Author Q & A with Amy S. Lerman
June 15, 2022
This week’s Author Q&A is with Amy S. Lerman. Amy was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, so all three landscapes figure prominently in her writing. She is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College, and her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Willawaw Journal, Stonecoast Review, Broad River Review, Radar Poetry, Rattle, Slippery Elm, and other publications. Her poem, “Why Is It?” was the inaugural winner of the Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry. Her poem, “For Me–Desideratum,” appeared in our latest issue of The Good Life Review.
We asked Amy to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her poem.
Her response: “During my graduate work, I took a reading French course and learned what I felt were “impractical phrases” compared to more essential ones, one being “beton arme,” which means reinforced concrete, so this has become a recurring joke between me and my husband for the few times that term has crossed our conversations :). It’s sort of a postmodern twist that I’ve used it in this poem, “For Me–Desideratum.””
We asked her what part of the writing process is the most satisfying and also what fuels her desire to write.
Her response: “I love the space I get into when I write–the freeing of everyday distractions and issues–and ending a poem far away from where I began it. I often start poems with an idea of what I want to write about, but I’m happy to cede to the process, and even if what I write will be chucked or revised, I like pushing myself/my writing to go somewhere unexpected and surprising.
“Eavesdropping fuels me a lot and has since I was a kid. My parents always knew that I’d come home with an impersonation or story from the group sitting next to us in a restaurant. And, now, though everything can be a poem, I feel like a lot of material comes from the periphery–peripheral conversations I might have, peripheral people I might see, peripheral stories (not the headlines) I might read–and there’s constant material (if only my brain and fingers were always cooperative :).”
We then asked Amy what advice she might give to her younger self.
Her response: “Fly your freak flag! Don’t be afraid to experiment/go weird/play with form and imagery. After all, the worst thing/result is your work gets rejected and you can revisit/revise/reflect/redo/resubmit :).”
We think that is good advice for many writers. We know what comes in an early draft is rarely a poem’s best version of itself and also that the words are not set in concrete. The “playing” that happens in the revision process can often be just as satisfying as writing a first draft.
We also asked what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence in her writing? Or what she enjoys reading and why?
Her response: “Even though I’m mostly a poet, I read a lot of fiction. Some favorite authors include Elizabeth Stroud, Jhumpa Lahiri, Meg Wolitzer, Lauren Groff, Jess Walter, Tayari Jones, Richard Russo, and Haruki Murakami. Of course, there are too many poets of influence to list–Terrance Hayes, Sharon Olds, Adrian Blevins, and Stephen Dobyns come immediately to mind–and I’m drawn often to narrative poems, especially those using dark humor for levity, e.g., as Dobyns’ “Tomatoes.””
Finally, we asked our signature questions, which is what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life?”
Her response: “I like to think that phrase can apply to all–that everyone can have the opportunity for happiness, access, advocacy, fulfillment, joy, creativity, peace–so “The Good Life” phrase has very positive connotations for me, and I wish it upon/for everyone.”
Quite lovely, Amy. We do too. Thank you for sharing more about yourself and your writing life and thanks also for allowing us to publish your wonderful poem.
~The Good Life Review Team