with Deborah Rosch Eifert
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Deborah: I started writing as a teenager. I had a lot of chaos and trauma I was simultaneously burning to communicate and terrified to reveal, and I think the dynamic tension between those poles was part of the pull toward poetry. I was drawn to Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Frank O’ Hara, and Maxine Kumin because confessional/personal poetry gave me permission to write. Funnily enough, the Plath stuff I like today is what I did not like at all back then, and vice versa. And Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird – I must have read it 500 times in undergrad! I had a huge chronology gap in my writing life – I wrote in high school and college, mostly stopped for grad school and motherhood and early career, and then seriously restarted at age 55!
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Deborah: Rainer Maria Rilke, Carolyn Keyser, Amy Gerstler, Brigit Pegeen Kelley. Amongst contemporaries, I really admire Sally Rosen Kindred, Dayna Patterson, Jennifer Colella Martelli, Cheryl Savageau, Jason Grundstrom-Whitney, among others.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Deborah: I went to undergrad at Cleveland State University in the 1980’s before it had any big cred in poetry – the unofficial school motto in the early eighties was ‘CSU – We Don’t Suck as Much as You Think We Do.’ There was an undergrad poetry contest sponsored by the English Department (that apparently vanished for a time and is now coming back). I entered it, and got a first place, a poem published in Whiskey Island Quarterly (under a different name) and a prize that covered the cost of next semester’s books. I knew then I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to make an independent living, and so became a psychologist.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Deborah: In terms of craft, I have a ‘writing group of two’ with fellow poet and co-worker, Jason Grundstrom-Whitney; we run new pieces past each other all the time. I also have gotten some great consultation with Susan Grimm (2020 runner -up for the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Prize), who helped me feel confident enough to pull together a chapbook.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
Deborah: I grew up in New England, transplanted to Ohio for 35 years, then came back to New England, to Maine, five years ago. My sense of place is almost all New England – granite, pines, birches, the Atlantic, blueberry barrens. My poetry tends to swing between self and nature, psyche and landscape, each a part of the other, and the ocean and water figure hugely in my writing. That is why my chap title is Sewn from Water.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Deborah: That is really hard to say. I have poems I have written about experiencing and surviving domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse that are ultimately empowering, and that is important to me because I hope other women find strength there. However, I think a piece I just had appear in Feral (#9, the Space issue) called “History of My Relationship with My Reproductive Tract” has an emotional intensity and female power that startles me with crackles of meaning. Like – wow, did I write that? https://feralpoetry.net/issue-nine-the-space-issue/
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Deborah: Walking or hiking by the ocean; swimming – ditto, at the saltwater beaches. Trying to spot seals when I am by the shore – I joke that I may be a selkie, I adore the seals so! Reading poetry and fiction. Binge watching – lately, The Nevers; before that, The Magicians. Cooking, when I am in the right mood. Knitting, in the winter – but I am an absolute beginner, hats and scarves are my whole repertoire.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
This is from the last half of the last poem in Sewn from Water; the poem is “Queen of Dragonflies – Instructions”
When you see a dragonfly’s iridescent wings,
stay perfectly still
so that your voice is not silenced
by her sewing needle body
when she lands, trembling, on your mouth.
Prepare all day.
Pray all night.
Love the dust,
which is your ancestor.
Become the ocean
that lives within your skin.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Deborah: I have been writing a series “The Diagnosis Poems” about dealing as a couple with my husband’s serious medical problems, and I am going to try to organize that into a chapbook, or perhaps broaden it out to dealing with bodies and all their pesky and joyful realities.