An interview with alum Jenn Givhan (poetry, ’15), by alum Chantal Aida Gordon (fiction, ’16), appears at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers’ website:
Your poetry collection, Landscape with Headless Mama, won the 2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize and is out from LSU Press. Congratulations! The collection’s central speaker is a woman reliving her childhood with her mentally ill mother, and the book is, as you put it, “a surreal survival guide.” In what ways? And what is it about surrealism and magical realism that creates a compelling coping mechanism?
For a long while I didn’t even realize my poems were surreal. My favorite painters have long been Mexican surrealists (Frida, Remedios, and Leonora) and I knew their work inspired me as I daily live, breathe, write…But I didn’t know my metaphors and leaps and associations were all that strange…until I was told so. I sense that this is the survival part, somehow. And the power of surrealism. Our minds make wonderfully strange leaps when they’re protecting us. The survival part of the book is both saying the unsayable and renaming/reclaiming what’s been said (and done). Sometimes it takes seeing the (fractured) world and our place in it one or two steps to the side of reality, just that far askance, to be able to bare (and bear) reality.