Over the summer, The Northville Review engaged guest poetry editor Whitney Freemesser. A graduate of Vassar College, Ms. Freemesser is the author of VH-1’s Behind the Music drinking game, excerpted at the New York Times, and I Am the Snake, Bite Bite Bite, a three act play starring staple removers. She also skates as Queen Kicktoria for Roc City Roller Derby.
But most important, Whitney Freemesser is an avowed hater of poetry.
Promising to give each submission the “fifteen seconds it deserves,” Ms. Freemesser read approximately sixty poems during her Editorial Summer of Terror. She selected four poems for publication, and they appear in this special edition of The Northville Review.
Ms. Freemesser graciously gave us fifteen more seconds of her time, so that we could ask her about her selection process.
Why do you hate poetry?
I don’t like frou-frou OH SO DEEP descriptions of things. If something is black, say it is black. Don’t say it’s inky jet ebon.
As people who received a rejection slip for this issue discovered, you do actually like some poetry. The example we gave out was Richard Brautigan’s At the California Institute of Technology. Can you talk a little bit about why you do like this poem, and maybe name some others?
I like it because it’s simple and not overwrought with emotion. We don’t have to listen to lines and lines of the same sentiment repeated thirteen different ways. As for other poems that I like, I like most of Brautigan’s work. Also, there’s a poetry anthology called “Pictures That Storm Inside My Head”, edited by Richard Peck. I like the title poem from that one, though I don’t remember who wrote it
Do you think that eliminating repetitive and overwrought elements might be the key to getting people to actually like poetry?
Well, it would make ME like poetry a lot more. But I’m not the usual poetry audience. I don’t have the time/energy/patience to listen to it. It’s like listening to my son try to tell a story – it takes him a few tries to get started, so he’ll repeat the same phrase over and over – and I just want to yell “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!” And then it’ll turn out to be something about Wii Sports Resort or Phineas and Ferb.
What was it like to select poems for The Northville Review? Especially because you did end up selecting poems…for a while, we weren’t sure what was going to happen there.
Sometimes it was really hard to give those 15 seconds. Some of them I just wanted to close the window and wish for those 7 seconds or so back. But some of them worked for me.
Could you talk a little about why the four poems you chose worked for you?
The Family Dog: While I normally hate and despise dogs with the intensity of a thousand suns, I like the idea of a dog ruling a land, just bounding around doing its thing and annoying people like me.
‘Tis the Season: C’mon, it’s just funny.
Presidential Flash Cards: I would totally say something like that.
Breakdown in the Fast Lane: I like the idea of darkness being full of plans.
What are some of your favorite non-poem literary works?
In Cold Blood, An American Tragedy. 1984, but really only the audiobook if it’s read by Frank Mueller. The Book of Daniel. And Chuck Palahniuk, because I’m really a 14 year old boy.
Any tips for poets, so that you might dislike their work less in the future?
I’m a prude. Don’t write about sex. Don’t use twelve words when one will work. Use proper punctuation and grammar. Don’t write a story and then insert line breaks and call it a poem.
Man, you really ARE a curmudgeon.
Yes. Yes, I am.