INTERVIEW WITH JULIA CARLSON
Write a Bio.
I was born in Winchester, Massachusetts. I have two brothers and a sister, a daughter and two
grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. I have a large extended international family.
I did Philosophy at Boston University as an undergrad and then Linguistics at a University in France.
Later on I got my Masters in Clinical Social Work from Boston University. My day job is Senior Clinician at a methadone
treatment program in Boston. Very interesting work. I plan on retiring to a villa on the Sicilian coast. Somehow.
Describe the room you write in.
I will write in any room or cafeteria or bar or park bench [and often do] as long as there isn't anyone I know in it.
I find people distracting, although I am not above people watching. I've never been able to understand how Henry Miller
could write the way he did, in a room full of people talking and drinking and screwing. If I'm at home, I will sometimes
put on music, but only instrumentals. If there are lyrics, forget it. Coltrane is good, so is Chet Baker. Sometimes when
I write I drink. That can be fun. At home I write on the computer, but if I'm out I write in pencil in a lined notebook.
I always carry a pencil sharpener with me.
Talk about your new chapbook, The Turn of the Century (Cloudkeeper Press, 2007).
I wanted to do a chapbook for a while and I put it on my list of things to do. It was one of my goals for 2007. I gave a
lot away and I sold a few.
Discuss the cover art for your chapbook:
The guy that did the cover is Karl Stevens; I love his comic, "Whatever", which is in the Boston Phoenix every week.
Well, first, I wrote him a fan letter, that was even before I had stuff together for the chapbook, which was then
published in the Phoenix. [Doug Holder was happy because I signed the letter as Editor from the Wilderness Lit.
Review, so it was free PR. Can't argue with that.] At first I didn't want any art on the cover, just the title.
But, powers greater [and more saavy] than I convinced me I should have artwork - so, Karl came to mind. Because
I was totally sure I would love anything he did. So, I emailed him and asked if he would draw me a gothic castle.
He quoted a price and I told him to go ahead. About a month later he showed up at my house with this awesome drawing.
He looks kinda like Buddy Holly, black hair and those thick black glasses. A very attractive young man. Why I asked
for a castle was a mystery to me - it just came to mind - until I saw the proof and reread the title poem, which has
references to vine-strangled fortresses and dungeons. Funny, Huh? It was totally unconscious.
Music is a big part of your life. How has this inspired your writing?
I love music and can't imagine not having music in my life. My earliest musical memory was my mother playing piano,
she could play a pretty mean double barreled boogie woogie. And her being a debutante from Toledo, Ohio! My Dad loved
music and I remember him blasting Bartok, Mozart, and others… The first record I ever bought was Joey Dee and the
Starlighters at the Peppermint Lounge. The Twist. In another life maybe I would have been a musician, but you know what,
not a rock star, I'm really not outrageous enough for that. I play the mandolin but I'm only a beginner. Music is something
I can't ignore- it is a universal language. If you can play music, you can communicate with anyone in any country in the world.
You'll never be lonely or bored!
You lived for a while in Nashville, TN. What was that experience like for you?
Living in Nashville made me face up to my Yankee heritage. It made me realize that in this country, people from the
Northeast are still pretty well hated, for a variety of reasons. And in Tennessee, the blood is in the ground, some are
still fighting the War of Northern Aggression, as it is called. They have not yet forgiven that. It made me realize that
people can take generations to get over being invaded, conquered, beaten. You see this all over our sad planet - Bosnia,
Darfur, Kosovo recently, Iraq, the European countries that were invaded during the 2nd World War, and so on and on and on.
The other thing I learned in Nashville is that there is nothing, but nothing, that soaks up alcohol at 3 AM like biscuits
and gravy. I had a writing gig covering the Nashville "new music" scene for SouthEast Performer - I was on the noon to 3 AM
work schedule and ended up in various all-night joints after shows…
What was the poetry scene like there?
I can't say I know what the scene was, but I'm sure there was one. Vanderbilt University is in Nashville, so there must be poets.
There was one guy, Michael Brown; he was the Poet-in-Residence at the Hume-Fogg High School (incidentally, the same High School
that Betty Page graduated from). I thought that was so cool, that a high school had a poet-in-residence. And his writing was
really good, at least I liked it! I used to read at one open-mike venue, it was at the Villager Tavern. There was always
dart-throwing or pool going on in the back, and a bunch of regulars at the bar, who weren't always glad to see you. So you
had to really speak up. It was a great experience.
For two years, you edited fiction for the Wilderness House Literary Review. You just recently resigned.
Discuss what editing was like for you and why after two years, you resigned.
I know it isn't because of the other editors because we all know each other very well.
I've known Irene Koronas, the Poetry Editor, since 1976. We met in a writing class; I was immediately impressed by her sassy
attitude and knew we would be friends! When I moved back to Boston from Nashville in 2005, she told me about these poet and
writer guys she was meeting with on Saturdays. So after hearing about that for a few months, I showed up. I was thinking, gee,
maybe I'll meet a boyfriend! I didn't, but I met some really cool people. At the first meeting I was introduced to Doug Holder,
Steve Glines, Tomas O'Leary, Harris Gardner, I think Affa Michael Weaver was there, Walter Howard…. It was very lively.
I remember that I read Anorexia - at that time people were bringing poems to read. Later on I met Gloria Mindock, Lo Gallucio,
Ann Carhart, Molly Watt, Barbara Thomas, Debra Priestly, Martha (what's her last name?). Shortly after I started going, the topic
was this new start-up literary review and Doug and Steve started going around the table asking who wanted to get involved -
I remember Steve saying to me, do you want to be the fiction editor? So I said, uh, OK. It was a leap of faith on their part
because they didn't even know me!
Being an editor was really interesting - because I got to see what other people were writing. I liked being able to read
something and let the person know it would be accepted. I liked the idea that I could have some influence, albeit very minor,
about someone getting into print.
I really wanted to find more time to work on my own writing in the last year and had been thinking about resigning for the past
6 months, but I only got around to it at the end of the year. Once I picked the winner for the Chekhov Contest that was it.
Steve was fabulous to work with, very professional and mellow, and the new fiction editor, Tim Gager, is, I think, particularly
well suited and will do a great job.
What are you working on now?
I'm putting together a second chapbook, which I want to publish in the next few months, and then a book. I find time to write a
murder ballad here and there. But my main objective is to write every day. That's my dream life, where I would actually have
time to do that.
You are part of a writing community in the area called Bagel Bards. Talk about the importance of this community of
writers for you.
What a group! Bright and shiny poets and writers! I find it very stimulating to listen to their conversation and
comments. I feel so lucky to know any and all of them, and I have been so impressed by the commitment they show to
their art. It ain't easy. You know, many people think poets are just wacked-out lunatics! Or weirdo-depressives!
I am here to tell you otherwise - without poets, language is only a dim ordinary sliver on our tongues. Poetry sings
the pain and the pleasure of our world and everything in it. And especially of the
grit that gets stuck in our eyes…
Any last comments?
Shit, ain't I said enough already?!?