A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Laura Grevel

photo by Andrew Lee

with Laura Grevel:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Laura: I started writing when I was 17, mostly essays. My first influences were my storytelling grandparents, the books I read, nature, and the visual arts. I loved to listen to people tell stories. I loved to read—fiction, essays, poetry, mysteries. I loved plants and flowers and parks and west Texas and Mexico. I loved the paintings and sculpture of my parents and their artist friends.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Laura: My biggest influences today are my many poetry friends in the East Midlands, UK, and my two poetry workshop groups, Write The Poem and the Paper Cranes Collective. During the pandemic, Zoom Open Mics have also given me exposure to many poets from all over. Hearing these various poets read their work aloud and reading their poetry books and blogs give me new food for thought. I also read various famous poets, both dead and alive.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Laura:

I grew up in Austin, Texas, which was a creative, open-minded city where artists were celebrated.  Visual artists, musicians, writers.  That has certainly given me validity even if I lacked confidence.  I was a late bloomer.  I was afraid partly because my parents had a hard time making a living at art and thus, I shied away from going into it with full passion.

I have also been influenced by the lovely natural environment of Austin with its parks and creeks and river, and the agricultural background of my grandparents, with the rougher yet spiritual space and openness of West Texas.  Nature is an important part of my world.

My travels have influenced me –not that I traveled on many individual trips –but my moves to different places.  The Washington, D.C. area, several areas in Texas, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and central England.  These places, and the people I have met, have deeply influenced my worldview, my compassion, my word treasure chest by various languages, and made me an immigrant, which is a different place and time.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

Laura: My novels are my most intricate work, and are set in different countries and cultures of Texas, Mexico, and Austria.
My poetry performance pieces can help people feel a connection to others and may inspire people to think in a new way.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Laura: When I was 17, I told my English professor I’d like to be a writer. He said I already sculpted language as my father sculpted clay. (I took what he said as permission but it was the feeling the act of writing gave me, that propelled me.)

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Laura: I love to take long walks, to ride bikes with family, to garden, to work in the woods cutting down nettles and brambles around young trees to give them light to grow.
I love to read books, to practice foreign languages I’ve learned in the various countries I have lived in. Lately, with my husband, I am reading aloud youth books in German to improve that language.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Laura: Here’s a YouTube link to my latest collaborative poetry video and others:

“Girl Walking Across Europe” by Poets For Refugees:

Abuela Solar (Solar Grandmother):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRZnXo238so&t=121s

The Wedding Dress:

Fevers of the Mind #Stopthehate poems: https://feversofthemind.com/2021/06/11/stopthehate-poems-by-laura-grevel-texas-freeze-over-people-are-looking/

Laura Grevel:

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx1dH7vxwIljVxPd8fs_9xQ

Blog:  https://lgrevel.wordpress.com/

Website:  http://lgrevel.org/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/LauraGrevel/

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Laura:

Wallace Stevens’ lines from the poem The Man With the Blue Guitar:

They said, “You have a blue guitar,

You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are

Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And they said then, “But play, you must,

A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar

Of things exactly as they are.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Laura: My husband Joachim is my biggest fan and listener through the years.  My poet and writer friends in the East Midlands, UK, and at Open Mics and poetry groups have been helping me grow and grow.  Thanks especially to Sue Allen and Alexandra Coates for their input and encouragement.

#stopthehate poems by Laura Grevel : Texas Freeze Over & People are Looking

Night, Snow, Frost, Cold, Trees
Texas Freeze Over—February 16, 2021

On that freezing eve in a winter storm, where nothing was the norm,
eighteen-year-old Rodney Reese was walking home down a Plano street.
He’d finished his shift at Walmart, groceries in hand,
still had a good ways to go, slipping and stumbling in ice and snow,
still had a good ways to go, when they showed up and slowed.

He heard the shout, saw the colors of the car,
felt a shiver run over his memory wars:
remembered what happened to
George Floyd in Minnesota,
Eric Garner in New York,
Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia,
Daniel Prude in New York.

Did the cops remember the truth as they told him to stop?
That they’d been sent to make a wellness check?
Not to be a pain in the friggin’ neck?
That the state was now a disaster zone
of ice and snow, bodies freezing in homes?
Did they remember that he was a man?
That warnings were given by the weathermen?
That warnings were shouted by the BLM?

They asked him to stop; he sweated and labored on.
If only he could get home or where someone could see what was going on.
He peered resolute through the snow, through the dark, and he prayed.

“Where you going, son?” 
“I’m going home.”
“Why you walkin’ in the road?”
“Sidewalk’s icy, man.”
“Where you goin’?  You need a ride.”
“I’m goin’ home.  Don’t touch me!”
The cops get out, come close.
“Why don’t you stop?  We want to talk.”
“Don’t touch me, man!”
They grab his arms, cuff him.  “This is an investigation!”

So though it makes no sense to anyone with a few cells of gray,
they charged him for walking home—charged him with being a pedestrian in a roadway.
He spent the night in jail, managed to keep his heart from fail, managed to keep from other travail.
Next day the police chief let him go, said they should ‘a’ taken him home,
didn’t know what was in those cops minds, was it race?  The chief couldn’t say.

Rodney, when asked later why he didn’t want to stop for the cops, said,
“I seen all this stuff with George Floyd.
It hurts, man.”


People Are Looking

They just keep killing black men—
these self-appointed vigilantes and cops—killing
men jogging down the street like Ahmaud Arbery
or men coming out of a shop like George Floyd
and the BLM started marching
and the Trump response
sent an Armageddon of armored cops and henchmen
to attack people who were not armored
who were protesting the murders of black men.
A Star Wars attack on regular people,
and the protesters march wearing Covid masks,
march those streets, through smoke and tear gas,
and the robotic cops bear down bear down brutalize
and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces
because I seem to have missed something.

1968
I am seven.  I walk into a church in East Austin
with my mother, brother, sister.
Moselle who cleans our house and takes care of us kids
invited us to her daughter’s wedding.  And when we walk in
and walk down the aisle and sit down, my heart
begins to thud because people are looking, then not looking, at us.
We are the only white people there.

1988
I am 27.  I walk into a church for the wedding of
Sara.   She is a friend, a co-worker,
a fellow accountant at the State Auditor’s Office.
And when I walk in and walk down the aisle
and sit down, my heart begins to thud
because something is similar, something is wrong,
people are looking, then people are not looking, at us.
We are the only white people there.

2020
And my mind races to find the puzzle pieces
as a despot’s robot army marches on people
who are protesting the murders of men—
murders because of the color of their skin.
An obscene scene of spleen sent by
a President who is more mean than man,
sending a smokescreen to make a show
that is the only way he knows.
And my heart thuds and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces:
1968, 1988, 2020,
and I look back and ask

Sara, where were the other people from the office?
Why did none of them come to your wedding?
During workdays, we all worked together.
During lunches, we ate out together.
During out-of-town audits, we travelled together.

My God, Sara, I remember back then
I heard one or two excuses
busy, kids . . . but most had no kids—
most of our co-workers were single, and white.

Oh, Sara, how blind have I been?

Bio for Laura Grevel
Laura Grevel is an immigrant, poet, fiction writer and blogger. Originally from Texas, she has lived in Europe for 21 years. Her work is eclectic, tackling the immigrant experience, narratives, politics, nature, and character sketches. Her latest collaborative YouTube video is called “Girl Walking Across Europe” by Poets For Refugees.

Poetry by Laura Grevel





Poems by Laura Grevel:

Texas Freeze Over—February 16, 2021
On that freezing eve in a winter storm, where nothing was the norm,
eighteen-year-old Rodney Reese was walking home down a Plano street.
He’d finished his shift at Walmart, groceries in hand,
still had a good ways to go, slipping and stumbling in ice and snow,
still had a good ways to go, when they showed up and slowed.

He heard the shout, saw the colors of the car,
felt a shiver run over his memory wars:
remembered what happened to
George Floyd in Minnesota,
Eric Garner in New York,
Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia,
Daniel Prude in New York.

Did the cops remember the truth as they told him to stop?
That they’d been sent to make a wellness check?
Not to be a pain in the friggin’ neck?
That the state was now a disaster zone
of ice and snow, bodies freezing in homes?
Did they remember that he was a man?
That warnings were given by the weathermen?
That warnings were shouted by the BLM?

They asked him to stop; he sweated and labored on.
If only he could get home or where someone could see what was going on.
He peered resolute through the snow, through the dark, and he prayed.

“Where you going, son?” 
“I’m going home.”
“Why you walkin’ in the road?”
“Sidewalk’s icy, man.”
“Where you goin’?  You need a ride.”
“I’m goin’ home.  Don’t touch me!”
The cops get out, come close.
“Why don’t you stop?  We want to talk.”
“Don’t touch me, man!”
They grab his arms, cuff him.  “This is an investigation!”

So though it makes no sense to anyone with a few cells of gray,
they charged him for walking home—charged him with being a pedestrian in a roadway.
He spent the night in jail, managed to keep his heart from fail, managed to keep from other travail.
Next day the police chief let him go, said they should ‘a’ taken him home,
didn’t know what was in those cops minds, was it race?  The chief couldn’t say.

Rodney, when asked later why he didn’t want to stop for the cops, said,
“I seen all this stuff with George Floyd.
It hurts, man.”

People Are Looking

They just keep killing black men—
these self-appointed vigilantes and cops—killing
men jogging down the street like Ahmaud Arbery
or men coming out of a shop like George Floyd
and the BLM started marching
and the Trump response
sent an Armageddon of armored cops and henchmen
to attack people who were not armored
who were protesting the murders of black men.
A Star Wars attack on regular people,
and the protesters march wearing Covid masks,
march those streets, through smoke and tear gas,
and the robotic cops bear down bear down brutalize
and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces
because I seem to have missed something.

1968
I am seven.  I walk into a church in East Austin
with my mother, brother, sister.
Moselle who cleans our house and takes care of us kids
invited us to her daughter’s wedding.  And when we walk in
and walk down the aisle and sit down, my heart
begins to thud because people are looking, then not looking, at us.
We are the only white people there.

1988
I am 27.  I walk into a church for the wedding of
Sara.   She is a friend, a co-worker,
a fellow accountant at the State Auditor’s Office.
And when I walk in and walk down the aisle
and sit down, my heart begins to thud
because something is similar, something is wrong,
people are looking, then people are not looking, at us.
We are the only white people there.

2020
And my mind races to find the puzzle pieces
as a despot’s robot army marches on people
who are protesting the murders of men—
murders because of the color of their skin.
An obscene scene of spleen sent by
a President who is more mean than man,
sending a smokescreen to make a show
that is the only way he knows.
And my heart thuds and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces:
1968, 1988, 2020,
and I look back and ask

Sara, where were the other people from the office?
Why did none of them come to your wedding?
During workdays, we all worked together.
During lunches, we ate out together.
During out-of-town audits, we travelled together.

My God, Sara, I remember back then
I heard one or two excuses
busy, kids . . . but most had no kids—
most of our co-workers were single, and white.

Oh, Sara, how blind have I been?