The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review : What are you currently working on?
Patti White: My current project is a new manuscript tentatively titled Book of Maps which features Lucy, the persona from Chain Link Fence (Anhinga Press, 2013). In Chain Link, Lucy wanders through a harsh and apocalyptic landscape unable to tell the difference between dream and memory; she suffers a good deal of trauma but, in the end, she wakes completely and finds the world making gestures toward restitution, reclamation, some measure of comfort. In the new book, Lucy struggles to locate herself in a world that is still difficult, but less overtly apocalyptic. The book contains images of mapping (of course), measurement, diagrams and charts and road signs: all the ways we know where (and who) we are. The manuscript is more than half done; some things that have already appeared: sea stars, dust devils, petroglyphs, wild swans, stalactites, beehives, porcelain dogs, clam chowder, and neurons.
RR: Did you begin writing “Recipe” with the images you included already in mind, or did the images come to you after you started the poem?
PW:I think the poem began with the notion of process. It may in fact have been a class exercise developed by one of my students in an “exploded forms” class (in which we break and torment existing forms and invent new ones). So: write a poem about a process. What brought the oven to mind, I’m not sure, but once I had the oven, the rest (including the sex) followed naturally.
RR: Early imagery in “Recipe” casts colorful light onto the poem (“the racks inside glowed red”,“bowl was bright yellow,”) before shifting to an absence of color about halfway through. What provoked that shift?
PW: On the level of the narrative of the poem, the shift from red/yellow to white marks a shift from the kitchen to the bed. although I’d note the darkness of the vanilla extract in the middle of the poem, and the return to the redness of the oven in the next to last line. In one way, it’s just following the recipe: preheating the oven, the yellow mixing bowl, egg yolks, then flour and salt, vanilla extract, and lots of sugar. The spin of the mixer, and then the whole thing goes into the oven.
RR: Was this poem inspired by a passion for baking or were you simply intrigued by the challenge of writing about that process while relating it to sex?
PW: I rarely bake. But when I do, it’s one of two spectacular family favorites, either Cream Puffs, which need puff pastries, a vanilla custard, and a dark chocolate drizzle icing, or the My Inspiration Cake, which has shaved chocolate in the middle of white cake layers, chopped pecans and shaved chocolate on the bottoms of each layer, and a home-made chocolate buttercream icing.
RR: Reading “Recipe” made us hungry, so we wondered: what’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? And, as a bonus, did it inform your writing in any way?
PW: One of the best: at Charles Court in the Broadmoor Hotel, a five-star resort at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado. Starting with escargots, then caesar salad, Beef Wellington with creamed spinach and crispy potatoes, and ending with Grand Marnier souffle. I can’t say it inspired any poetry, but I almost married that man (which is a tale of another sort).
Patti White appears in Rappahannock Review Issue 3.3
Patti White is the author of three collections of poetry, Tackle Box (2002), Yellow Jackets (2007), and Chain Link Fence (2013), all from Anhinga Press. Her poems have appeared in journals including Iowa Review, River Styx, New Madrid, DIAGRAM, Forklift Ohio, North American Review, and Nimrod. She teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama.