Only Through Unknowing: Darcey Steinke on Fiction, Divinity, Spirituality and Beyond

Easter Everywhere

Easter Everywhere
BY Darcey Steinke
(Bloomsbury, 2008)

Milk

Milk
BY Darcey Steinke
(Bloomsbury, 2005)

Jesus Saves

Jesus Saves
BY Darcey Steinke
(Grove/Atlantic, 1997)

Suicide Blonde

Suicide Blonde
BY Darcey Steinke
(Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992)

Contemporary memoir writers often recount their travels around the world or outside of their element, in search of spiritual connections or in hopes of life-changing events. But you’ve unpacked an experience much closer to home; your upbringing as a minister’s daughter in suburbia. You describe everyday culture of adolescent Americana; Cherry coke, Kmart, Tiger Beat magazine. Do you feel more of a connection to writing about daily events, as a bridge back to psychological and spiritual struggles?

In Sanskrit I have heard that the word for writer is “Piler into Piles,” and I think that is perfect. What we do as writers is to collect sensory details of all kinds — sights, smells, how sand feels or cashmere — and we use all of these thousands of senses to build a narrative. That happens as you say in the daily, I mean whether you travel around or not, all you really have is the day-to-day, the warm rich sent of your beef stew or the drowsy feeling on a late winter afternoon. We must make our fictional worlds with what we know, materially, emotionally, sensually and so yes, I think the day-to-day is key, really. You don’t need to travel the world to think of yourself as a complex person or a spiritual individual.

Which genre do you feel most compelled to write in?

I like both nonfiction and fiction. I really don’t have one I like better. For me, to pick would be like saying I liked one of my children better then the other. I find nonfiction very helpful in telling my own story to others, but also to myself. To me that’s what memoir is: you tell your story to your own self, and it helps one to feel centered in life, or at least to get down what one part of life was like. I feel the need to write about the self often comes when you see your life for a while as a story that can be told; it has a slant, it has a theme. Most of life is not like this of course; it is just chaotic life.

Fiction is more about the unconscious I feel, and about desires that go deep into the hidden soul and mind.

Language, or artistic expression as a whole, could be said to be only a symbol for reality. Aldous Huxley, for example, regarded writing and art as an “elegantly composed recipe, rather than the actual dinner.” Do you think writing is a limited form of expression or has writing always been fulfilling to you?

I am driven to write and I have been since I was a little girl. I wrote poems as a child and as young as ten I wrote every day in my journal. I had a bad stutter as a child. In my speech there was no way for me to be fluent or have any grace, so I went to the page very young to find flow and music in language.

I get frustrated at times with what I am working on, and I have had, like all writers, stories that have not worked and have had to be abandoned, but I still feel strongly drawn to the daily work of writing.

I have great faith in books. Do they solve all problems? Of course not. But some of the most meaningful conversations I have had with others, the deepest communion, has been about books.

Do you use other artistic mediums (besides writing) to express yourself?

I wish I had more things I could do! I can’t draw or paint. For a while, I was in a rock band called Ruffian with my girlfriends and we played out some in clubs around New York City and Brooklyn. That was great fun. We started the band as we were all going through bad breakups and rather than talk about it all the time, we decided to do something more pro-active. So we bought guitars, started to learn to play a few notes, and then started to write songs. I still have my guitar by my bed, but I am sad to say it does not get used much lately. I also like to collect things for my little house in Brooklyn. I have a tiny Victorian and I like to find cheap things at thrift stores to decorate it. I just found an old Exit sign!


Page 2 of 3 1 2 3 View All

Printed from Cerise Press: http://www.cerisepress.com

Permalink URL: http://www.cerisepress.com/05/13/only-through-unknowing-darcey-steinke-on-fiction-divinity-spiritualty-and-beyond

Page 2 of 3 was printed. Select View All pagination to print all pages.