Saturday, August 08, 2009
Interview with Playwright, Composer and Poet Elizabeth Swados. ( Part 1)
Recently Mark Pawlak of the Hanging Loose Press sent me a copy of Elizabeth Swados's new poetry collection: "The One and Only Human Galaxy." I decided to interview Swados along with her publishers Pawlak and Dick Lourie on a special edition of my TV show "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."
Elizabeth Swados is best known for her Broadway smash hit "Runaways". She is a Tony-nominated playwright, and composer. Some of her plays include the Obie-Award winning "Trilogy" starring Meryl Streep at the New York Shakespeare Theatre, and "Groundhog" that was optioned as a film by Milos Forman. Her work has been performed on Broadway, Off Broadway, Carnegie Hall, and all over the world. She is a professor at New York University, and won the New York Public Library Award for her book "My Depression."
Other wars include the Guggenheim Fellowship, Ford Grant, Helen Hays Award, Pen Citation and many others.
Her first book of poetry has been released by the venerable Hanging Loose Press "The One And Only Human Galazy" that deals with the great escape artist Harry Houdini.
Doug Holder: Houdini was a great escape artist...Aren't you one... as a creature of the theatre and a poet?
Elizabeth Swados: Absolutely. A big theme was how to get out of various aspects of my life: getting away from people in the theatre, or people trying to Svengali me...getting away from my own dark issues. The issue of escape is very, very, prevalent in my life. I am a survivor of many difficult situations. And I also believe we all try to escape from some kind of relationship, or habits. Everybody tries to escape the things that haunt us.
DH: You say you are a survivor. Of what?
EZ: In my family there was a great deal of mental illness. My mother killed herself, and my brother killed himself. My whole family has a genetic, white rapid river of destruction. This is also very creative. You have to escape to the good things, in order to escape the bad things. There is a whole theme of madness that one can make very dramatic and romantic. But that's not true. It is very painful and very inhibiting. You get imprisoned in relationships with people who are troubled. It is a question of balancing of escaping of what's so binding, yet living one's life in a joyous and giving way.
DH: A friend showed me an article that stated Scizophrenics and artists share a similar gene.
EZ: I'm not surprised. My brother and I shared, many, many things. He taught me how to draw cartoons and he taught me about poetry. He unfortunately did not get the gene to balance the voices...the voices took him over.
DH: ( Question directed to Mark Pawlak--Hanging Loose Press) How did you come across Elizabeth's work? Hanging Loose is a difficult egg to crack, what did you see in Elizabeth's work?
MP: In general we look for work that is adventurous., verbally challenging and exciting. I think that is very vital. We want work that has something to say. A prose piece was the first piece we published by Elizabeth in our magazine "Hanging Loose" titled"Waving." The magazine is based in Brooklyn, NY. New York is largely the locus of our sensibilities. One of our editors, Bob Hershon, lives in Brooklyn, and his house is the address for our press. His kitchen table is where his manuscripts get edited. Bob also runs a reading series at the Brooklyn Public Library. Shortly after he recieved work from Elizabeth we invited her to read in the series. Shortly after that she came forward with her manuscript.
EZ:Yeah. I just said could you take a look at it. I hadn't been sending poetry out for very long. I had been writing my entire life but I kept it to myself. And then about four years I thought, " Well, maybe it is time to have some other people read it.