Interview with Poet and Writer Adrienne J Odasso

Adrienne Odasso, reading her work at the Parallel Dimensions 2009 event, held at West Kirby Libary, Wirral.
Adrienne Odasso, reading her work at the Parallel Dimensions 2009 event, held at West Kirby Library, Wirral.

Meet Adrienne J Odasso!

Adrienne J Odasso is the author of four published books of poetry and several short stories. She has recently completed her Ph.D at the University of York, Department of English, affiliated with the Centre for Medieval Studies. Her area of focus was 14th/15th century English literature, and she worked primarily with palaeography (late medieval English book hands) and the works of Langland and the Pearl-Poet.

Adrienne's chapbooks and collections of poetry are: Dead Zones, Gold Wake Press, 2008; Devil's Road Down, Maverick Duck Press, 2009; Beyond the Dust of the Road, Other Voices International Poetry Project, 2009; and Lost Books, Flipped Eye Publishing, 2010.

Forty-four of her poems have been published (or are awaiting publication) in magazines and anthologies as of April 2010.

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Would you like to introduce yourself to readers, please?

Certainly! Although I've been resident in the U.K. for almost five years now, I'm originally from the U.S. I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to university between Connecticut and Massachusetts, and then came to England in order to pursue postgraduate study at the University of York (I very recently handed in my Ph.D. thesis).

I've been writing for what feels like a long time; I started playing with verse in my early teens (I'm twenty-eight now, so half my life ago), and fiction came a bit later than that. I've had the most success with my poetry, as I've been published in a variety of magazines worldwide. My chapbook, Devil's Road Down, was published by Maverick Duck Press in September 2009, and my first full collection, Lost Books, has just been released by Flipped Eye Publishing. My short stories have appeared in anthologies from Hadley Rille Books and Drollerie Press, plus in a few webzines.

Could you describe your work, please?

I'd say it's overwhelmingly experiential - dreams and memories are frequent subjects for me, as are my childhood and teenage years spent growing up in rural Pennsylvania. I assigned a lot of mythic weight to the landscape in which I was raised, and I continue to find correspondences wherever I happen to be living. I write a lot about my relationship to history and to places I've visited.

Picking up residual echoes is also a persistent theme; I excavate air, earth, and stone in search of impressions. They're mostly imagined, of course, but I thrive on environmental prompts. I've always been accused of having a hyperactive imagination.

Huge range of gifts at Spooky Cute Designs
Huge range of gifts at Spooky Cute Designs

How did your interest develop? Did you take formal classes or join related groups?

Not for a very long time. My interest in writing developed through the act of reading, as I devoured just about anything I could get my hands on. I had an early love of characterization-intense novels; I love knowing what it means to get inside someone else's head, and I also enjoy turning my own head inside-out so others can have a look. The only formal writing classes I've ever taken were at the undergraduate level, and I'm not sure I learned from them so much as I got a jump-start on padding my portfolios. The best thing that anyone can do in order to learn to write is to read. Insatiably. Never stop.

What do you consider to be your main successes so far?

The chapbook and the collection, obviously, although I remain proud of the few short stories I have out there because, in comparison to verse, they don't come to me easily. I write perhaps one short story a year; therefore my backlog is quite small. I've only sold around four short stories to date. Each one feels like a small battle won.

What project are you working on right now?

I'm adding and subtracting pieces from my second-collection manuscript. I'm also working on a sequence of poems called The Persephone Dialogues that might end up as a chapbook. It's somewhat stalled at the minute, however, as I've been distracted recently by a new set dealing with beloved items I had as a child that have since been lost.

How do you plan to develop your work in the future?

I'd like to give screenwriting a go. Because my husband and I are both medievalists, we trade ideas a lot, and sometimes those ideas spark stories. Most recently, we've been talking about the fact that there are no period pieces set in the 14th century. A lot was going on and there's plenty of dramatic potential. So, I'd like to either take a course in screenwriting or maybe find some books on the subject and see what comes of reading them. And I'll continue to write poetry, of course!

Have there been particular books, paintings or films which have influenced your work?

I've been idly picking at a sequence of poems based on Chagall lithographs. I also adore Vermeer; the play of light and shadow, the sheer depth. I have the curious tendency to be drawn to both ends of the spectrum - the surreal and the incredibly lifelike.

Would you like to talk about your other interests?

Before I switched to medieval English literature, I was a music student. I started off my undergraduate career as a Voice Performance major - that is, I was training to become an opera singer! I retain a great love of theatre, as I did a lot of performing growing up, both musicals and straight-up drama. I'm a film-nut and an insomniac. I'm not religious by any stretch, but I do have an active spiritual life. My favorite books are Good Omens (Gaiman & Pratchett) and Four Quartets (T.S. Eliot). I'm not sure what that says about me, but I hope it's something intriguing!

What is your personal philosophy?

I think ahead. Obsessively, compulsively. It can occasionally be difficult to get me to focus on the present and not worry about anything else. I tend to live at extremes; I also tend to relive bits of the past. They turn up in my writing quite frequently.

What advice would you offer to someone hoping to take up a similar interest to yourself?

Keep reading, and keep asking questions. Generally speaking, people don't like it when you ask too many questions. That's what makes the asking so important!

Adrienne J Odasso reads her work before a crowded audience at Parallel Dimensions 2009, a Fantasy/Horror/Science-Fiction event held in Wirral, England.
Adrienne J Odasso reads her work before a crowded audience at Parallel Dimensions 2009, a Fantasy/Horror/Science-Fiction event held in Wirral, England.

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© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

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