Monday, January 13, 2014

Interview with Mikko Harvey

Mikko Harvey's sense of humor grabs you even in an interview. We enjoyed her work and I love the fact that she likes "Silly Tree." I am very partial to the name myself since I came up with it. Please enjoy Mikko's interview.


1. Where did you hear of Silly Tree?

I don't remember, but I remember smiling when I saw the name. I had just written a poem--a rather silly poem--about a tree, and I couldn't think of a better home for it than a magazine called Silly Tree.

2. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Hans Christian Andersen. His fairy tales are special--playful yet deadly serious. 

3. How do you come up with your titles?

Coming up with titles is one of the hardest parts. Writing a good title for a poem is almost like writing a second poem. You want the title to do more than just label, but you also don't want it to be distracting. It's a tricky balance. Or you can take an easier road and use a descriptive title, a minimal title, or a line from the poem. These are fine approaches, but I don't know. The whole business feels stilted to me. Like any convention, the assumption of using a title at all seems worth questioning.

But I don't mean to sound like an extremist about it. Titles can be great. For example, "As I Step Over a Puddle at the End of Winter, I Think of an Ancient Chinese Governor," by James Wright.

4. How do you stay motivated?

I don't worry about staying motivated so much as staying excited. Poems fall naturally out of excitement, like shaking change from a blanket. Everybody is excited differently. For me it often involves being outdoors. I think the biggest enemy is self-absorption. The internet is also not to be trusted.

5. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I am going to say trees. They provide paper as well as quiet daily reassurance.

6. Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Yes, and you can find several such things on the Internet, permanently connected to my name. But no, hate is too strong of a word. Maybe feeling bad about something you wrote in the past is a sign of growth--in which case I look forward to years of dissatisfaction.

Maybe one day I'll hate myself for answering this question this way.

7. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Right now, or in poems? Either way I mostly just want to say hello, briefly connect, and leave them feeling fresher. I think having a specific message or moral in mind can crush the other, greater possibilities that arise unexpectedly. When I read a poem that is trying to transmit a specific message, that poem has to be very good in order to justify its limited scope.

8. At what age did you write your first story?

I wrote a story for school when I was 8 called "The Juice Vampire." I poured grape juice on the pages to increase the project's authenticity. That is when I first realized I was an innovative genius.

9. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

After reading her funky chapbook, "The Dept. of Ephebic Dreamery," I recently became interested in the poet Darcie Dennigan.

10. What book are you reading now?

Yesterday I started reading "after the quake," a collection of stories by Haruki Murakami. One is about a giant frog who wants to save Tokyo from an earthquake that is about to be caused by a giant, angry worm that lives under the city. The frog tries to recruit an ordinary man to help in the fight against the worm: "I know this must be difficult for you, Mr. Katagiri. A huge frog comes barging into your place and asks you to believe all these outlandish things..."  Story of my life.

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