Rebecca Wolff, author of four poetry collections—including Figment and The Beginners—and editor of Fence magazine, visited Sewanee in the spring of 2019. While here, Wolff read poems published in our Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 issues at the Sewanee Review Spring Open House. She spoke with assistant editor Spencer Hupp about her editorship at Fence, shared insight about the sometimes sparse structure of her writing, and read from her most recent poetry collection, One Morning (Wave Books 2015).
The conversation begins with Wolff describing what it takes to build a literary magazine. She chronicles the genesis of Fence and its incipient mission: to offer representation for alternative poets and to address the artistic vacancy between the expectations of the literary mainstream and the experimental sensibilities that existed in poetry in the late nineties.
Wolff also articulates the construction of her own unconventional poems, which she says oftentimes depends on “receiving language” and writing what can be an “effort at feeling” when the actual feeling itself is hard to process. She addresses the presence of what she calls the unheimlich in her poetry, the gentrification of New York (where she resides), and the kinetic tension between stanzas and space on the page—saying space can serve as a “place full of hope.” According to Wolff, such hope is perhaps what we are looking for in art, when we otherwise feel pigeonholed by catastrophe or escapism. Space allows for a certain detachment, which Wolff describes as “not being a part of the thing, but visiting things.”
The Sewanee Review Podcast is recorded in the Ralston Listening Room at the University of the South. It is produced by Hellen Wainaina and edited by Alex Martin with music by Annie Bowers. Don’t miss any of our conversations with some of today’s best writers. Subscribe to the Sewanee Review Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. One Morning is available for purchase from Wave Books and Bookshop.org.