On "Cry of Freedom" - An Interview with Linda Nemec Foster

1. The titles of the poems come from the titles of Jacko Vassilev’s photos, but the title of your chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, is your own. Why “songs”?
How I came up with it - and I didn’t even know I’d be working with a musician at the time, and didn’t even know Laszlo at that point - was that I just felt that these poems were more than just words on a page. I really wanted to give voice to these people, so I thought, “Well, instead of ten poems, how about ten songs?”
2. Was there a specific way in which you chose the form that the poems appear in?
I work in cycles; I’m a very cyclical poet. I tend to get an idea or an inspiration and that carries me along, especially in a sequence of poems, so when I saw these photographs and I noticed that there were ten of them, I knew there would be ten poems and I thought, “Well, they’ll have ten lines.” I wanted the poems to have equal weight. I didn’t want one poem to be longer than any other. I wanted them to be fraternal on the page, so that there was no one poem better than another.
3. As far as the collaboration with Laszlo goes, how did you approach it?
With collaboration, you have to have total trust. I didn’t tell Lasz what kind of music to compose for each poem; he just went with it and he nailed it. He not only got the spirit of the poems, but the people [from the photos] too, I couldn’t believe it. [The collaboration] really was meant to be.
4. The album does sound really nice. I also like how he reverently treated your lines. He didn’t rearrange them too much, he just added repetition and he chose the perfect lines to do that.
He chose the perfect lines, without me telling him! He just knew! He said the poems led him to those lines. He knew what lines to use as the refrain, because all songs need refrains. I am so grateful that he knows his craft.
5. There are a lot of poems that won’t stand up on the page by themselves and they’re meant to spoken, or they won’t stand up when they’re spoken and they’re meant to be read visually. Even as songs, these poems seem to tread that line perfectly.
It really is a unique balancing act to be solid on the page and solid in the air. You know, when you read it, when there’s that aural and oral quality, that quality of breath and spirit. A true poem - it’s honesty and genuineness. I know I always strive and work towards those two components: the poem on the page and when it’s spoken, the poem in the air. It’s very important, because if you don’t have the two, it just makes for not a very strong, honest poem.
6. If you could tell yourself, when you were starting out in poetry, one thing that you know now, what would it be?
Oh, wow, just one thing? One thing! Never give up, never give up, never give up. Because, sometimes what is as important as talent is perseverance, that “never give up.” The perseverance aspect of believing in yourself, believing in the work, just keep doing it. You don’t keep your eyes on the prize, meaning awards or publication or recognition. The poem is the prize. The prize is the work and it’s very hard to keep telling yourself that because it can be a very daunting, irritating, challenging, depressing field. That’s what I would tell myself. Keep the eyes on the work and don’t give up, because only you with your unique sense of self and soul and heart and mind...only you can write the poems you’re going to write.
Both the poetry chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, and the CD, Cry of Freedom, are available at Schuler Books and Music.
To hear an Interview with Linda and Laszlo about the origin of their collaboration, visit Michigan Radio
For more information on Linda and her work, check out lindanemecfoster.com

Works by Linda Nemec Foster

Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.