Interview With Maureen Alsop



Walter Benjamin: What creative work is currently occupying you?

Maureen Alsop: Let’s study the topography. Walter, when you questioned the bunting’s trill then mouthed back over the stream, I could not stop the alstroemeria’s impossibly small blossom. Snow lacerates the valley. Meaning there is no disrespect for your transition—flakes puncture the dry edge of your boot. After death you were sent earthward, and because snow itself is arborescent, winter’s striations filled you. Now, hypnopompic, you arrive toward the season unacknowledged. I am among your layers, water’s amnesia, work that cannot be completed in solitude. While you walk in the “I” consciousness, you are the “me” that will not be spoken. It is upon this map you ride through transience, but it is a map that can’t be anywhere because it is the flames tender correctness. You are inconsolable because I was once a heroine, together we now pass through mirrors, garlands of plastic ribbons, dressed in fire; we are forensic like the larger medicine of ceremony. We are someone without armor.

WB: If all human knowledge takes the form of interpretation, what, from your perspective, distinguishes a -mancy from any other form of mysticism?

MA: Language is the measure of any room. Form depends upon patterns of light. The dry hills are already moonlit erasures, a legible oat-colored blur.  You are immaculately lit by condolence, no longer bound by the lunatic body and it’s odd permissions. Chiefs are born onto their native islands as newly assured transients. The transient’s ingestion makes edicts, but on this planet there is no bravado. When we finally arrive, we wince as if glancing over a used desk-reference. We see our ancestors’ faces charted like a new astronomy. Their images a dispensation of promotional postcards ready to be adorned with wound.

WB: I maintain that work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven. How is this true with respect to your own practice?

MA: The transients are a kind of science. I gather their descriptions, acute traces of overprinted dreamless sleep etched in white.

WB: How would you care to respond to any of the critical glosses that now accompany your contribution to this publication?

MA: You want to create the past different; I fear your own interpretation of self may be selfless. He said, “I treasure the sufferings of my heart because sufferings are not secret.” I wondered. With me I took his visage. There was nothing shy between us now.

WB: What substance, in fact, precedes [nothing]?

MA: There are two neat roads where the sea twice meets dusk red provinces. Here bleached churches line the bay and all the sycamore leaves blanch in one unbroken breath.

WB: What would you ask (of) me?

MA: Do you become you in me? How does one confront an exit? If the body itself is a kind of lodestone, how does one exit the body? For a time we might be remembering a story, but does the story itself emerge through memory? Never seeking the infinite how does one recognize its loss?

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Maureen Alsop is the author of two full length collections of poetry, Apparition Wren and Mantic (pending).  Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the anthologies [out of nothing]: theoretical perspectives on the substance preceding nothing and A Bird as Black as the Sun, as well as the journals The Offending Adam, Superstition Review, Kestrel, Aperçu Quarterly, and Berkeley Poetry Review. Learn more at

Walter Benjamin is a German literary critic and translator. He holds a doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Bern. While his current whereabouts are unknown, his essays and reviews, as well as the collected fragments of his magnum opus on Parisian life in the 19th century, await posthumous publication and approbation.

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