Melinda (Mindy) LePere, a retired Detroit teacher, holds an MFA from Vermont College and has participated in the Springfed Arts writing community for many years. Her work has been published in the anthology At the Edge of Mirror Lake, in The Paterson Review, The MetroTimes, The MacGuffin, The Valparaiso Review, Juked, Mantis and The Ambassador Poetry Project. She received a nomination for a Pushcart. Mindy's affinity for the surreal is manifest in a fascination with puppets, fairy tales and the ordinary strangeness of life. It lurks in missing body parts and was incubated while teaching 20 years in the Detroit Public Schools.
Her poem, "Inside the Cathedral," appeared in Issue Eighty-One of The Rupture.
Here, she speaks with interview Victoria DiMartino about physical experience both in and out of poetry, exploring darkness through writing, and how our stories provide protection in the darkness of the universe.
Where did you find the inspiration for "Inside the Cathedral"?
My poems often get sparked by a physical experience, so, indeed I was inside a cathedral immersed in the cacophony of a practicing organ. And then there is a percolation, other images wanting to resonate that are illusive and require patience, that insist on rubbing against each other. Often, a quasi-memory begins to hum, I say quasi because my memory is very suspect¾sort of a gray field of icebergs with only tiny peaks I trip over, everything else is buried.
The title of your piece is in some ways the first line, as it flows into the body of the poem. Could you talk about why you choose to start your piece like this?
Yes, I wanted to fall right into the poem. Placement inside a cathedral invokes the intimidation of heightened formal religion a place where someone should be praying but the narrator is imitating, practicing, hoping repetition might lead to revelation. The constellations are a similar image for me, the vastness unconnected and yet, we construe patterns and construct stories, the stories our safety nets in the blankness of the universe.
I really enjoyed the lines, "manila paper coated / solid back. He explained we were all there / in his room behind a black curtain." These lines struck me because of their vivid detail and how I could so easily picture them. But also, I was drawn in by the way it felt like logic a child would use, even though there's something darker there. Could you tell us about what the brother is saying/what he drew?
The entire story is a family fable: the teacher calling my mother to school concerned about the darkness of his portrayal, followed by his explaining he didn't know how to draw people. For me, the darkness of the drawing falls down the rabbit hole of family humor as well as the way the dead are so thinly separated from us.
What are you reading right now? Is it something new (in terms of style, genre, or subject) or something you've read before?
Lucie Brock-Broido and C.D. Wright. Also, Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyimi and The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig. I like spooky feral things: cryptic messages, almost like they have been translated. All of these are current and new to me.
Are you writing anything currently that you feel is changing you as a writer?
Both poets validate the acceptance of disparate images and trusting their volition to animate the poem. I feel I will be going deeper into the woods, more playful and more sinister. The dead only a room away.