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  • Writer's pictureAva Chen

Interview with Bobbi Lurie: Issue 3 Featured Contributor

“The skyline stretches itself out like a lie

The city darkens into twinkling lights

I rest my face in the gentle, gentle

           rain”


In the honest and heartwrenching “Homeless Outside the Church,” Bobbi Lurie paints the raw scene of a homeless woman outside a church—an important exploration of the dissonance and yearning between the world and those we neglect. We are so honored to publish this unflinching, introspective poem and feature Lurie as our poetry contributor interview for Issue 3. In this interview, Lurie discusses inspirations behind both this poem and her overarching style. We hope you enjoy!


Read "Homeless Outside the Church" here.



How would you describe your poetic style, and what do you think makes it unique?


I don’t think of myself as having a single poetic style. The form and structure of my poetry has repeatedly changed throughout the years. I would say the shape of the poem on the page has always been important to me.


Everyone is unique. It takes courage to express our uniqueness and yet somehow the deeper we go into expressing the truths which are unique to us, the more universal these expressions seem to become. I think what matters most is authenticity, being true to who we are as individuals and as a part of humanity.



What common themes or concepts do you see emerging throughout your work, and why are you drawn to them?


I feel I’m always having a conversation with the world around me. I do write a lot about illness since I’ve worked as an occupational therapist, was a caretaker to my mother with Alzheimer’s Disease and I’ve been living through a lot of illness myself, not to mention the horrors one of my sons has been through. Writing, in itself, is healing. 



Where do you usually draw inspiration from? What inspired you to write "Homeless Outside the Church" in particular?


“Homeless Outside the Church” was a word by word description of what I saw before me. I was standing on the corner of 79th street and Broadway in NYC as I watched a homeless woman outside a church. People were entering the church as it started to rain. I was standing under a tree watching as the homeless woman stretched her hand out to people entering the church. Every single word in that poem was the truth of what I saw. 


But it was a persona poem which means I pretended that the homeless woman was me.


Later on in my life I adamantly rejected the idea of the persona poem. I rejected the idea after finding the work of a poet who wrote an entire book of persona poems about having cancer. I learned she never had cancer but only “imagined” having cancer. I learned about her when I was undergoing cancer treatments in a cancer clinic overseas. People at this clinic had very serious cancers. We spent weeks together, at night often sitting in a computer room where we shared information about cancer treatments. It was shocking to find this “persona poet” actually attended an internet chat group we participated in which was for cancer patients only. Adding insult to injury, her conclusions about cancer were all wrong. She upset the cancer patients I was with terribly. This event changed my life as it changed my writing.



What is your writing process like?


My current writing process is one where I limit myself to only writing 6 word lines. I often later collage these lines together into 6 lines of 6 word lines with a 6 word title. I started writing 6 word poems in an attempt to think less and limit what I allowed myself to say. The idea came spontaneously and has now become an obsession. I have always found that limitations in form bring a surprising amount of freedom to the process of writing. 



This simile in "Homeless Outside the Church" especially resonated with me: "The skyline stretches itself out like a lie." How would you say this speaker's perception of reality is warped, if at all? Why do they interpret the world the way they do?


I don’t think the speaker’s perception is warped. I think the world is warped. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be homelessness and people going into the church wouldn’t ignore the fact that a homeless woman was forced to sleep outside in the rain. “The skyline stretches itself out like a lie” because the earth is beautiful but the world created by people contradicts that beauty through its lack of awareness. 



What messages, emotions, and/or morals do you hope readers take away from your poem?


I never hope for anything. It’s enough that I was able to write the poem, to be honest with what I write.



Looking ahead, what are writing projects or goals you are currently working on?


I am working on a new book. I have no goals. It really is enough to be able to write. 



Is there anything else you would like to add about your writing?


I’ve written words and painted images all my life. I can’t imagine life without art. 


Writing has saved me throughout my life. It is such a blessing to be able to write. I am very grateful for this blessing. 


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