Ice Queen Interviews Remi Recchia
Purchase Remi's book, Quicksand/Stargazing from Cooper Dillon Books today!
Ice Queen: So tell me about these poems. What were you thinking about when you were writing them? What inspired them?
Remi: Well recently I've been trying to get into humor, because I noticed a while ago that– I thought I was writing these really hysterical poems that no one was really laughing at– which turned out to be a problem. And I was trying to get into odes, and not even in an ironic way. Just to be like, Here's an ode to something ridiculous, and/or Here's something that I'm sort of laughing about at myself. But for some reason, I was having a hard time connecting to audience.
So with "Dear Hiring Committee" I was still trying to make a direct address to someone, but I thought a different approach would be to make an address to someone who's sort of a character. So, the hiring committee—it's not really an audience, but by having that as the title, the audience has to be the hiring committee. I was exploring that connection between speaker and audience. Something else I've been writing about thematically has been alcoholism and addiction, so I was trying to marry that humor and addiction theme together.
Ice Queen: Yeah, I thought it worked. And I thought it was—it was funny as well. I don't know if you know my friend, Adrian Sobol. He's brilliant and does a lot of humorous poetry. We went to the MFA together, and he would write what he felt were these really funny poems that we'd all read and just say, Adrian, that's so sad! In a way, "Dear Hiring Committee" felt like that for me.
Remi: I think it can be really difficult because senses of humor are so individual. In my MFA, which was several years ago now, I wrote this little series of knock-knock jokes. And I think that my cohort was sort of—we were all very weird poets, so they helped me make them a little bit more surreal, staying away from a traditional knock-knock set-up. But ... none of those have ever been picked up for publication. [Laughs]
Ice Queen: Tell me about, "It's a 'Sorry, We Missed You' Kind of Day."
Remi: I've been writing– so, on the flip side of humorous poems for, I think, a few weeks, I was also getting a little too dark. And so I was trying to step back from that darkness. So, "Dear Hiring Committee" is not based on real life. It's a persona. There are related themes, but the speaker's not me. I wanted to try a different perspective this time. So this is really just based on a very real disappointment of attempting to get Starbucks, and Starbucks being closed, and it being very disappointing. Which is not a typical entry point to my work. I really like to fictionalize much more. And then I was just trying to have fun with it. I wasn't really sure how I felt about the poem in the first place.
Ice Queen: I loved it. It was, it was one of those things where I sort of—I don't know. It was funny, but it was also one of those things where it was like, okay, it was just one of those days where you wake up and everything's sort of... wrong, and it's going wrong. But then at the end of it, it's kind of funny. But it's also very. much. not, and I wouldn't call it like a tragedy by any stretch, but it definitely felt more... melancholy for me, I guess, than the first poem. You know, like the first poem was humorous, but I would call that one more of a tragedy. [Laughs]
Remi: Yeah! [Laughs]
Ice Queen: That one, that one got me. Cause I feel as if everyone has been job searching for, you know, years at this point. So the first one was a little hard. It was hard to read in a very personal way, because even though it is not you, I feel like it is a lot of people. I think that's why it attracted me in the first place. Cause I was like, this is everyone at the moment! They were both just really good and exactly kind of what I was looking for in the way they talk about food. And really it's not about food, but it is definitely a very strong through-line throughout it.
Remi: You know, I appreciate that. And I was thinking about what you're saying about tragedy and how it's not quite the same level of tragedy… but there's this movie that I really love. I don't usually like Steve Carell, but he plays a more serious role in something called Dan in Real Life.
Ice Queen: I have the image of him, like on the [imitates lying face on a stack of pancakes].
Remi: Yeah! So that's my favorite movie. I watch it once or twice a year, and there's this very memorable scene in which everything is going wrong for him. He's in love with his brother's girlfriend who turns out to be his soulmate, and he's trying really hard to work with his children and make his nieces and nephews happy. First they tried to go to a whale museum, and it's closed. Then they go to a bowling alley, which is also closed. There's this line that my wife and I quote to each other when things are going wrong. And it's, "There are disappointments in life, some big and some even bigger." [Laughs] That's always stayed with me. And that's what I'm thinking about when I'm writing these poems.
Ice Queen: Yeah, no, that's perfect! There's no such thing as like, oh, I was only disappointed like a little bit. Like, just for example: in "It's a, 'Sorry, We Missed You' Kind of Day," if I had gone to Starbucks after all of those relatively minor things happened thinking, I just want this stupid little drink, and I'd gone there and it was closed that would have ruined my whole day.
Remi: Yeah, it does sometimes! It really does.
Ice Queen: So my next questions are, still writing, but it's about food obviously, cause we're a food writing magazine! So what made you choose the recipe that you did, "Surprise Muffins?"
Remi: Well, I suppose it's the one recipe that has stuck with me from my childhood. I don't do a lot of cooking or baking, and I have a very fraught and complicated relationship to food. So when I was thinking of a recipe, I felt like, well, I don't have anything that I like to make because my wife is nice enough that she makes the food and I do all the dishes. So it's an equal give and take, but it's definitely less creative on my end. Anyways, my mom used to make those muffins, and I felt like they did fit in thematically with the cookies and the hiring committee poem, if only because they're both baked goods. But then, also—for some reason, in high school my mom and I started referring to them as “sacrifices.” I think because we watched … I think it's Madagascar. Or The Lion King. I don't know which movie this is, in which there are little henchman creatures telling their boss who might eat them that he looks skinny, so he should have another sacrifice to dissuade him from eating them. And for some reason we started calling them sacrifices. So when we were hungry, we would say we needed another sacrifice. And I don't know. I mean, the idea of sacrifice is sort of related to disappointment in its own way.
King Julien in Madagascar 2, speaking of sacrifices.
Ice Queen: So would the sacrifice then be if you got one of the muffins without the jam inside?
Ice Queen: Maybe it's all sacrifice! So you said you don't really cook or bake— so did you not go through the poet or the, you know, the “writer baking period” during COVID? I mean COVID is still ongoing, but during quarantine?
Remi: You know, I tried. I tried to make banana bread.
Ice Queen: Of course! [Laughs]
Remi: It was a struggle because I have a gluten allergy, so we found a mix or something and— I suppose I felt a little sheepish, because I wanted to put walnuts in the banana bread, but I didn't chop them. And so I put entire raw walnuts in the banana bread.
Ice Queen: So did they just sink?
Remi: Yeah! Right. So it got out of the oven and it really wasn't what I was expecting or what I wanted to eat. My wife tried to be really nice and she was like, Oh! You put them in whole, like, that's, that's so creative! [Laughs] But it was really, you know, not something I wanted to do again!
Ice Queen: I did actually make a gluten-free banana bread! If you just like, grind oatmeal up in like a mixer, it's the same thing as oat flour. I made banana bread out of that. It came out not as sturdy, obviously, as any other bread is going to, but I feel like if you supplemented the oats with maybe just like a standard gluten-free flour that might, that might solve some of that issue. But then also the oats just add something really nice, I think, to banana bread. So if you ever want to give it a go again, I've got the recipe for you!
Remi: [Laughs] Maybe in the next pandemic!