Kathleen Ossip’s newest collection The Do-Over begins in acrostic. “Relating to her is what keeps me alive,” reads the first poem, which uses the letters of the name of her departed friend. The Do-Over is, unapologetically, a book of loss, and its subject is intentionally real. The dedication reads “For Andrea Forster Ossip (1944-2008). Andy was my stepmother-in-law.” We note the clearly delineated relationship, nothing assumed or obscured.
At odds with register, The Do-Over is at its core an argument. For what, and for what reason, is yet to be determined. But its ethos is true: there must be an investigation; the harshness of the experience demands it.As she discusses in this interview, The Do-Over has the arc of a novel and yet resists a narrative lyric, turn after turn. Grief is a splintered reality as Ossip hurtles through form, genre, nostalgia, deception, and abstraction in this mapping of an overhauled mysticism. Its speaker, Ossip, must be trusted. She’s Virgil and the widening hell is made possible as we follow her through. The Do-Over is stark and architectural. Variform, clean, bitter, and bright. Her wondering is stilted at times, and stubborn: “The problem is how to remain. / Words are no doorstep whatsoever / for the orphaned and penniless. / The hop to the shed / is driven by wanting / to fill the wreck with delights reordering.”
Much hinges on her insistent title: The Do-Over a clever nod to the kind of ideation that’s unwelcome here. Her strangeness has no concern for edification: “It’s not as bad as you think, / making out with a corpse.” She speaks of “an infinity of do-overs,” and for whom does she want them? Is the book a do-over of the dead’s life? Is it a do-over of the one who has lost? Perhaps a do-over of the sadness itself, an indulged, tortured repeating, a desire to reenter the past met with the impotent nightmare of memory. “Do we wait for a plain statement of theme?” she begs, “Do we leave, shocked, the vigil?” The Do-Over reads like an elastic diary of the perverse, selfish questions that the living have for the dead. “How do you stay in heaven?” she writes, “Is it a kind of sophisticated rewind?...Also, who builds the houses and the buildings?” Over several weeks, I discussed this startling, blue book with Ossip, with whom I’ve entertained a yearlong email correspondence though we have yet to meet in person. “Silence has a way of making you want to fill it,” she muses. Unafraid, she populates the dark.
Molly Rose Quinn (Rail): I’ve been very consumed attempting to compare The Cold War against The Do-Over. Both are enduringly taut, yet with sprawling subjects. Both exemplify what Derek Walcott described as “the poetry of nerves” when writing about your first book, The Search Engine. But whereas The Cold War takes as its challenge national, cultural crises, The Do-Over is strikingly more personal, more depressive, and more luminous. The Do-Over is a grief book, a death book: which is, maddeningly, a subject specific and broad, both in writing and in life. I think I’ve decided that the two books are dramatically different. So I want to start with a vague question: In your mind, where did The Cold War leave off, and what did you desire to tackle with this book that perhaps you did not before? Did the work on The Cold War lead you to The Do-Over, or not at all, how are they alike and similar in your mind? Did your evolution from The Cold War to The Do-Over have a clear projection, in your head, or did they simply occur?
Ossip: In terms of content, I agree with you that The Cold War and The Do-Over are very different. The Cold War is indeed “about” (I always use irony quotes around the word “about” as applied to poetry, but for these two books I think it’s valid and necessary) big national themes of anxiety, paranoia, repression, violence—although I happen to feel these ideas are also very personal. The Do-Over is, quite simply, “about” death—specifically, it was the dying and death of the character called A. in the book (in real life, my stepmother-in-law, who was also a beloved friend) that made it feel urgent for me to explore death—what it means, how it feels, how we react and respond to it.
In terms of strategy, method, and structure, I think that the two books are very similar. This is in contrast to my first book, The Search Engine, which like many first books is a relatively unruly collection. (My friend Roddy Lumsden says that a first book is often the first 40 good poems a poet writes—I’m not sure there are actually 40 in The Search Engine, and I’m not convinced they’re all good.) When I began to write the poems in The Cold War, the themes and content took hold of me, obsessed me, and pretty early on I knew I was writing a book, as opposed to individual poems, about those themes. I felt the book’s structure and I knew what content and what forms (introductory poems in each section, sequences, verse play, quasi-essay, etc.). I’d need in each section to give the book the shape and heft it needed. Then came the writing of the pieces I’d envisioned; the process felt like a deliberate, sustained application of my attention, craft, and energy onto these themes, memories, and emotions.
The same process happened with The Do-Over—there was death, confronting me in a personal way, in the context of the culture we all live in, which is drenched in death, death-desire, and death-horror. And again, I saw or felt the different facets of the exploration that would happen, more or less outlined in sections. In The Do-Over, the exploration has a chronological backbone, as it follows A.’s story, and there are sub-themes that had to be brought in, as they related to death: the cultural landscape, patriarchal politics, the afterlife, the curiously light and empty sensations of the aftermath of mourning.
My aspiration with both books was to create a novelistic experience. I like reading novels but since I’m a poet, I had to create that experience of an arc or sustained narrative with poems. But they had to be the kind of poems I like to write, which usually do not narrate a story in a straightforward, transparent, or what I see as unrealistically simplified way. There’s a protagonist (the speaker, me) undergoing a specific journey through a specific set of dynamically changing circumstances. I wanted to cram as much life and language as I could into these novel-like experiences.
In both books, I had the aim to be as clear and direct as possible, again as opposed to The Search Engine where the poems rely a lot on joyful jazzing around with words. After The Search Engine, an interviewer asked me, in the sweetest way, “Why don’t you just say what you mean?” She was sort of joking but the question shocked me, because I hadn’t realized I wasn’t saying what I meant. The following two books felt more urgent in their communications, and I had in mind that I did want to try to be more clear and direct. Unfortunately or not, I don’t find life or my response to it very clear and direct at all, so the tension between wanting to be accurate and complete, on one hand, and wanting to clearly communicate, on the other, won’t go away, it seems.
Rail: The Do-Over entertains a sensation that fascinates me: the conflation of grief and death, an association frequent in both literature and theology. The Do-Over seems to ask: What does spiritual transcendence have in common with the experience of sadness? There are times I stopped and thought “does she mean death, or does she mean grief,” especially in the moving and very successful “What is Death,” which states, “Death is something you can add to every day.” Grief and death are both transcendent and mundane—and The Do-Over is often concerned with transcendence and the everyday, in particular the responsibility (or lack thereof?) of poetry to connect the two. Was this something that you thought about while writing, or while in the thick of your loss?
Ossip: For me, the thick of loss is blunt and wordless. The understanding comes in the writing if at all, which is why I need writing, to know how to live. I’d never thought about the conflation of grief and death in that particular way, but I did feel I had to earn the right to elegy: Was it possible to write about A. and her life and death or would I end up writing about me and my own grief? Was that pure narcissism, and if so, where did that leave me, since all I really had and all I really knew intimately was my own response and perceptions? Which is kind of the bedrock of poetry. Ultimately I decided that the voice of the bereaved is also part of the story of a death, and the only part that living readers can really know and share.
Rail: There is, on the one hand, the absence itself, simple, blunt as you say, and then also an intellectual grappling, a surreal, felt desire to understand what you can’t—the unknowable quality of the dead. There is in some instances a feverish, hallucinatory mode of acute depression. In the poem “What is Death,” you write “when death comes it is big and tastes like the beach.” And later on “the dread of severance, a suspension, a caper.” This poem, which has a searching, agitated voice, occupies the hearty, hyperreal town of Hartsdale, New York. What do you mean when you say “big and tastes like the beach,” and whose experience is that? And secondly, does “the dread of severance” come from another text, or is that your phrase? I looked it up and found a strange source.
Ossip: “A surreal, felt desire to understand what you can’t” pretty much sums up my response to being alive—and that includes witnessing death. I don’t think I’m at all alone in this! “Big and tastes like the beach” is simply a fumbling attempt to answer the question asked by the poem’s title (“What is Death”—which itself fumbles, with its lack of punctuation). The whole poem, like all poems, is a stab at saying the unsayable and knowing the unknowable. To say death is big is both a plain statement of fact and pitifully inarticulate. “Tastes like the beach” actually refers to a shared experience, shared by A. and “the speaker” (me; in real life it was also shared by others not in the poem), the trip to the Jersey Shore mentioned later on in the poem, A.’s last trip.
“Dread of severance” is my wording, as far as I know; it’s an alternative way of saying “separation anxiety.” I just Googled and came up with the same weird source you did, which I’d never seen before—again, as far as I know. It’s a fair question, because I do collect little bits of language that I find appealing for whatever reason, and I like slipping them into poems; it feels satisfyingly frugal to recycle in this way, and it also lets the world in and so reflects reality. All language is borrowed language, one way or another! I feel it’s good form to acknowledge sources and I try to do that in the Borrowings note at the back of the book.
Rail: The study of Sylvia Plath is an interesting example of what I am referring to in the above question, which I think is why she is an important part of The Do-Over (where she appears as both a character and an influence). In my opinion, it’s impossible to read Plath without the framework of her death, its actuality, no matter how much one might want to. And hers being the poetry of death and depression makes this all the more murky. How do you experience someone’s death without flattening their life? Maybe you can’t. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Plath’s life and work and its importance to The Do-Over, in particular your poem “‘No use’” and the line: “This is the difference between being forgotten and trying to forget. The survivor tries to forget. She can no longer act in the interest of the one who’s gone / and my writing this is no use (“No use!” screams the corpse) and not in the interest of you.”
Ossip: I agree that it’s impossible to read Plath’s writing apart from our knowledge of her life and death. I also think that even if such a thing were possible, it wouldn’t be desirable. We, or at least I, don’t experience anything in compartments. Her life, her death, her poems, her fiction, her journals, her photos, her biographies, etc., etc., all blend to make our very rich, endlessly fascinating experience of her—her gift to us. I think readers know this intuitively, I’m sure poets do—it seems like only critics and theorists want to separate out “the work” in some pseudo-pure way! Which does have its uses but which feels false to me.
I didn’t set out to make Plath the muse of The Do-Over, but she’s a natural to be present in this book about death and about the intensity of experience. She’s called out a number of times (for example, “Ghost Moon” is a rewrite of her “The Moon and the Yew Tree”) and the long poem “Lyric” that closes section one, was written from my desire to see whether I could make her histrionic, ironic, but deadly sincere tone work in the 21st century.
“No use” is a prose poem that started out trying to be an essay. I discovered the letter by Aurelia Plath, mentioned in the poem, in the Lilly Library in Indiana, where a Sylvia Plath archive is maintained. I had not seen this letter mentioned in any of the Plath biographies (and believe me, I’ve read them all) and I felt like a real scholar-sleuth! And I wanted to put it into public awareness in the form of an essay, but I was only able to manage this poem-like thing. The letter, which was never sent because Aurelia felt it was “no use” to send it once her daughter had died, seemed to crystalize a certain sense of hopelessness and finality that happens after the death of someone you love. There is no rewind, no do-over. To go on living, to continue to be involved in the world of the living is actually a betrayal of the person who’s no longer part of that world. It’s a necessary betrayal, but it’s not a comfortable one.
Rail: In “No use,” you write “Thanks to her habit of journal-keeping and her resolve to memorialize her experience in writing, Sylvia forgot nothing.” I wonder often if all writing is an act of nostalgia, and if all nostalgia is reductive, inaccurate, maybe violent. After “No Use,” you have “Three Short Lyrics,” jumpy, brief poems, which contain the line “That golden haze of retrospect.” Was accuracy of events and details important to you in this book? Later in the book, a poem called “One Short Lyric” reads, in entirety “Expectation lingers / just like a memory.” Did you worry over the expectation of the living individuals who were a part of this book and its events?
Ossip: I can’t say that factual accuracy of that kind was so much important to me as it was useful—if the actual events and details worked, great—I didn’t need to invent them. In only three poems in the book was my strategy to tell exactly what happened. “Three True Stories,” whose title speaks for itself, recounts three narratives that were so personally significant to me that I had to put them out there unadorned. I wanted to assert that these three death-themed anecdotes did in fact really happen, and the aghast tone is my actual response. And in “The Millipede,” I wanted to memorialize that crazy hike on that beautiful summer day as a kind of valentine/souvenir to the cast of characters: my sister, who’s one of my favorite people in the world, and the three kids I adore, my daughter, her son, and my brother’s daughter, who are rapidly growing up. Maybe the poem is my version of scrapbooking!
Finally, “A. in September” was the last poem I wrote for the book, and I added it at the last moment because it seemed to me that The Do-Over needed a final goodbye to A. I wanted to capture the sensation many of us may feel when we realize that we’ve incorporated into ourselves some part of the essence of someone who’s gone. I remember the exact moment I felt that sensation and I wanted to be precise about it—because it was such an odd but very clear feeling, almost physical. So the details are true: I was driving, thinking about becoming a baby cuddler, etc.
Much more important to me than the facts, usually, is emotional accuracy, so important that I can almost taste it when I get it right.
Rail: “Three Short Lyrics” also has the line “(Sentimentality: defense against mourning: changes bitter to sweet.),” which seems, even syntactically, to resist interpretation as either a defense or critique of sentimentality. The Do-Over is not sentimental overall, but it is, perhaps, investigative of sentiment. A lot of literary criticism seems to treat sentimentality as something that is or isn’t in a piece of writing. Can you talk about your punctuation in the line above, and your impetus here?
Ossip: Sentimentality is bogus emotion, and I was taught as a writer to shun it. I am someone who has big feelings, though, and I walk a thin line in trying to write about them. Real feelings are hard to process, hard to face. Writing about death made me wonder about sentimentality, and one of the thoughts I had was that sentimentality works to defuse even the most painful or confusing experiences, and that’s its reason and its function. As for the punctuation, the colons are just my way of avoiding “be” verbs, which are a weakness of mine.
Rail: “Words for a Newborn” is a strange, directive poem, of three-line stanzas in cascading indents. You write, “You already know that participation / doesn’t always equalize power. / There is much disagreement / about the importance of you…” and refer several times to “performance,” including “This performance will fill eighty years / or more.” Could you talk about the “speaker” of this poem, its tone, and its shape?
Ossip: The speaker throughout the book is me. I don’t feel the need to put any distance between the speaker and myself, and all my efforts are aimed at recording my own emotional journey. The speaker of a poem, like a human being, uses language in a variety of ways, a variety of registers, and steals or borrows all the time. The tone of “Words for a Newborn” is a result of my trying to sidestep sentimentality when writing about a potentially sentimental subject, and to achieve this I thought I might borrow some language from the book Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder, which is an account of the birth of a new personal computer in the early days of personal computers. I figured that substituting a computer for a baby was sure to drain some of the sentimentality out of the poem! To be honest, I wrote the poem at a time when I was trying to clear some bookshelf space and Soul of a New Machine got put into the discard pile. I didn’t feel good about giving it away, but I was in a ruthless mood to purge, and I figured that using it for a poem was a way of giving it away but keeping it too.
Continuing to be perfectly honest, I struggled with the form for this one. The stanzas felt inert and the indents were a way of making them more lively.
Rail: Did you at all struggle with the specter of others who write about loss? Did you find it intimidating to consider the canons of texts that deal with spirituality, religion, and the afterlife? I wonder if you were motivated by the desire to create a new text for modern loss.
Ossip: Hubristically, I wasn’t intimidated. I believed that my story could add to the conversation, if I could get it right and scrape out my own language and forms. I’m always motivated by the desire to create new texts for contemporary experience. I think most writers are. Otherwise, there’s already plenty to read.
Rail: I don’t know anything about your spiritual or religious background, but do you find that writing poetry counters or alters or challenges religion, for you? In particular, poetry about death?
Ossip: I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, went to church every Sunday. I’m not a Catholic now, but it’s all still there, the anxiety, the conscience, the belief in a universal force, in a mysterious order or plan. I think of writing poems as a spiritual practice, in that it might be a fulfillment of my little part of this order or plan. I need to use a lot of equivocal language here; I don’t feel certain about this or, really, about very much of anything.
Rail: Like The Cold War, The Do-Over takes an extremely broad range of form. I am curious to know: Does this diversity come from you automatically, organically? Do you prefer to read poetry collections that do that? Does the range in form relate specifically to the subject, which is to say, is there a book you would write that doesn’t do this?
Ossip: Automatically, organically. You have muscles, you want to use them. I like extremes of form, like I like eating food that tastes intensely like itself. It’s a kind of clarity. Also, it shows the reader that the poet knows what she’s doing.
I’m not sure that I prefer books that manifest this, or not always. Which I suppose makes me a bit of a hypocrite! Sometimes smoothness of form helps a reader access content, I think. Uniformity of form seems natural for very short books or chapbooks. I wrote a chapbook of movie poems (Cinephrastics) that used the same form for every poem. I think if I ever wrote another chapbook I’d probably use that approach again.
Rail: The acrostic is an important form to The Do-Over. Three poems, “A. in May” (the collection’s opener), “A. in January,” and “A. in September,” use the letters of your stepmother-in-law’s name, as well as a series of poems about dead celebrities that do the same: Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, etc. I enjoyed the almost desperately literal implication of this: a bereaved person searching for concreteness. What drove you to write these?
Ossip: I was interested in the 19th-century tradition of acrostic mourning poetry, like a tombstone in words. “Desperately literal” is a great way to describe the impulse: the body attached to the name is gone, so I’ll make a substitute body with the name attached. Also, the very first poem I fell in love with, other than nursery rhymes, was the acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass, which spells out the name of the original Alice, Alice Pleasance Liddell. The poem itself is nice enough, but when I read the note explaining the form at the bottom of the page, I actually shivered. It seemed such a deeply pleasurable thing to do. And it is!
Also, acrostics, like all forms, limit your choices. For a person who is easily overwhelmed, this is a comfort.
Rail: A poem called “Lyric” appears early in the collection. It is cheeky and sharp like the rest of the book, but I read it as well as a sweeping, hurtling, dreamscape poem. It also, notably, features lines of different font sizes (and is the book’s only usage of that). “Lyric” employs short sections, substantial white space, numbered and elliptical stanza breaks, and repeated lines, chorus-like: “Every day brings filthy compromise” and “Dear values absurd chaotic and tight.” I’d be interested to know if this poem occupies (for you) a specific moment within the timeline of your grief. And poetically speaking, how was it made?
Ossip: Here’s the story I always lead with when I discuss this poem: when Anne Sexton wrote her poem “Music Swims Back to Me” she immediately called her pal Maxine Kumin, read it to her, and asked “Is this a poem?” “Lyric” is the poem I wish I could ask that about. It wasn’t made quickly or easily. I had lots of notes, most of which remain in the poem, but I wanted to make them cohere. Finally, with apologies to Ezra Pound, I couldn’t make them cohere. Then I thought tone could tie them together. I wanted to recreate the place of knowing my friend was going to die, feeling a sort of agitated depression about it, and looking around my domestic environment and the larger world and history, and seeing nothing but death and death-wishes in their most awful manifestations. Agitated depression suggested Plath might be a model, and finally her ironic outrage showed me the way.
Rail: While The Do-Over is concerned with mortality, it is not a moralistic book. Was this intentional on your part? This is a book “about” death and the loved, but not death and the good. Death isn’t edifying, isn’t sinister here. That being said, in “Lyric,” two broad statements occur: “Death is OK for some / In the summer of economic collapse / in the summer of widespread famine” and then shortly thereafter “I sit on the banks of the river / the bodies of my enemies float by / [small text](Death is OK for some).” Do you think flaws and weaknesses of the speaker, as a living being, are important to the poetics of grief?
Ossip: Timely death just is, and I think it’s our job as humans to find a way to live with that. Even untimely but “natural” death (like A.’s death from cancer) has to be accepted. But what I can’t accept is the way we have to participate in unnatural torture and death, through our government, through the way our own lives require others to suffer. In the poem, the speaker goes almost berserk with the recognition that her food, her country’s history, and her country’s current actions all depend on killing. “We walk every day through a haunted house” is just a fact. “Death is OK for some” is ironic. My favorite kind of irony is not, as we’re told in high school, where someone says one thing but means another; this kind of irony is where you say something and you both don’t mean it and at the same time are deadly serious about it. By living the way we do, the way we can’t avoid, we are asserting “Death is OK for some” and we set up as enemies people and other creatures that mean us no harm and are in fact much less powerful than we are. How do we live with that reality? The speaker of this poem does it by this crazed performance; also, by asserting, at the end, that she will never die. That kind of denial also seems symptomatic of our culture’s death-obsession.
Rail: One of the most shocking moments in The Do-Over happens close to the end where suddenly out of nowhere, appears a 12-page story, titled “After”, written in crisp, anecdotal prose that in no way could be construed as prose poetry. Its tone and length are dramatically apart from even prose-like shorter poems and segments that appear elsewhere. I turned the page and my first thought was “I can’t believe she didn’t tell me this was going to happen!” This may be something obvious to other readers, but I am still unsure whether “After” is fiction or nonfiction. When and for what original purpose did you write this passage? Was it always a part of the manuscript? Why is it important to you, and to the book overall?
Ossip: It has to be fiction, since I never visited the afterworld! But there are certainly elements of real-life experience in the story, as often happens in fiction. For example, the grandparents in the story are closely based on my own grandparents and have their real names.
I wrote the story for two reasons. First, I have always wanted to write fiction. I was a novel-reader before I was a poem-reader. I wrote stories when I was a kid but adolescence put a stop to that. Poem-writing feels more natural to me but I still had this ambition to write fiction that was in the back of my mind as I began to write this book. Then, as I was considering the trajectory of A.’s story, I knew that section three would be the story of her death, and I knew that there would be a section after that that explored grieving, mourning, and incorporating her death. But it seemed like there needed to be something in between those two phases. I realized I would have to deal with the afterlife in some way and I wanted the afterlife to be real in the world of the book, not just for it to exist as a kind of existential speculation on the part of the speaker. I mean, the reason that all religions have the notion of the afterlife is because it feels necessary to us, right? As a bridge between the world of the living and the nothingness that death might be. Right before the story begins there’s a little poem with the line “A story, please.” This is the voice of the bereaved who needs a narrative where she can in some way, for a little while, keep the dead alive. A do-over.
So to make the afterlife real, I realized that the speaker or a speaker-substitute would have to encounter it in a realistic way. Fiction seemed like the right medium to make that happen.
Rail: Were there other texts that do this—that contain poetry and fiction—that you looked to?
Ossip: Yes! The book that comes to mind is important to me but almost forgotten as far as I can tell: Great America by James McManus. It was published in 1993, just when I was starting to realize I was a poet, or wanted to be. I lived on 57th Street, two blocks from the old Coliseum Bookstore and I found it on the shelf there. I picked it up because I had seen and liked one of the poems, “Smash and Scatteration,” in a volume of Best American Poetry.
It seemed like McManus was playing around with the confessional poets I loved (Plath, Berryman) in ways that were both playful and genuinely incensed, and most of all, redolent of the outraged ironic 1990s. Halfway through the book, I thought, “Vitality is the most important quality a poem can have. And if it has enough vitality, nothing else matters.” I was stirred by how inclusive the poem was: “Holy shit, he put everything in.” I think I’m still living by those principles when I conceive of my books.
Anyway, one of the sections of his book is a short story called “Wisconsin.” Interestingly, like my story “After,” it’s a story that sounds and seems like it could be a bit of memoir but isn’t.
By the way, James McManus never wrote another book of poems—he’s gone on to other endeavors. You may have heard of him as the author of the nonfiction book Positively Fifth Street (2003), which tells the story of how he traveled, on assignment for Harpers Magazine, to Las Vegas to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker. While there, he used his advance to enter a satellite tournament and ended up in the main event, where he placed fifth and won almost $250,000. Since then he has continued to play, and win.
Rail: Do you think poets have a responsibility to write about death? About the afterlife? About anything?
Ossip: I think poets have a responsibility to write about exactly whatever the hell they feel like or about nothing but joy in language. Poetry is an utterly free space, and that’s why writing poetry is political.
Rail: A passage in The Cold War reads, “Because a poem costs and earns nothing, it seems to invite judgment. Judgment, serious judgment, the more judgmental the better—the thinking maybe goes—will justify the importance of this money-free product.” Do you still agree with this assessment? How might it apply, or not apply, to The Do-Over?
Ossip: We hold poems to very high standards. We want them to be perfect. For a poet, that expectation can feel oppressive. I wondered why we have this expectation. It seemed to me that it must have something to do with poems operating outside of capitalism and the good old American work ethic. Like, here’s this person putting all this time and effort into something that doesn’t earn money! How disconcerting, how wrong, how can we understand it? The mistrust results in an intense critical scrutiny, a desire to cut down the product of this wasteful effort.
As for how that idea applies to The Do-Over: I hope it doesn’t. When I wrote those words, I wasn’t suggesting that attitude was a positive thing. Oddly enough for an anxious person, I’m not a perfectionist. I see flaws and try to fix them, but that’s not the driving force. It sounds sentimental, right? But I’m driven by love—love of experience, love for the imagined reader, love of what language can make happen.