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10 Questions for Vanessa Place

August besieged California with a heat
unseen in generations.
I watched as towering plumes of smoke
billowed from distant hills in all directions
and air tankers crisscrossed the skies.
—from "The Fire Sermon," Volume 62, Issue 4 (Winter 2021)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
Stendiamo un velo pietoso.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Influence is a conceit, best left to the conceited. There are writers and works I admire, that did and do inspire, but I don’t know if they left thumbprints so much as the scent of possibility. Possibility is better than genealogy, don’t you think?

What other professions have you worked in?
I am a criminal defense attorney, representing indigent felons on appeal.

What inspired you to write this piece?
I was asked. It’s good to say yes when asked, as every opportunity to write is an opportunity to write, and the chance to see what might happen in the writing. Of course, I didn’t write this piece in the usual way, one word thought up and set next to some other, but gleaned language from various sources to poetically arrange. This seemed appropriate given the subject, the connection between events, and in the sense of recycling.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
My last name is Place, which is both real and imagined, and is enough affect, just as it must have been for Pound, or Stein, or anyone named Jonathan.

Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
The music of the writing—I only listen for and to this. Anything else would be distraction or false harmony.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
The unsuspecting. The critical. The generous.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Sculpture or surgery.

What are you working on currently?
A catalogue of women, an idiosyncratic catalogue of my fascinations, with footnotes.

What are you reading right now?
Boccaccio’s On Famous Women, Seneca’s epistles, Marjorie Perloff’s Infrathin, Chiara Bottici’s Feminist Mythologies

VANESSA PLACE is an American writer and criminal defense appellate attorney. She has performed internationally, including at the Musée d’Orsay, the Getty Villa, and the Modern Museum of Art (New York), and published numerous books of poetry and prose.

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