Five Questions with Rebecca Wadlinger
Kirby Johnson: Your two pieces, “The Enthusiast” and “The Beautiful War” appear in our most recent issue of NANO Fiction, 7.2. Both pieces touch on themes of language (how we use it, how we change it) and technology (how we use it/don’t use it, how it changes everything around it). Are these common concerns in your larger body of work, or are these flashes part of a series you’re working on?
Rebecca Wadlinger: Language is essential. We are writers because we have a facility for language–it’s most of what I do. Technology sparks my interest as a means to bigger conversations. A lot of the time it’s about human connection or compassion or loneliness. If I think about technology too much, it scares me.
KJ: In “The Enthusiast,” you took the very writerly act of changing the titles of books (albeit into dirty phrases) and made it something fun and completely lacking the pretension. Is there any thing you do as a writer that is too embarrassing to admit through narrative or another form?
RW: Being a writer is excruciating enough. Isn’t it? We’re all here desperately caring about this act that is so personal, so crucial to us–here we are standing by the side of the road thinking about that first lyric page of Lolita for the thirty-thousandth time and the city bus pulls up beside us and releases its air brakes to make that hissing, aerosol sigh. We must do this to ourselves. Might as well entertain or engage others along the way.
KJ: Much of your work that can be found online is poetry. What is it like working in the flash form? How is writing flash different than the lineated poem?
RW: For me, prose is very different from lineated poems. The best way I can explain it (besides the obvious way each one lives on the page) is that I hear the difference when I write.
Occasionally I hear a lyric or voice-driven flash piece and think it could exist as a poem, or a very prosaic poem and think it could be flash. Genre is nebulous–but if the writer says “this is prose” and typesets it on the page as such, then it’s prose to me. I don’t worry about the categories too much.
Both are for pleasure and for making people think. That’s where it gets exciting.
KJ: Who are the writers (flash fiction or otherwise) that you most admire, and what qualities drew you to their work?
RW: I think of art and literature as a conversation that has been going on for a very long time. It reassures me that being a human is and has always been about: empathy, figuring things out, making mistakes, love, death, suffering, insatiability, being generally terrible, etc.
Voices that have spoken to me lately include Catullus, Sigbjørn Obstfelder, Etgar Keret, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dorthe Nors, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Mary Ruefle.
KJ: What else can we look forward to from you?
RW: I am finishing a poetry manuscript that I’ve been working on for years. It has a section of prose poems, which might interest your readers. I’ll keep you posted.
I also recently translated a fantastic book-length poem by the Norwegian writer Gro Dahle. It’s called A Hundred Thousand Hours (Ugly Duckling Presse) and it’s wild. The book has heart and teeth and a pulse.