March 5, 2014

CONVERSATION BETWEEN
FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK AND ALAN FOX

Culver City, California
March 17th, 2013

Francesca Lia Block is the author of many books, including the best-selling young adult crossover classic Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books and her most recent adult novel for St. Martin’s Press, The Elementals. She is also the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Open Letter to Quiet Light (Manic D. Press, 2009). Block is the recipient of the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association, and the 2009 Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association. Her work has been translated into seven different languages and is published around the world. A Los Angeles native, Block teaches at UCLA extension, Antioch University and privately. (www.francescaliablock.com)

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FOX: This is Alan and Daveen and Tim with Francesca Lia Block on St. Patrick’s Day, 2013. You’ve been quoted as saying, “Art heals, love heals.” Could you say something about that?

BLOCK: That’s sort of the theme that shows up in all of my work, whether I intend it to or not. My father was a painter, my mom was also very much involved in the arts, so that was a huge part of my background. But then I also discovered how it got me through some difficult times; the writing got me through some difficult times as a person. And I think “love heals” is just something that is so basic to me and just has always been a huge part of my life and my family. So, again, I don’t set out to write books that demonstrate these things but they continually do. And then there will be times in my life where I lose a bit of faith and that may be reflected in the work, but ultimately I still think that I believe those.

FOX: When you say that art heals, are you talking about the creation or the enjoyment of art, or both?

BLOCK: Well, for me personally, it’s been the process of being a writer, of writing, and I see that so much in my students, how they seem to benefit from just the self-expression, so I’ve been looking at it mostly from that point of view. And a book called The Midnight Disease by Alice W. Flaherty, which talks about how she was a neurologist and she had a terrible tragedy and then she just started writing and she couldn’t stop with this—“hypergraphia,” they called it. So I really was interested in what happens in the brain when you write. But now I’m getting also interested in how the reader is transformed by the experience, and I started thinking about how that—I have felt a lot of solace from reading, too, but I haven’t had quite the same immediate transformation of emotion that I get as a writer. But I’ve been reading a book called Wired for Story by Lisa Cron and it talks about how the brain is wired to need story as a healing tool—not just the writer but the reader. So I think as a teacher it can be really helpful to have my students, and as a writer myself, look at what it’s triggering in the reader, not only in your own writing of it.

FOX: With your students, how do you do that mechanically, do you have a class every month or … ?

BLOCK: I teach a weekly UCLA extension and then I teach a residency at Antioch and then I teach every other week private classes. So I have a few different ones going on.

FOX: And what is the most important thing you can offer students?

BLOCK: I think—there are all the little technical things that I can give them but I think anyone can give them those things, or a book. I don’t think that I have any special magic for them that way; what I think my strength is maybe would be getting to know them personally, especially the ones who are able to open to me a little bit more emotionally, and then kind of find out what the soul of their project is and guide them toward that in some way. So it’s kind of a very individual process working with each person, and I think that is hopefully my strength, really targeting who they are and what it is they need to say, what’s the most important thing they need to say and how to bring that out of the story that’s already knocking on the door.

FOX: What kind of genres do your students tend to write in?

BLOCK: I get all kinds. I do teach one young adult class at UCLA but I also teach Novel 1, 2, and 3 and I teach—at Antioch they’re actually writing a lot of adult or crossover stuff. But I tend to get some magical realist writing, because a lot of my writing is that, and coming of age stuff. But I’ve had all kinds: literary fiction, horror, fantasy. It runs the gamut pretty much.

FOX: Talking about love—I remember the movie Carnal Knowledge years ago started with a black screen and two guys are talking and one was saying, “Is it better to love or to be loved?” Which would you find more appealing?

BLOCK: [laughs] Well, I think both are nice. My higher self would just say, “Oh, to love,” but my lonely single mom self might argue with that a little! So I think both, but I think ultimately my love for my children, which is the most pure love I’ve ever experienced—that’s all about me loving them, and I think that’s the highest form I’ve ever experienced of it.

FOX: You know we’re doing an issue of single parent authors. How do you find the intersection of being a writer and a single parent?

BLOCK: I think being a parent, whether single or not, and being a writer at the same time can be challenging in a number of ways. One is just the time that I need, and having them by myself all week definitely can be challenging, especially when they were little. And then I guess not having that person to share the experience with on a daily basis. I find parenting very challenging and I’ve really found writing to be one of the easier things in my life. However, there are times certainly where the negative review or the feeling that I’m not being seen or understood in the way I want to or whatever—I think just having that person on a daily basis to share that with is probably the thing that I miss the most, I guess.

FOX: Do you share your writing with anyone else before you send it out?

BLOCK: I don’t really. I used to share it with my mom. She passed away a few years ago and we were so so close, so I really noticed that emptiness when I lost her. And then I have an agent and two amazing editors now who will read it as I’m working, which is very helpful, but they’re really the only ones. But I always tell my students it’s so important to have somebody, because you can be just doing this in a vacuum, and I think one of the best reasons to share it is that you can have so much psychological insight into someone else’s work but maybe not in your own. I think sometimes each book is a journey to figure out a particular psychological issue I’m dealing with and if I have that outside perspective sometimes it will become clear.

FOX: You’re known for young adult books, I guess. What appeals to you about writing for that audience?

BLOCK: You know, I never really considered myself necessarily a young adult author—I was sort of put into that category—but one wonderful thing about it is that I have met some lovely young people who have grown up with the books and I feel very honored to have that. But I will say I’m intrigued with, not necessarily the genre of YA, but that age of very late teens and early twenties; it’s a time I’m fascinated by and I continue to turn to my own experiences at that time. I believe everybody has an age they identify with throughout their life no matter how old they are and for me it’s sort of around that time, seventeen, eighteen. That’s when my dad first got sick and I went away to college and there was a lot of hurt and trauma, but also there was a possibility and a sense of the imagination, because you’re still quite close to childhood when anything is possible in your imagination and you kind of shut that down. So I find that age really interesting.

FOX: You wrote your first book at Berkeley. How did that work, going to college and writing a book?

BLOCK: Well, I was taking writing classes and I sort of had my work that I thought was my serious work. I was writing more poetry actually, and short stories. But then I had this idea for a book that I was just doing purely for myself, for my own comfort, and I would just walk home from school and sort of tell myself this story—which is as a little child what I would do, just walk in circles in my backyard telling myself stories out loud [laughs] and it was just a continuation. And that was the book, surprisingly to me, that was picked up first and it’s still the thing I’m most known for.

FOX: Yes. It’s interesting, because many writers, their favorite book or two are not the public’s favorite.

BLOCK: Yeah, exactly. In fact, The Elementals that I published most recently is sort of the book that I’ve been trying to write for the whole time and I mean, we’ll see, maybe it will gain ground, but it’s definitely—when people meet me they say, “Oh, Weetzie Bat!” and there’s a lot of others that I feel more strongly about. But I’m grateful, because that character opened the door for all the possibilities of publishing that I’ve had, really.

FOX: Sure, absolutely. You also write poetry. Why poetry?

BLOCK: Poetry is my first love, my first passion that had to do with writing. I grew up—my mom wrote poetry. It was around in the house. My parents would read it, too. My father would read it to my mother while I was in utero. It was a very huge part of our lives. And I remember they got me a subscription to American Poetry Review when I was maybe twelve and I just thought it was so amazing—Denise Levertov and Audre Lorde, so that was a big thing. And then I went to UC Berkeley and that’s what I focused on with my education. And I was reading a lot of the modernist poets and I think that’s what, in a funny way, influenced Weetzie Bat more than anything else, was reading that poetry at the time, even though of course it’s a far cry from Elliot and Pound [laughs], which is what I was kind of obsessed with for a while.

FOX: Your children are eleven and thirteen?

BLOCK: They’re ten and twelve right now.

FOX: Have they read anything you’ve written?

BLOCK: Well, I’m currently writing a book for my son and they’ve read parts of that and it’s a sort of humorous, more male-oriented kind of voice. But besides that, they’re interested; they’ll ask me what the stories are, but my daughter has picked up two and one she put down and said, “I’m not ready for this,” which is really interesting—this was a couple of years ago; I think she would be now. And one other one she loved, but it was a little younger. So it was interesting that she sort of self-monitored and just felt like, “Nah, I’m not really comfortable with that.” But there’s some of my stuff that I think they will be really uncomfortable with as they get older and so hopefully they’ll just shut it out and not pay attention to it. [laughs] I remember there was one—I have a book of erotic stories—it was this little purple book; when she was a baby she was obsessed with the color purple so she would walk around holding this little book, and it was really cute and it was like “I never really want you to read that one!” [laughs]

FOX: [laughs] I can understand that. What part of your writing calls upon you to go the deepest in yourself? The young adult books, the poetry … ?

BLOCK: Well, the poetry is the most direct channel to what I’m feeling. If I’m feeling an agitation or upset or anything, I can go straight to a poem and I can feel that emotion literally just channeling out of my body into the poem and I feel lighter. And I’m not saying that the poems are so great—I don’t know how they translate to other people necessarily, but it’s a very cathartic experience in a very immediate way. The books, the YA books, now have become more of my job, so the challenge for me every time is to find the deep story in the book that—maybe the publisher has sort of given me an idea they want or maybe I came up with an idea because I knew it would probably sell but I didn’t feel deeply compelled to tell it, so how can I then find the truth for me currently? And that is where sometimes that mentor or that person that can look at it and go, “Oh, maybe it’s not about that, maybe it’s about this,” the thing that I’m currently—or I have to do it myself since I don’t have my mom. And then the adult books are really my biggest interest now, and for instance The Elementals was the book I felt like I had to write—there was no one telling me to write it, I just had wanted to write it forever. And there’s going to be another one for St. Martin’s that’s adult that’s similar in my feeling compelled to write it. But usually that gets put on the back burner because there’s so many other things that I have to get done.

FOX: Sounds like a bit of a contest between art and commercial, getting money to live on.

BLOCK: Yeah, exactly. And I think I came to teaching late and I wish now that I sort of started earlier and pursued that path more. I love it and also I think there’s something to be said for having that regular job to rely on so that you’re not having to constantly hustle creatively. Even though I’m very honored and grateful that I get to do that, it can be draining in terms of, how do you produce two or three books a year and still keep the quality up? So it’s been challenging. I’m trying to balance it out by doing the teaching more and luckily with this new editor the young adult books are a pretty solid thing. The adult books not so much, the poetry not at all … of course. [laughs] Unfortunately.

FOX: You were talking about finding your truth. Would it be fair to say that truth heals? You know, we go around all the time being sociable and not wanting to offend people and masking the truth …

BLOCK: Absolutely. I like to say to my classes that we all go around, like you said, pretending that we’re all okay, and I say that really we’re not—we’re all human so we’re struggling. And you have to be brave to just say, “I’m not okay,” you know, “This is what I’m going through.” So I hadn’t thought of it exactly like that but I think that’s true that to get to that place of healing the art has to address those truths of emotion. Even if you don’t yet understand exactly what’s going on beneath the surface of it, if it’s just raw emotion, that’s still a place to start, I think.

FOX: And then how do you convert that to art?

BLOCK: Well, that’s where I think all those tools come in. Especially at UCLA extension I get a lot of students who are very interested in the techniques and I think that’s so important. You want to show not tell, you want to have your conflicts, you want to have your arc, descriptive language, you want to have all those things—but, again, that’s the stuff they can learn. What they have to come in with is the emotional content or the story—not even so much the structure of the story but just the feeling of the story, the emotion. And not all of them necessarily are in touch with that, but the ones that are, even if they don’t know the techniques, I always know they can write a strong piece. I feel very confident that they can learn basic stuff and convert that raw emotion into something with form.

FOX: What are some of your truths that you like to pass on to your children?

BLOCK: Good question. I think just expressing your feelings, not bottling them, being able to express yourself. Being kind and respectful and loving but even more important in some way is when you’re not, being able to ask forgiveness and acknowledge your own mistakes. I think what I’ve learned in parenting more than anything is how to repair rather than how to avoid the hurts, because there are these hurts, so it’s about repairing them. I think that’s a big thing in our house really. And then the clichés of following your heart and being true to yourself and your own path. I was really lucky with my parents to have them say, “You can be an artist,” and encouraging me and not shutting down that dream. I mean, there’s so many, but those are the ones that come to mind first.

FOX: How do you elicit, as much as you can, truth from your students—their truth?

BLOCK: It’s tricky because there’s some who just come with their hearts open and it’s such a pleasure to work with them, and there’s a few, not too many, who are very closed. I’ve just recently been dealing with somebody who’s so closed and very angry and I keep trying to do all these little techniques with warmth or charm or strength or whatever, and it just doesn’t work. [laughs] So I think that’s my lesson to learn, that some people are just not going to be responsive. However, I think that I can model it. I think that’s the most I can do. I can come and express my vulnerability, my struggles, and usually that will then make them comfortable to open up themselves.

FOX: Do you find the process of growing up scary?

BLOCK: Yes. I think it still is! [laughs] I think it always is. I know that I had a particularly difficult time in my early teens, just with a lot of the sort of classic self-esteem, body issues, self-image stuff. Then it got more challenging, because right as I was about to leave for school my dad got sick, and that whole relationship was so important to me. And then I think even in my twenties when we’re considered adults I felt so lost in a lot of ways. So I think the great thing about that is there’s so much material for writing—as that great Flannery O’Connor quote goes, “Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.” [Fox laughs] So I think there’s something to be said for that. I say to my students, “Anytime anything bad happens to you”—I always at least go, “Material, material!” [laughs]

FOX: That’s true. I think transitions are the most difficult and that’s a very big transition. If you’re lucky enough to go to college that’s part of the transition but then you get out of college and you’re supposed to get a job, earn money, support yourself, family … that’s kind of scary.

BLOCK: It’s so scary. I think now even more than when I was growing up, with the whole economy. So I think a lot about my kids and trying to—so many people I know now are struggling with this because they’re looking ahead to their kids’ futures and thinking, “I better not only be able to live hand to mouth—I’ve got to get some stability for them,” and how hard it is. So I think the constant pressure—whether you’re a single parent or not, there’s a lot of pressure in that way, and to then still give your kids a sense of hope and optimism and possibility when you’re worried about all that. So it’s a challenge.

FOX: Absolutely. When did you first write poetry?

BLOCK: In first grade I remember my teacher, whom I had a big crush on, Miss Atlas, who was probably twenty years old and she was really skinny and wore miniskirts and platforms and smoked and she had these fake eyelashes and amazing hair—I loved her so much. And I remember she took me aside and said, “You’re a writer, you can write.”

FOX: And then how did you progress—when did you start writing a lot of poems?

BLOCK: Just always, throughout that time. I think I did up until college when I started expanding into the short stories. When I was a teenager my dad illustrated some books of my poetry and they were published by a small press. I mean, I think the quality is sixteen-year-old poetry, but my dad did such beautiful drawings and the little additions were so lovely. Yeah, it’s kind of an amazing collaboration. So that made me feel that I was being taken seriously in that way which added to my confidence.

FOX: It sounds like you had a very close relationship with your dad.

BLOCK: Yeah, I did, for sure. Both parents, very close. And certainly a big bond was through the creative process too, so that’s why I think of love and art as so interconnected.

FOX: Absolutely. How is it different writing a novel for young adults as compared with adults?

BLOCK: Well, again, I didn’t really think I was doing that in the beginning. I thought I was just writing a book and then it was put in that category. But I will say as I’ve looked into it a little more—I read much more widely in adult fiction than young adult fiction, but I’ve found with my adult stuff there isn’t that much difference anymore. The content can be very mature—the erotica is too extreme, but the actual situations, aside from the language, are not that much different from what’s going on in my young adult books. So it’s language and also I think it’s the end and the tone. In one of my young adult books I have a tragic ending but mostly there’s a lot more hope in them, and I think in the adult I have more room for ambiguity in that way—and of course the characters can’t be over a certain age in young adult.

FOX: I guess to write that you have to be able to identify with young adults.

BLOCK: Yes. I do think I got a little arrested development at that time, so I do feel I understand that age pretty well, for whatever reason.

FOX: I guess you’ll have another dose of it as your kids get a little older.

BLOCK: Yes, and that’ll be interesting because one thing I don’t write much about is my experience as a mom. I did write one book called Guarding the Moon about my first year as a mom of my daughter because that’s all I wanted to do is just sit and stare at her and describe her fingernails or whatever. [laughs] I wrote some poems about my kids, but there’s very little tension in my relationship with my son, especially, so I have very little to write about with him. It’s just such a pure love and it’s such a very sweet relationship. My daughter is hitting her teens and we have a very passionate relationship.

FOX: I understand that, because in fiction you’re supposed to have conflict and I don’t have much conflict in my life. What I’m interested in, then, is internal conflict, which we all have.

BLOCK: Absolutely. But again, my internal conflict with my children is much less than my internal conflict with all the other things in my life. So even when I’m arguing with my daughter, underneath that it’s just this pure complete acceptance and unconditional love. So I think there will be elements popping up in the books here and there, but what I struggle with more is my relationship to myself, and then how I can demonstrate that through action and conflict that I create that’s not necessarily—like I’m doing a book based on an Odyssey with a female character and then another one The Iliad and they’re a series. I’m using those storylines that my dad used to tell me as bedtime stories, and usually part of my childhood, to kind of tell a story that’s really about what I’m going through internally right now, but externalized through these dramatic monster fights [laughs] or whatever.

FOX: When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I never got into Hans Christian Anderson but Grimm’s

BLOCK: Yeah, Grimm’s was the best.

FOX: Do you like that?

BLOCK: Oh, that’s my—still, I mean, fairy tales, the dark fairy tales, are my number one interest. You say it—anybody will mention that, and I’ll just perk up, like “What?” I want to know. And I love that the culture—that the films are coming out around that material. I love that more than anything. Angela Carter is one of my favorite writers and some of the younger writers now are doing stuff with that too that I really like.

FOX: Much of your writing is involved in kind of magical things—what’s the intersection between magic and reality?

BLOCK: When I was in my late teens or early twenties I read Márquez for the first time and Isabel Allende and I got really excited because I felt like that’s the way I saw the world, that magic was woven into the everyday, but I hadn’t read about it, I hadn’t read it as a literary form. I’d read fantasy, which I loved as a child, and then realism, which I enjoyed, but I hadn’t read that mix. And so that to me kind of personified how I saw the world, and then I tried to do that with my own work. But I feel that magic is expressed through love and art, that those are metaphors for magic in a way. So that transcendent thing that happens with both of those is, to me, magical.

FOX: Do you find magic in your real life, or is writing about it kind of just an escape and totally imaginary

BLOCK: I have experienced it in my real life. I probably would say that it’s less now, because I’ve been so mired in the responsibilities of the daily adult world, and just mortgages and fighting with the bank and everything, so it tends to shut my vision down a bit and I relegate it just to my books. But when I was younger I felt it on more of a daily basis and I still feel it. I think—I’m not in nature a lot but I think that’s one way for me to feel it, and also through my relationship with my kids, and through romantic relationships I really feel it. So I do think it’s still there, but now it’s really going mostly in the fiction.

FOX: I’m thinking of a line from E.E. Cummings: “Children are apt to forget to remember.” Do you think it’s possible to bring magic back to your life as an adult?

BLOCK: Oh, absolutely. I actually wrote one book, which is an adult book but it’s part of the Weetzie Bat series, called Necklace of Kisses, which is a character as she’s turning 40 and how she re-experiences all this magic. So I absolutely believe it. And I saw it in my parents up until—with my mom, until literally as she was dying; at her bedside, I saw it. So I know it’s possible. For me right now I’m going through a period of disconnect from it, but I’m pretty optimistic. I think it will return, I hope.

FOX: I find sometimes I can walk out my front door and just look at it all as if it was new, with a sense of wonder.

BLOCK: Yeah, yeah. But that’s because you have Daveen! [laughs]

FOX: Well, of course! So what do you see in your future?

BLOCK: I really hope that—there’s been this film of the Weetzie Bat book in the works for 25 years, with different people, so I’m hoping that is going to come to fruition. It keeps getting very close, and then we’ll see. So that’s something, because film is an area I’d love to expand into—my books are so visual and my dad came from that world, so I’d like that. And I would like to continue to be writing books but maybe not quite so many, because I would love to slow down my pace and not have to just churn them out. I feel like it’s taking a little bit of a toll, so I’d like to teach more and balance and write a little less and mostly just have my kids be stable and happy. And it would be nice to have that romantic relationship again at some point. We’ll see.

FOX: I’m just having a fantasy about you as a person who lives partly in the world of magic and fantasy and then being dragged into the reality and trying to get back to the fantasy part.

BLOCK: Yeah, I think the last few years have really been that scenario. It’s just felt like people read my books and they see me a certain way, maybe as my internet persona, but in reality I’ve been struggling like so many people these days. I had a little extra share of it I think losing my mom, almost losing my house, just a lot of stuff like that—but thank God I have had this place to explore it in my imagination, and even if I wasn’t making a penny at it I would still be doing it for sure. And now because of this great editor and agent it has changed so that I’m moving more in that direction again, I think.

FOX: Daveen, anything? Tim?

GREEN: One thing I’m curious about is the magic—you seem like you have felt specific moments of magic. I’m wondering … I’d like to hear a story.

BLOCK: Well, a couple of them would be … both have to do with my parents’ deaths. When my father died, my mom and I—and I wrote about this in Echo—were walking past this field where we would walk all the time and this white horse came racing—literally running—across this field toward us and put its nose up against the fence and just looked into our eyes. I still don’t really believe it even happened; if my mom hadn’t been there I think I would’ve … but it was absolutely my father’s spirit. It felt so profoundly to be that. And then a week later I went back up to UC Berkeley to graduate and I was walking down Telegraph Avenue and I saw something on the ground and without thinking I reached down and picked it up, which is sort of like, “Why would you pick up something off Telegraph Avenue?” but it was this little white plastic horse with a little cowboy on it. And it was such a powerful thing. And after that my mom was kind of haunted by white horse imagery always. But those moments for me were really clear, and right after he died he was so present for me.

And there’s another one where I was living in Joshua Tree briefly and the man I was living with at the time was interested in painting, and my dad—these are all his paintings up here. [motions toward her living room wall] But we were sitting outside and we were talking about painting and I feel this little piece of paper blowing over to my hand, outside in the desert, but near our house, and it was this little note my dad had written to me about preparing a canvas for painting. And it must have been in my stuff that I brought from L.A., but I don’t know why it was just crumpled around and blew into my hand. So it was kind of wonderful. And that time, living in Joshua Tree, was so charged with magic, just all the time, I think, but those specifically.

And then when my mom passed away, she had been very ill and I actually had just finished The Elementals. Well, I started The Elementals before I knew that she was sick, but I had been writing about a mom who had cancer and then I found out she was sick. And I finished it the day she died, sitting in front of her door. But when she died, there was this experience that I had where she reached out to me and my brother and took our hands and looked into our eyes—and, I mean, I can spend a long time on it; I don’t know if I can write this moment—but it was such a pure expression of soul. I saw her soul leave her body, and I saw her joy at sort of—she kept looking at the foot of the bed and going, “No, no,” and then going back to me and my brother, and then finally she looked at the foot of the bed and she smiled. And then she just went, like that. I felt like it was my dad. So both of those were profound.

And then I think giving birth to my children also had that quality of “I needed these particular souls; I’ve searched for them my whole existence and here they are.” They’d arrived finally, and I was so grateful. So those moments were the most profound I think.

FOX: You’ve written about your children: “Except when I had my babies, and then they just helped me see God.”

BLOCK: Yeah, there you go. I remember I said to the doctor—he’s like, “Hurry up, hurry up, I gotta go play golf!” [all laugh] and I’m like, “I see God!” So I switched obstetricians the next time. [laughs]

GREEN: What do you think, cosmologically, is the source of that magic? What does it mean, what are we here for?

BLOCK: Well my little private spiritual belief is that—I don’t know, it’s so big and so overwhelming. The only way I understand it is there are these particular souls that I feel I’ve always been connected to and will always be connected to. Beyond that I don’t really know how to put it into words really, but that’s the message I seem to be getting from these particular incidents, and I guess my deepest spiritual beliefs start with that. And it doesn’t even feel like I’m trying to comfort myself with it, you know what I mean? It feels—as I said, when I met my children, I just thought, “Oh, that’s a relief, I found you.” That’s a great question, thank you, because I think without that explanation, those are interesting stories but, right, what do they really mean?

FOX: It seems to me we all have the key to unlock so much and magic is required as part of reality to open yourself up to the possible.

BLOCK: Yeah, and I think the language of that is poetry. I think there’s something about distilling that image and that sound that is this language of mysteries that I’m still just trying to figure out. But it’s kind of like when I would hear bands when I was a teenager and I would want to create that same visceral, transcendent experience that music creates, but I thought, “Can you do that with prose or poetry?” You know, “How do you do that?” So that’s what I’m striving for. But when you’re writing a book as an assignment, as a job, how do you still find that? And I’m not always able to. Sometimes it’s just a story, but sometimes something happens and it becomes transcendent in some way.

FOX: Absolutely. Okay, well I think that’s fine. Well, this was delightful, and I hope you don’t forget about the magic.

BLOCK: Oh, thank you—well, you guys reminded me! Because I think what happens too is that on a daily basis I am here with my kids or I’m maybe in a classroom environment but I’m not in a lot of social situations with other artists where these kind of things are being discussed, so it’s really nice to be reminded.

from Rattle #41, Fall 2013
Tribute to Single Parent Poets