Creative Writing at The New School

Recently, MFA '07 alum Amy Lawless participated in The Next Big Thing project where she talked about her upcoming book of poems, My Dead (Octopus Books 2013). She has graciously agreed to allow us to reprint it here.

The Next Big Thing with Amy Lawless

What is the working title of the book?

The title is My Dead.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

One idea in this book is death and how we (the alive people) might deal with this.  Sometimes dealing is not dealing. Sometimes dealing is really looking at the face of it.  Sometimes mourning is dealing.  Sometimes laughing is dealing. Sometimes flirting is dealing. Sometimes writing is dealing. Sometimes hanging with friends and family is dealing. Reading is dealing.  Being a poet can be dealing. Sometimes looking at photographs is dealing. Sometimes thinking about dealing is dealing.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Famous elephants include Dumbo’s mommy Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo himself, and maybe also that elephant from the George Orwell essay “Shooting an Elephant.”
For the girl narrator, a cipher with a nice can.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

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How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The sequence “Elephants in Mourning” was written on my apartment’s couch in Brooklyn one summer day in 2010, and it took me a year to work into its final form. The final section of the book was written in July of 2012 when I thought I was going to die. The loose poems were written and edited in the last three years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by elephant mourning rituals, which I viewed on Youtube and in another nature film I found on the same subject on Netflix.  I had not truly mourned or accepted the loss of some lost relatives and friends for some reason and when I watched the videos I felt a connection. When I saw the elephants mourning their lost ones, I was like that annoying whiny old lady in When Harry Met Sally who said “I’ll have what she’s having!” In other words, I had found a comparative experience to deal with something I was going through and a vase to hold something. My poems are also ego driven, so they are often inspired by actual personal experiences.  However, many poems are not based on my experiences. I like to have fun.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In the middle of the night last week I woke up worrying that one title (which is in Latin) did not mean what I thought it meant.  And guess what? It does mean what I thought it meant but, it is also the text used in one of Angelina Jolie’s tattoos. I guess she's a fan of my work! (BLUSH)
Update January 27: I forgot that I changed the title of this poem to the English translation of this Latin phrase.  Don't worry there's still one title in Latin in the book but unfortunately it does not correspond an Angelina Jolie's tattoo...yet.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Octopus Books has kindly agreed to publish it, and it is due out March 15, 2013. Check this blog or with Octopus Books for ordering information very soon.

Amy Lawless will be reading with our own LIT Journal and Brooklyn's Mental Marginalia reading series at AWP. Join us on Saturday, March 9th from 5:00-9:00 to hear her and other spectacular authors on the last night before the big hangover.

Amy Lawless is the author of the poetry collections Noctis Licentia and the forthcoming My Dead (which is now available for preorder at Octopus Books.) She graduated from the New School MFA Program in 2007. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Pen American; Forklift, Ohio; H_NGM_N; Sink Review; and Heavy Feather Review among others.

For more on New School alum Amy Lawless and her upcoming book, My Dead, see her recent Interview with The Conversant.


About The Author

Founded in Greenwich Village in 1931, Creative Writing at The New School continues to promote, engender, and shape innovative literature.