INTERVIEW WITH HAYA POMRENZE

 

Why poetry? 

My writing background is actually in short fiction and creative non-fiction.  I wrote my first poem in a writing class about 8 years ago. Pardon the pun, but I was hooked.  In fact my professor told me that I was better at poetry than the other genres. One of the reasons I find poetry appealing is for its brevity, the ability to tell an entire story in a page or two.  Getting the ideal metaphor or precise word to convey something significant is a challenge. I actually feel triumphant when I achieve this. So I began taking my unpublished fiction and non-fiction pieces, and transforming them into poems.  My husband watches what he says nowóIíve been known to turn conversations into poems as well.

 

Who exactly is your audience? 

Thatís a difficult question.  Clearly the book has Ďchick-lití appeal and much of the book is about Jews, specifically Orthodox Jews.  But Iíd like to think of Hook as a great poetry book that happens to be about Jews, rather than a Jewish poetry book.  Many of my non-Jewish friends identify with the book and I wanted the book to be accessible to all which is why I have a glossary of Jewish words and phrases in the book.  But thereís no question that defining my target audience has been challenging for marketing purposes.   Should Hook be on the Judaica shelf or the poetry shelf in the bookstores? Hopefully both.

 

Tell Me About The Themes In The Book. 

The book encompasses three major themes: The push and pull of the mother/daughter relationship, finding balance between the religious and the secular world, and the fine line between mental stability and mental illness. From a child hovering on a merry-go-round horse or hooking her motherís bra, to a middle aged person counting pills, or a husband and wife shopping for burial plots, I seek to show the difficulty in balancing opposing forces in our lives. Although the themes interconnect, it was a challenge to form these poems into a collection. I had to pull some poems because, like my characters in the book, ironically, they just couldnít find their place.  Sometimes less is definitely more in putting together a cohesive body of work.

 

There are some outlandish characters in Hook.  Are these your family members?  

Iíve been waiting for that question! Like any true artist, I write what I know.  Some of the poems are fiction; others are based on certain truths about my family.  Iíd be lying is I said the mother character wasnít a lot like my mother.  Some people told me not to tell my parents about the book, which is clearly ridiculous. From a therapeutic point of view, I felt it necessary to show my folks the book before publication. They ended up loving the book. My father truly appreciates the writing and poetry as a craft.   My mother is more interested in telling her friends about her Ďfamousí daughter and trying to get me reviewed in the Times because she once had lunch with an editorís aunt at a Jewish Federation event.  She canít understand why I feel the need to write and why my writing is so morose.    She would rather have me shopping with her at Loehmannís than writing about her flaws as a parent.

 

Whatís your goal in writing this book? 

I want people to find the book powerful.  People have told me theyíve cried through a box of tissues and literally peed in their pants from laughter while reading Hook.  That tells me the book is a success.  Even more than that, I want to be a voice for Orthodox Jewish women who donít feel they have a voice.  No matter how religious or traditional we are, we each have that inner rebel in us and I wanted women to relate to that and not feel guilt about it.  I also want people to have a greater understanding of poetry in the Jewish literary world.  From my teaching experience, teens have a greater appreciation for reading poetry than some adults.  I think people feel intimidated and I hope Hook can break down some of these barriers.

 

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