Daisy Fried: Reverie vs. real life 

An interview with an award-winning poet

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Poet Daisy Fried is no stranger to winning awards. To date, she's received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and Poetry Magazine Editor's Prize for best feature article. Of her writing style, she says, "I believe poems should put readers in the position of someone stepping into a rowboat, with one foot in the boat and one foot on solid ground, uncertain whether to go forward or back. There are as many ways of getting to that precarious moment of awkwardness, excitement, and complexity as there are poems."

A prolific writer, Fried has published three books of poetry: Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice (2013), which was named one of Library Journal's Five Best Poetry Books of 2013; My Brother is Getting Arrested Again (2006); and She Didn't Mean to Do It (2000).

Fried revisits Indianapolis after a brief teaching stint here last summer, which also introduced her and her family to local attractions like the IMA, walks along the canal and duckpin bowling in Fountain Square.

NUVO: How did your forthcoming appearance at Butler come about?

Daisy Fried: The director of the MFA program, Hilene Flanzbaum, invited me. I taught a two-week intensive course for the program last summer and had a wonderful time: excellent students, great hosts, pleasant town. The upcoming visit is sort of Part B of that commitment. I'm happy to be coming back!

NUVO: Speak a bit about your writing process. For instance, what sort of environment is best for you to write in? How did your practice change once you had a daughter? 

Fried: The ideal situation for me would be to write — or at least be in my study — each morning, four or five days a week. It means being in there, having something underway, getting distracted, doing other things, coming back to the writing, but spending time in the study no matter what. That can be really hard to do with teaching and other commitments. I try to write a little every day, in any case. That doesn't necessarily mean I finish much or that I'm always or even often inspired. But it's like concert pianists practicing: they have to practice in order to do well when performing. I have to keep my poetry muscles worked out so when inspiration strikes I'm ready for it.

My daughter is nine now and is in school. So she is only a distraction in that she's something I need and want to pay attention to and that takes emotional and physical energy. She also provides great material for poems. When she was born, my husband (novelist and short story writer Jim Quinn) and I took turns watching her and giving each other time to write. I'm lucky that he works at home. It was more a matter of learning the emotional changes and rhythms of motherhood and adjusting to them, writing with them, writing into them. That's not easy, but overall it's a positive change.  

NUVO: You have received, among several other awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Can you discuss that experience and what it did for your art?

Fried: What awards like the Guggenheim get you — besides prestige, which is a fine thing! — is time. Time off making money from things other than writing, time for reverie (extremely important to poets), time to look around you. Time, obviously, to write. I finished my first book on one fellowship, and my second one on another. When the Guggenheim came, I was struggling with my third book and had a newborn baby. To say it's hard to write and be a first-time mother at the same time is an understatement; the Guggenheim made it possible for me to be home with the baby and support our family and to write under less pressure, and without the added commitment of teaching, which is how I make money in general. It also meant we got to travel — we spent two months in Rome and two in Paris — and those things feed my writing: perspective, experience, subject matter. What I worked on when I was on the Guggenheim eventually went into my third book of poems (2013's Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice).

NUVO: Who are some of your literary influences?

Fried: It's so hard to pinpoint literary influences; everything I read and everything I do that's not reading influences my work. What I really want is to write poems with the breadth, detail and intensity of the Neapolitan novels of the amazing Elena Ferrante. I tend to write in the persona(e) of myself, and to write about my life, however obliquely and fictionally, in order to describe realities of contemporary America. 


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