Lindsay Stern, author of the new novella, Town of Shadows, talks to BOMB’s 2012 Poetry Contest Finalist, Laura Goode, about childhood fears, eavesdropping, and the color of her voice.
In 2008, a writing student of mine named Lindsay Stern emailed me to set up a meeting to “talk about poems and college apps.” Lindsay was 17, and had recently finished her junior year of high school. In preparation for the meeting, she sent me a handful of poems.
One of the poems, “The Rug Doctor” began arrestingly:
Pierre keeps his autobiography under the sink. It reads:
March: Pierre is a boy of ambitions.
April: Pierre makes his living extracting salt from seawater.
June: Pierre and Selma buy a house with daffodil wallpaper.
July: A chandelier falls on Pierre.
August: Pierre recovers.
September: Pierre learns to play the flute.
October: For Halloween, Pierre is a frayed hem.
December: Pierre becomes a rug doctor.
I remember sitting back from the poem in a kind of awestruck stupor, my thoughts drifting back to the humiliating drops of latrine-sweat that I called poems in my own college applications. My response to the remarkable work now before me came in the form of her calendar:
January: Lindsay Stern sent me six poems, but they’re not really poems.
February: I don’t know what to call these, but I like them.
March: These whatever-the-hell-they-ares are fucking great.
April: A teenager wrote these?! Christ.
May: This Lindsay Stern is really something. Does she know how good she is? I have to tell her how good she is. Dear Lindsay Stern, you are so, so good.
June: Has anyone seen the top of my head?