Meet Room Collective Member Jennifer Zilm

Interview by 
Taryn Hubbard

Meet Jennifer Zilm, member of the Room collective. Jennifer has been with Room since February 2011 and is our Creative Non-Fiction Submissions Coordinator and poetry reader.

ROOM: What are you reading right now?

JZ: I am reading Tanis MacDonald’s book The Daughter’s Way—which is about paternal elegies written by Canadian women. I have noticed that there are elegies everywhere lately, especially elegies written by women (MxT by Sina Queryas; Fur(l) Parachute by Shannon Maguire are two that come to mind) and I have been in a somewhat elegiac mood for a while.

Frog Hollow Press just published your first chapbook The Whole and Broken Yellows, which includes a section on Vincent van Gogh and his letters. What drew you to use these documents in your work?

JZ: I had gone to Amsterdam for a conference on Biblical Literature and I went to the Van Gogh Museum and started writing to the pictures. The museum is really well laid out and the text from the letters accompanies the paintings. I sent drafts of the poems to people on the backs of van Gogh postcards. A sequence called “Four Rooms in Amsterdam” sort of evolved out of those postcards; the next spring one of the poems was published and my partner bought me a used copy of the Letters of Vincent van Gogh. I read parts of it—mostly the later sections where van Gogh was hospitalized. I had this desire to write poems from the perspective of van Gogh’s doctors as a way to sort of explore the peculiarities of the therapeutic relationship.

Then I read van Gogh had spent time as preacher and tried to include some of my own weird biblical interpretation into the poems. Serendipitously, while I was reading the letters, I also found a copy of Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne at a thrift store and Rilke discusses some van Gogh reproductions; later he says something like Cézanne is a better painter because he doesn’t have to verbalize it as much as van Gogh. I talk a lot so I could empathize.

Originally published in Room 37.4 Claiming Space

 

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