Location: Athens, GA
TREE INTERVIEW WITH LAURA SOLOMON
Do you ever think about trees?
I notice myself noticing them regularly & I often photograph them, especially dead or maimed trees, trees forced to grow around things like powerlines, & those that are oddly shaped, or otherwise distinctive in some way. I have a lot of pictures of trees that seem to have faces or eyes or vaginas. That said, I’m not sure that I pay more attention to trees categorically than I do to any other sort of natural spectacle, & I don’t devote much time to thinking about what it would be like to be a tree, though perhaps I should. I do think quite a lot about the word tree, how weird it looks & sounds, as well as how bursting it is with ideas & images of human experience, all those centuries of usage, quotidian & poetic, hanging off of it so evocatively that conversely TREE can & actually does frequently slip into its own connotative magic for me & reappear as an incredibly rich blank.
What is a vivid/significant memory you have involving a tree or trees?
I lived alone in the woods as a child. I mean, my parents were around, & I had a dog, but no neighborhood children to play with until I was 8. One of my earliest memories is of playing “enchanted forest” which consisted of imagining everything in the natural world around me as being alive & conscious & able to intervene on my behalf. Later, when I moved into a suburban neighborhood, I continued with this game & convinced friends to play as well. In order to enter the enchanted realm (my backyard), you had to pass through a gate made of trees & there within were three other significant trees, a cherry tree, a plum tree & a gigantic oak tree, all of which held alchemical properties & delineated different regions of this imaginary world; however, in the oak tree lived an wizard who advised the group on important matters, but whom only spoke through me. It’s a wonder my friends put up with this.
Another memory involving trees from the same period: the sudden presence of individual leaves on trees when I put on eyeglasses for the first time.
Are trees involved at all in your writing or worldview?
There are a lot of trees in my poems—I even have a poem called “Tree,” but to be fair these “trees” are not trees but dreams, maybe not even of trees, but of states, or even words. But anything I say could be misleading. I do think it’s interesting that Buddha was said to have reached enlightenment while sitting under a tree, that trees tend to look like brains when bare, that the tree makes itself available in most religions, in Christianity again as a symbol of knowledge & later as one of unity with God, that trees tend to mark the mystic spot. This is all especially fascinating to me when I think of how foreboding trees are when depicted in groups, how threatening the forest usually is in our imaginative traditions, a place of darkness & confusion, of getting lost & perhaps of getting eaten, or transformed, a place of no return. Why is one tree a beacon & several acres of them a menace? Oh, I have no idea. Or too many. But can I recommend two pieces of art involving trees & end there rather than on my own thoughts? Bernini’s Apollo & Daphne & Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross, a fresco series in Arrezzo.
Laura Solomon’s books include Bivouac (Slope Editions, 2002), Blue and Red Things (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2007), and The Hermit (UDP, 2011). Other publications include a chapbook, Letters by which Sisters Will Know Brothers (Katalanché Press 2005) and Haiku des Pierres / Haiku of Stones by Jacques Poullaoueq, a translation from the French with Sika Fakambi (Editions Apogée, 2006). Her poetry has appeared in magazines across North America and Europe and has been translated into ten languages. In 2010, she was invited to Slovenia’s international poetry festival, Days of Poetry & Wine, and this year was a recipient of an award from the Fund for Poetry. She has lived recently in Paris, Philadelphia, and Verona, Italy, but currently may be found in Athens, Georgia.
GO GREEN AND LISTEN TO LAURA SOLOMON READ “TREE”: