Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Interview with professor, poet, director Anne Elezabeth Pluto

Interview with professor, poet, director Anne Elezabeth Pluto

With Doug Holder

Anne Elezabeth Pluto is Professor of Literature and Theatre at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where she is the artistic director and one of the founders of the Oxford Street Players, the university’s Shakespeare troupe. She is an alumna of Shakespeare & Company, and has been a member of the Worcester Shakespeare Company since 2011. She was a member of the Boston small press scene in the late 1980s and is one of the founders and editors at Nixes Mate Review.  Her chapbook, The Frog Princess, was published by White Pine Press (1985), her eBook Lubbock Electric, by Argotist ebooks (2012), and her chapbook Benign Protection by Cervana Barva Press (2016). Recent publications include: The Buffalo Evening News, Unlikely Stories: Episode IV, Mat Hat Lit, Pirene's Fountain, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Mockingheart Review, Yellow Chair Review, Levure Litteraire – numero 12, The Naugatuck River Review, and Tuesday, An Art Project. I had the pleasure to speak with Pluto on my Somerville Media TV show, Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: In your collection Benign Protection you seem to be a master of absence. The absence of your late parents as defined by their “things.”

Annie Pluto: This is sort of my homage to grief, with the death of my father and mother. I had all these things that came from their rent-controlled Brooklyn apartment. I was writing poetry about my father, and when my mother was dying I wrote poetry about her too. The “things” from the apartment represented them. When I would go back to Brooklyn-- I always stayed with friends who were close by to my parents' apartment. So I would walk to their street, but I would never go down it. I didn't want to see the building. Too painful. So I evoked my grief and my parents' stories in my work.

DH: Tell me about your parents.

AP: Well my father had a fascinating life and it was referenced in one of the poems in the collection. My parents were Russian but they lived in Poland. My father was separated from my mother because he was in the Polish Army during World War ll. He wound up as a prisoner in a Soviet camp. He also saw action in Egypt and Italy. Eventually he moved to Canada. And my mother was there. She had thought he was dead. Eventually they married in Toronto. After a waiting a year they came to America.

DH: I know that your are the director of the Oxford St. Players, that is connected to Lesley University. How does your role as a poet mix with that of the theater.

AP: They dovetail. Theater is very group orientated—you work with people. It is very interconnected. Obviously as a professor and director I am in charge of many things. With poetry you pullback. You are with yourself. I need that time too.

DH: You studied at the University at Buffalo in the 70s. I was up there at that time too. I also know Mike Baskinski—the former curator of the small press collection there. What was the lit scene like when you were there?

AP: It was very friendly. It wasn't competitive like New York. I would say people were more interested in helping each other out. I had a lot of mentors. My first collection was published by a Buffalo press, White Pine. I studied with Robert Creeley and Irving Feldman. Creeley was very straight forward. He would get very annoyed if students didn't do their reading. I remember he would deliberately close this large literary tome and dismiss the whole class. I had the privilege to read with Creeley as well.

DH: You were also part of Shakespeare & Company directed by Tina Packer.

AP: Yes. I was always involved with theater. I did a lot of theater as a little girl in Brooklyn. There was a NYC Board of Education radio show at the time. I was in high school then. I would participate in these staged readings they would have. Working with Tina Packer was great—very challenging. I always wanted to be an actor but my parents wanted me to do something more practical.

DH: You were also involved in the small press scene in Allston, MA., a section of Boston.

AP: Yes. I had sent my work to a magazine called, Oak Square. Eventually I met the editor Philip Borenstein. I became involved with the lit mag. Eventually I became the Poetry Editor. Around this time Michael McInnis—( a founder of the Nixes Mate Press), opened a bookstore in Allston. I lived right around the block from it. Allston had a lot of zines. It was a very do-it-yourself scene. It was married to the Punk Rock scene —that was very Allston-centric.  Years later, Mike, Philip and I started Nixes Mate and the rest is history.

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