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INTERVIEW WITH DIANE WALD

First write a bio about yourself.

The poetry stuff is easy to look up, so I'll tell you about my "real" life. I grew up in northern New Jersey, not far from New York City. After my mother moved last year, the small white house where my brother and I grew up was sold, razed, and replaced by a monster mansion---not exactly progress. I have no plans to go back there and see it, though, so my childhood is still alive and well in my mind. My brother (my only sibling), by the way, is an amazing artist---and ridiculously unknown, partly through his own choice. I attended Catholic schools for 12 years, but the Catholicism didn't stick and eventually turned me rabidly against itself. I've always loved to write, even when I was a kid. For a while I studied classical guitar. I also went to undergrad school in NJ, but got my MFA many years later from U. Mass. Amherst. I've lived in Massachusetts since the mid-70s and now live outside of Boston with my husband and four brilliant cats. I am pining for a German Shepherd. I am pining for a couple of llamas. I really connect with animals and finally escaped academia four years ago (I think you could have called me a successful misfit) to work full-time writing for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It's heaven to be around "animal people" all day after spending so many years in schools. What a refreshing difference. I know there are some great people working in academia---I applaud them for surviving in what I found to be largely a fake and competitive environment. I don't mean to offend anyone; that's just been my experience.

Describe the space you write in.

That would be everywhere, since I frequently jot things down when they happen. No, I know, you mean in my house or office. I have more or less usurped the very small porch-like space on the back of our house where my husband and I have our "main" computer. I write on the computer pretty much all the time---I like the speed of it. This non-room is very small and uncluttered, unlike my actual study, which is hilariously unkempt and full of cat stuff and books and clothes and millions of pieces of paper. The computer nook has four big windows with funky curtains and can be closed off from the rest of the house. We call our house "Spoonrest," by the way. We were looking for a funny Masterpiece-Theatre-type name for it. It's a great old frowzy house in a very rural setting, but still close enough to Boston. Spoonrests have always fascinated me and I like the sound of the word. They've made their way into some of my poems.

Talk about your book, The Yellow Hotel, published by Verse Press.

Sometimes I pick up The Yellow Hotel and it feels as if it just came out, although it's over two years old already. I still feel close to those poems, which is unusual for me---I usually move along rather rapidly in terms of which of my own poems still speak for me. It also feels like my "only" book, although it's not. The people who run Verse Press are exactly the kind of people I needed to have publish that book---talented and smart and genuine and dear. Also not pompous, which is probably more important to me than anything. I got a lot of great feedback on that book, which lifted my spirits a lot. I had just been through a sickening job fiasco in which a low-residency MFA program I designed, and which I'd been promised the directorship of, was pulled out from under me by an unscrupulous, lying administrator. (I won't name the university, but it's in Cambridge, begins with L, and rhymes with Wesley---ha!) So getting that particular manuscript into print meant the world to me then. Still does.

What inspires you to write?

Shiny details, snippets of conversations, images from dreams, textures of feelings that need to be named. Nuance. Injustice. Music. Lots of art. Body feelings. Also major life shifts in mood or approach. Sudden realizations. The news. Other people's writing. I never know what it will be.

Your husband Carey is also a writer. Talk about that some.

Carey (P. Carey Reid) is a wonderful writer---fiction now, although he's done lots of poetry in his life. His first book, Swimming in the Starry River, put him on a lot of people's favorite writer list. Years after its publication, it's still being read by enthusiastic book groups. Carey is a very disciplined, hard-working writer, while I'm a sort of hit-or-miss type. This allows one of us to be available at all time to feed the cats. We actually met when he came to a poetry reading I was doing---to see the other reader! Carey is trying to place some excellent manuscripts now. Our writing styles are as vastly different as our methods, although I think after all these years we've each come to appreciate more of the other person's approach. While we frequently don't agree on what's good, we usually agree on what's bad, especially in fiction. If I put a book down because it's poorly written, I usually find that Carey's already rejected it. Carey's also a marvelous photographer, and is just beginning to get noticed for that a bit. Our house is full of his pictures.

What are you working on now?

As always, more poems. I'm not much of a "project" person. A couple of weeks ago I wrote some very short poems for a change, but now most of my new work is longer again. A few specifically political poems, surprisingly. Or maybe not surprisingly---our country is in such a sad state that it's almost impossible not to write about it. The political poems are angry. The current administration just begs to be written about---I'm deeply offended by George Bush and every mirror he's ever looked in. I have a new book manuscript that's looking for a home. There are no overtly political poems in that, only because they didn't fit. The political ones might get grouped together some day---or maybe they'd be better on a CD. I like reading them aloud and hearing the audience react.


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