Luiza Flynn-Goodlett is the author of the chapbook Congress of Mud (Finishing Line Press). She received her MFA from The New School and was awarded the Andrea Klein Willison Prize for Poetry upon graduation from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including ZYZZYVA, New Ohio Review, The Missouri Review Online, and The Greensboro Review.
Fem: What themes can readers find in your poetry?
Luiza Flynn-Goodlett: Though it’s always changing, I’m generally interested in familial memory, the natural world (and its ongoing destruction), voices in history who have been silenced or gaslit, messages of conformity we receive (particularly as children), death and its attendant mysteries, and the various violences we enact on ourselves and others.
F: What challenges did you face in the making of your chapbook?
LFG: Settling on an order is so difficult, and it’s nearly impossible for me to stop revising.
F: Who or what influences your poetry?
LFG: I’m fairly omnivorous, and my influences are constantly shifting, since the poetry I write (and enjoy) is deeply engaged with the world—so right now I’m inspired by everything from remarkable critical thinking like that in The New Inquiry, to ambitious novels like The Blazing World and queer, quiet ones like After the Parade, to Oliver Sack’s Hallucinations, to poetry like Danez Smith’s [insert] Boy and Kay Ryan’s The Best of It.
I’m interested in locating and articulating the tensions that draw these disparate cultural threads together and give them energy, like a water strider skating across a stream’s surface.
F: What is your writing process?
LFG: I have a strict schedule—one poem per week (no excuses). I’m resistant to the idea of “inspiration.” Some weeks the bottom line is just generating work, iterating themes that are going to coalesce in fully realized poems in the future. Other times, the poems emerge Athena-like and there’s that sense of grace. Either way, you have to show up and do the work.
I’m also constantly revising, which is rarely a site of revelation, but it’s the meat and potatoes of the process. I’m always rereading the previous day’s work on my phone on BART or in that gentle, loose hour before sleep, and making notes toward revisions.
F: How do your identities inform your writing?
LFG: I’m drawn to what’s asked to hide or make itself small. There’s a desire to create a counter narrative with space for complexity and contradiction. There’s an attraction to the difficult/unpleasant and wariness around “universality.” I often find myself writing from the “we” and, in so doing, forcing the reader to inhabit marginalized consciousnesses.
F: What is your definition of feminism?
LFG: On an individual level, feminism necessitates an ongoing commitment to identifying and dismantling the manifestations of patriarchy. That means seeking out marginalized voices to continually challenge our perceptions of how patriarchy exerts itself on the lived experiences of female-identified individuals, as well as interrogating ourselves and coming to ever deeper understandings of our complicity in that system of oppression.
As a movement, feminism has started to grapple with its failures of imagination when it comes to intersectionality and is (hopefully) beginning to amplify the voices of trans women, women of color, undocumented women, and sex workers. And that gives me hope that the movement will continue to change and grow alongside the women who need it.
F: What risks have you taken in your writing and what risks are you hoping to take in the future?
LFG: It’s easy to get the message that your identities (and attendant experiences/emotions) are beside the point, and ought not to be discussed for fear of alienating the normative gaze (“On Pandering,” right?!), that you should aim to write toward a false universality. I’ve tried (am still trying) to break myself of that fallacy and give voice to something authentic (although what that means is always in flux).
F: Do you have any advice for new/aspiring writers?
LFG: The poem will teach you how to write it (so be patient, since it may take years to reveal itself). When stuck, reread a book of poems you love and let language enchant you again. Be humble and handle yourself and others gently. But, on the page, be fucking ruthless.