Searching for Other Voices: Novelist and Poet Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke
© Patrice Opale

LAURA KASISCHKE has published eight collections of poetry and eight novels. Her most recent collection, Space, in Chains, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. She teaches at the University of Michigan, and lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband and son.

How did you become a writer?

I started writing poems and stories in elementary school. I imagine my inspiration came from reading, and being read to, and then there was a lot of positive reinforcement. Writing was quiet, inexpensive, and I could do it in my room with the door shut, so my parents, who were very busy people, must have liked this. I was an only child, as well, so I had the ideal childhood for solitude and time to think, write, read.

You’ve written eight collections of poetry and nine works of fiction. For many, one genre is less difficult to write than the other. As a successful writer in both genres, do you find the creative process different for each?

Yes, the process is entirely different. I think about a poem for a long time before I sit down to write, and often I have already written most of it in my head or in bits and pieces in notebooks and margins before I sit down to assemble it. When I do sit down to write the poem, there’s quite a lot of anxiety, and if I don’t get at least a sense that it’s on it’s way to being ‘done’ in a first draft, I never get a poem out of it at all. Obviously, you can’t be in a high state of inspiration in order to write a novel, as that takes years. I can’t sit around waiting to be inspired, either, or it would take decades. I write a little every day when I’m working on a novel, and I never expect what I’ll accomplish on any particular day to be any good, and just shrug it off, knowing I have plenty of time to revise, start over, and sit down again the next day.

What was it like to have two novels, The Life Before Her Eyes and Suspicious River, realized into film? Did the final result of each film surprise you in terms of story-line or character changes made?

I was so flattered that films would be made of the novels, that I just enjoyed watching them. It was eerie to see characters that I’d invented in my head actually moving and speaking in the world, and wearing clothes I’d imagined them wearing. Both movies changed the story-lines quite a bit, but I felt there was such faithfulness to the tone and impressions of the novels that this seemed minor to me.

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