Welcome back to The Adroit Journal‘s Staff Spotlight! We think that Poetry Reader Lucia LoTempio is pretty great, and you will too. As an intern at VIDA, Lucia works on the frontlines in the fight to earn women the representation they deserve in the art. Plus, we hear she’s a particularly awesome poet, too.
Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor: So, first off, what have you been up to lately in your writing?
Lucia LoTempio, Poetry Reader: Lately, I’ve been interested in writing about gender performance. A lot of my poetry deals with how gender is performed and perceived. I have a poem coming out in Weave this winter that has been functioning as a bit of a summary for my project. Also I have a few poems coming out soon in Hidden City Quarterly – and one in particular I’m especially excited about works a lot with cognitive dissonance.
What does gender performance mean to you? How does that differ from gender expression?
Well, I feel like differentiating the two terms is very difficult. But I find that using “performance” implicates an audience. So not just the person expressing or performing gender is the focus, but how others perceive that person’s gender and then act (or don’t act) as a result. I find that push-and-pull relationship interesting and important to talk about.
Describe the project you’re working on – How do you incorporate these ideas into your writing?
I have been writing a lot of characters. Whether they are real people – so Rachel, the woman Van Gogh gave his ear to – or new creations – like my Mary Queen of Sunshine. Additionally, I have been using “we” as a speaker more often which implicates the readers a bit more.
You’re interning at VIDA – what kind of work do you do, what has the experience taught you?
We’re still gathering data and counting until late winter, or early spring! As writer who is a woman, VIDA’s work has always been important to me. I was lucky enough to be selected as an intern and to work with many brilliant and talented women across the globe to make the Count. Being on the front lines is hard – the work can be grueling, but worth it. Many journals and magazines need to reassess their practices when it comes to publication – and readers and submitting writers need to be aware of who is getting published and how much. Once I was at a publishing fair in Rochester wearing a VIDA t-shirt, and a small press owner and started talking. He tried so hard to defend his admittedly poor numbers to me and was a bit shamefaced. It was misled, but encouraging: he really was trying to change, to make his publications more inclusive. So the fact that awareness and genuine push to change is there is a great start.
What do you think is the best way for a publication to work towards making change?
Solicit more female authors, encourage more re-submissions, review more books by female authors. But I think the issue is bigger than the magazines and journals. Attitudes and preconceptions about writing by women needs to change. The legitimacy of work by women needs to be taken seriously. The universal is not exclusive to those who are white and male, nor are the individual and the specific lesser if they are female and/or non-white.
You just finished working as the editor of the SUNY-wide lit mag – how did you incorporate these ideas into your editorship?
Well this fall Gandy Dancer somehow had an all female staff! That was totally on accident, but also a lot of fun. Generally, every season it’s interesting (and necessary) to have the conversation about what makes a good poem or a good story or a good essay with each new staff (our staff changes every issue). In that conversation there is always a dissenter: “I don’t like this because it’s like Sylvia Plath” is (sadly) a very common happening. But having a conversation, cracking open the “why” of this comment is beneficial to rooting out subconscious bias towards female voice.
What do you have planned going forward in terms of you/your writing?
I just finished up applications to grad schools! So MFA-land here I come! For me personally, this is the right next step. I want to start working toward a collection and to be in an environment where I will be thinking seriously about poetry and what it can do. Having the time, opportunities, and support that is an MFA to really dig in and write, write, write is crucial for me. I’m nervous, but excited and ready to take this giant leap!
Lucia LoTempio is currently studying literature at SUNY Geneseo and will be graduating in May 2015. Hailing from Buffalo, NY, she plans to get an MFA in a place where there are no “seasons,” just the potential to be sweating 24/7. Her poetry has been or will be featured in Bayou Magazine, Weave Magazine, The Boiler: A Journal of New Literature, Spinal Orb, and more. She was the 2014 winner of the Mary A. Thomas Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Black Warrior Review 10th Annual Contest in Poetry. Her work has been nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Project. This winter she is counting for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, reading for The Adroit Journal, and interning for Writers & Books in Rochester.