Eireann Lorsung is a writer from Minneapolis who not only helps to co-ordinate the Nottingham Poetry Series, but also teaches workshops in conjunction with it. Her first book, Music for Landing Planes, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2007 and she currently has a second book pending, also to be published by Milkweed. She was recently a recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and a finalist for an SLS fellowship in poetry.
What is the Nottingham Poetry Series?
It is simply a series of poetry events that take place in Nottingham. Yet to me it is a place to have the kind of experience that I had with poetry back home, which is not what I found upon coming here. I found a great variety of poetic experience here, so I wanted to create something that would complement the scene in Nottingham.
What do you feel the series has to offer someone who is interested in poetry?
There are three things that the series can offer. This first, is a series of readings which are designed to involve one invited reader and two readers who are juried from a pool of our submissions. The second way to get involved is to take part in one of the workshops. They are basically an intensive time with other writers and it gives you the opportunity to be together in a community and to think deeply about one facet of your writing. Yet at the same time some of the workshops have been more generative, meaning you sit there and make lots of work together. The third thing the Nottingham Poetry Series can offer you are occasional events, for example last summer we held a four-day poetry conference.
What is the experience of giving the workshops like for you?
It is exhilarating and totally exhausting. I love teaching and I love the people who come to the workshops, because they really invest their time in it. They are so committed and they work so hard and it is really inspiring to me as a teacher and as a writer.
What originally sparked your interest in poetry?
My first engagement with poetry was through my parents, as they would read me poems. I started writing poetry at school when I was very little, as well. I think the first poem I wrote was when I was seven and my dad made photocopies (which was a big deal back then) and he hung the poem up above his workbench in the basement. So that was a really good feeling, that was probably the first big push.
You have lived in several different locations during your life, how much do you think living in several places has influenced your poetry?
Well, for one thing, it has taught me a lot about being a stranger, being an outsider, being a foreigner, not being part of the place where I am; and that has taught me a couple of things. It has taught me about grace and being gracious, being welcoming, which I think is an important part of anyone’s poetry. As it makes you think about how to welcome someone into it, and it has also taught me how to be careful and to have very quick observations. I have to learn a lot about the places I go because all of the systems are strange to me; nothing can be taken for granted. But it has also given me many different vocabularies: for example there are words that we use in the UK for things that they never use in the US. And of course there is just the experience of travel. When you go on long distance journeys, you have time to think, and that inevitably ends up feeding your writing as well.
Do you have any advice for aspiring poets?
Yeah; be honest, be brave, observe everything, learn everything, never stop looking, never stop reading, listen to the people around you, know the particularities of things, fall in love with the world, be impassioned and care about things.