as example. Think Glenn Ligon’s textual paintings. Think Jay DeFeo’s ‘The Rose.’ This is a way of saying that visual art taught me to trust my obsessions. First, that it was fine to have them, to be preoccupied or even haunted by them. Second, that it was perhaps even healthiest to admit that they do have presence. Lastly, that I could use these obsessions, again and again, in my work, reinterrogating their meanings and histories. This isn’t license to write the same poem ad infinitum—heaven forbid! But it is permission to allow myself the pleasure/burden of their company, of remaining alert to the handful of themes or topics or images that truly arrest me and don’t give way to easy conclusions. Desire; the fact of the (gendered) body; the dark; the assault of history; water; race; our failures and triumphs of the imagination: all these are subjects that will always be there spiraling in my head, and who knows why. They are ideas that I can at least remember are there at those anxious moments I’m willing to believe in a thing like ‘writer’s block.’ But writer’s block, simply speaking, doesn’t exist if one’s willing to look back at all she’s done and—realizing knowledge is always limited—thinks, ‘Nope, I need to try this again.’”
—Rickey Laurentiis, author of Boy With Thorn (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)