Sturgeon with Lorca’s Green Fruit
Self Portrait as Bellatrix
An Interview with Laura Page
NS: So, to give our readers some background, I first saw your “Peonies” painting posted on Facebook, under a link of Carol Berg’s poem, “Girl with Blue Flowers,” from our inaugural issue. I was really blown away with what you did, and also how quickly you came up with it! Can you talk a little about what that process was like for you?
LP: Sure! First, let me say that I think I have always been slave to a good simile or metaphor. I remembered being very young, a teenager, and looking at the world in terms of comparison. I grew up in Western Idaho, a high desert, and I remember the landscape seemed always too ready to reflect my moods or lend itself to poetic device. Berg’s line, “peonies that could fill bras” is a line I know I would have loved then as love I love it now. Berg provided the poetic comparison at a moment when I was re-visiting visual art. When something grips me the way that image did, I have to make it real in my world, whether that means writing it or creating a visual. Since writing is really my first love, it usually works the opposite way—I see a thing in my head and write it; this was a chance to work in another medium. Either way, I’m quick about these things. I think I’m afraid if I’m not single minded, it will get away from me. I grabbed my sketchbook and mocked it up. If I recall, what you first saw on facebook was a pencil sketch. The painting came shortly after.
NS: And after you painted “Peonies,” you just kept going, painting a whole “Bra Series” of paintings! Did it surprise you that the ‘bra’ paintings kept coming? What did you make of it?
LP: The fact that a series emerged both did and did not surprise me. A little more than a year ago, I wrote a poem, based on an entry from Sylvia Plath’s journals, and a similar thing happened. As I continued to read through those journal entries, I found more poems emerged. Those poems have since been compiled into a small collection, Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana, forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press. Painting ‘Peonies,’ it seemed there was more to be interrogated in juxtaposing nature’s flora with these intimate-yet-mundane items. All that is to say that while it’s happened in the past, where a single project takes on a life of its own, it is always a pleasant surprise.
NS: I truly am amazed by you because I know that besides being a visual artist, you are many other things: poet, Editor-in-Chief of VirgaMagazine, and a mother! I know that as women, we get tired of always being asked how to achieve ‘balance,’ and how do we manage it all (especially when men are not often asked these same questions!). However, I’m still going to ask something a little bit along those lines. How do you divide up the time to do your creative work? Do you have seasons or times where you are doing more painting? More writing? More editing?
LP: I have been extremely privileged the last five years to be able to stay at home most of the time with my two sons, aged 5 and 3. Balancing homemaking and parenting with creative projects, including Virga, is not the challenge I know it would be if I also worked outside of my home. So, before I say anything else, I just want the creative working mothers out there to know: I see you! I don’t take anything that I am able to do for granted.
That said, I have the luxury of being very unstructured when it comes to managing my time, perhaps with the exception of moving the kids through their daily routines. I work on my personal projects and on Virga on a sort of rotation, usually after the fam goes to bed. I’m a night owl, so my brain sort of clicks on after the house is quiet and my family is sleeping! Sometimes one thing will take precedence for a longer period of time and the others will get a back burner. Work on Virga revolves around the magazine’s deadlines, of course, but I am usually free to work on things on my own whims.
NS: Your poetry magazine is fairly new (as is mine!), and I was wondering if you have noticed at all if it has changed your perspective on your writing or submitting process yet? What have you learned from the experience so far?
LP: I’m so glad you asked this question. I’ve been trying to put my feelings on this question into words for awhile. Virga has definitely given me a broader perspective on writing and submitting. I read through the first issue of Virga, poems that I just love, also poems that are forthcoming, as I write this, in the upcoming second issue, and am both humbled and challenged when I go to write and revise my own work. My goal as an editor is to put writing out there that speaks to our humanity and the precarious world we live in, and I feel like we’re accomplishing this. My goal as a writer is the same, but it’s taken me reading my own work as though I were reading it for my publication to see the ways I both succeed and fail in achieving this goal. It’s wild! It’s been quite a trip, honestly.
NS: What is one question that you wish someone would ask you about your art (writing, painting, etc.)? Is it a question that you are able to answer, and can you answer it for us? Please?
LP: For both art and writing, I think I always value the why question most. Why do I write? Why do I paint? Answering those questions, is, of course, more difficult. The short answer is that I need to. I can’t really tolerate myself when I’m without a project. It keeps me sane. The other short answer is that writing allows me to participate in events in a deeper way. In a sense, each time I start a new piece, I feel like I’m re-negotiating my agency as a woman, a wife, a mother, but more than any of those, a human in the world, with other humans.
Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry Journal Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The rumpus, TINGE, and others. Her chapbook, “Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana,” is forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press. Laura is returning slowly to the visual arts after a long hiatus.