interview /// Meat Heart by Melissa Broder

Posted By jatyler - 5th March 2012

If you were smart enough to nab up an early release copy of Melissa Broder’s Meat Heart, then you have already held in your hands one of these beautifully letter-pressed special editions from Publishing Genius Press. Broder, author of the previous collection When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books) returns this year with her second book, and it is, honestly, quite a wonder. Broder acts as a loving and bloody butcher to the heart and the consum(e)mation of words in this garden of poetic meat, and we feel very fortunate indeed to have chatted with her here:

MB: The opening volley of Meat Heart gives us poems that speak of lacking heart, of not being gentle, of fearless weight gain, of craving meat instead of vegetables or ‘milder’ foods – so in its opening dozen poems Meat Heart seems to have a great deal to say about resisting typically feminine stereotypes. Can you talk to us a little about where this approach comes from, and what it says (or might say) about you as a poet and about your poetic landscape?

MB: It’s got to do with hunger, bottomlessness, fear of insatiability. Abyssness. In waking life I buy into the beauty myth. I am invested. My body is invested, my face is invested. I have a need to feel “hot”. I will hurt myself to be “hot”—even if my intellectual ideals run counter. Hotness protects me from meaninglessness. It protects me from the void. Also, and perhaps as a result of this investment, I am afraid of hunger. Hunger is desire and I do not know where it will end. It is the void’s comeback. It could break the container. But in these poems I get to act out all that desire. I can explore every grotesque, infinite want. I am a pig in heat. And it is hot.

MB: There is also a raw / visceral kind of introspection throughout Meat Heart, poems that seek meaning in the literal bones, forehead, heart, or stomach in its stages of digestion – what feeds this poetic desire? Is it about countering the expected (heart = love) with the unexpected (heart = literal blood pumping organ), or is it something else entirely?

MB: Let’s just say I’m not thrilled with the limitations of the body. If I had my choice I’d live elsewhere. As an escapist, a dreamer, I can mindtravel anywhere. But in this lifetime the heart is made of meat. We’re tethered to it. A lot of these poems deal with that dichotomy.

MB: In fact the narrator or poet or the poems themselves seem focused on resistance in a variety of ways, the heaviest of which pits the ‘usual’ woman against the ‘usual’ man – as in a poem like ‘Ahoy!’, where the war is an internal pillaging:

I am channeling my grandmom’s fears

of common colds and foreign air.

The women judge me silly.

                            They say Unsisterly!

                            Your angst is old, so old.

To prove myself fierce

I run down the danger corridor

of his guts to his intestines

Who is this woman, this narrator if you will, and what is she amidst resisting in Meat Heart?

MB: This is a woman who sails down a man’s throat with a group of other women. They’ve just entered the lung and now the other women are starting to get snippy with her. She is resisting their judgments (or her perception of their judgments). She is very sensitive. So she runs. Luckily, the man’s intestines carry her favorite yogurt with full nutrition labeling. She can distract herself with that for a while. Eventually, the yogurt will end. Eventually she will be alone with herself. She’ll have to be still in her own judgments.

MB: Beyond these ideas of resistance and woman v. man / expected v. unexpected, there is also a heavy dose of religious imagery in Meat Heart, that of prayer and church, religious routine and deity-laced environments – where does this come from and how do you hope it functions in the overall reading of this collection?

MB: This comes from an ongoing relationship I have with a god I do not understand. God couldn’t not be in here. How it functions textually is for you to decide, but I know it ties into that desire for moreness and fear of not-enoughness. Like, there is something out there that can sate you baby.

MB: Another noticeable thematic assembly is that of animals – their skills and statures running beneath so many of the poems in Meat Heart. Can you talk to us a little about how these animals appear in your poetry, where they come from and, assuming that it is a conscious exploration, what they are meant to achieve?

MB: To be honest, I don’t even know how those little buggers snuck their way in. Once I made fun of the trope of the precious animal on htmlgiant. So of course this book has to be teeming with rabbits. I mean, it opens with a T.S. Eliot quote involving a bird of all things. That is like the twee-est of the twee.

MB: Lastly, as a poet, what new books of poetry or upcoming poets excite you the most right now? Who should we all be on the look-out for?

MB: Ariana Reines and CAConrad. I am gobbling their everything right now.

You may be too late for the special letter-press edition, but if we know Adam Robinson, the genius behind the publishing, then we can assume that the standard version of Meat Heart will be equally gorgeous, and no matter what, the insides will writhe with lovely poetic guts. Get your copy of Meat Heart here, & read more from / about Melissa Broder here.