TREE INTERVIEW WITH IRIS CUSHING location: Mount Tremper Arts
Do you ever think about trees?
Yes. I think about them, and with them, and because of them. There’s a Sappho fragment, translated by Anne Carson: “Eros shook my mind/like a mountain wind falling on oak trees.” it’s like that for me too. My mind, beyond its thinking: erotic, shaking.
What is a vivid/significant memory you have involving a tree or trees?
I’m having one right now—breathing.
Cottonwoods, ponderosa pines, eucalyptus, junipers and oaks.
Are trees involved at all in your writing or worldview?
Yes. The term “knock on wood” dates back to pagan times: in Scandanavia, folks believed that there were mischievious spirits that lived inside the trees, who liked to meddle with people’s business. So when they were saying aloud something they wanted, they’d knock on the nearest tree so that the spirit in the tree literally couldn’t hear what they were saying. In my poems, I would like to do the opposite of knocking on wood.
Iris Marble Cushing was born in Tarzana, CA. In 2011, she was a writer-in-residence at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Her poems have appeared in the Boston Review and other places. She works as an editor for Argos Books and is a writing tutor at Columbia University.