Devi S. Laskar is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a poet, a photographer, a former reporter, a soccer mom, and an artist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Forthcoming from Finishing Line Press are her two chapbooks: Gas & Food, No Lodging and Anastasia Maps. Devi's poem “Paint by Number” was a finalist for the 2016 Premium Edition Contest and will be featured in the Spring 2017 Premium Edition of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, April 2, for special savings and discounts.
What was the initial inspiration for "Paint by Number"?
I wanted to write a collage poem about how people have a habit of ranking things — the items on their bucket lists, their favorite foods, their favorite sports teams. After a bit, my mind jumped to those painting sets you can purchase at the hobby store, where someone has numbered something for you, and you the consumer are expected to follow their suggestions. I tried to apply paint-by-number instructions with my initial idea for a collage poem.
In the poem, it seems like what the speaker chooses to question and what they choose to accept could have serious implications. Is questioning a theme you come back to often? What other themes are you most drawn to right now?
Yes, I question pretty much everything. I worked as a journalist for many years and I asked a lot of questions. That habit stuck with me long after I left the newsroom. These days, I am obsessed with the themes of exile and what it means to have justice and a home.
Is there a single sentence or line that feels like the "heart" of the poem to you?
It's the sentence close to the beginning: "all it takes for a murder is one." In this poem, I'm exploring the loss a person feels when there's a shift in a relationship.
What poet or writer has been most influential to your writing?
I was very fortunate in graduate school to study with Lucille Clifton. She was a terrific teacher, mentor, and friend. She taught me so much about compression and voice and the power of speaking one's own truth aloud.