Yemassee Interview: 5 Questions with Eve Kenneally

Eve Kenneally’s poem “Lolita on OK Cupid” appeared in Issue 23.1.

Where are you from and where are you now?

I’m from the suburbs of Boston and currently live in Missoula, Montana.

What have you been reading lately?

For fiction, I just finished Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – which I loved – and for poetry I just re-read one of my favorites, Two-Headed Nightingale by Shara Lessley.

What do you think is the most unique part of your writing process?

I think the way I collect and piece together different quotes from books, movies, headlines, conversations, etc. is fairly unique – I’m constantly taking notes, then doing my best to figure out a way for the material to fit together.

What is the most valuable writing advice you’ve been given?

To not be afraid of taking breaks from writing! Sometimes you need a period where you may not be generating entire poems, but you’re still observing and collecting notes for future material. It took me a long time to figure out that these two steps completely inform and depend on each other.

I love “Lolita on OKCupid” not only for pairing the florid language of Nabokov with the concision one expects from an OKCupid profile, but also for its inventive approach to the sonnet form. I’m interested to know how you see this poem satisfying and upending the traditional components of the sonnet (e.g.: the arrangement of the lines, the volta, the final couplet.)

Thank you! I was reading Lolita for the first time last winter and was so enamored with Nabokov’s language that I started taking notes and used them to write a traditional sonnet for a prosody class. It did originally start off in iambic pentameter, but once I was able to edit the piece I could let it breathe a little and remove some of the restrictions (while still keeping it at 14 lines for the sake of concision). I ended up taking the form and running with it – Nabokov’s language so gorgeous and striking that it does all of the work on its own. The lines just fell into place and I did some rearranging, primarily so my favorite two lines could serve as both the volta and the final couplet. I had so much fun writing it!

Eve Kenneally is a second-year MFA student at the University of Montana, from Boston by way of DC. Her chapbook, Something Else Entirely, will be released by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in decomP, Star 82 Review, Sugared Water, Blue Monday Review, and elsewhere.