Q&A with Poetry Contributor Mimi Plevin-Foust

Mimi Plevin-Foust’s poems and articles have been published by LearnVest/, Fourteen Hills, POZ Magazine, and more. She recently won Gordon Square Review’s Poetry Contest. She shares her Cleveland home with her husband, daughter, Airbnb guests, and cats.

Mimi’s poem “Queens Constellations” will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Tuesday, October 2, for special savings and discounts.

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I love the visual scene and imagery in “Queens Constellations,” and you also work in film. How do you feel your work in poetry compares with your work in film? What brings you to one medium over the other?

I love poetry and film because I get to play with words, images and sound in both mediums and because both mediums help me give readers/viewers a look into the lives of people they might not normally encounter or understand.

The films I directed and produced were independent documentaries and also short tribute films to honor inspiring individuals and groups at charity events. No matter how short or long, my films are focused on telling stories. I write poems for many reasons, often to figure out the messy, lovely wackiness of life, to protest injustice, and also to tell individual stories of courage and grace.

In film, there’s the joy of collaborating with other very talented artists to come up with something better than I could have done by myself. In poetry, there’s the pleasure of not having to depend on anyone else to create and not having to raise a lot of money to get work completed. For the past few years, I’ve focused on poetry because most of my films seem to take an almost superhuman effort to complete, but I can fit poetry into my life right now and get the same creative satisfaction.

What inspired this particular poem?

I began this poem while playing the ‘Poetry Game’ with my friend Brenda. It’s a game where each person alternates suggesting words to include in a poem until we have 10 to 20 words to play with, then we each sit and draft a new poem using some or all of those words; then we share what we’ve written. It’s a fun and social way to begin new poems. Sometimes, I contribute words that will help me write about an idea or event that’s been bumping around in my head, wanting to be explored or resolved. For years, I played the poetry game weekly by phone with my college friend Aliki Barnstone who’s now the state poet laureate of Missouri, and I have a wide variety of new poems now to show for it. Of course, lots of work happens later— finishing, revising, re-revising, and polishing those first drafts.

“Queens Constellations” is actually a ‘found poem’ in the sense that I didn’t keep a copy, and Brenda pulled it out of a folder and handed it to me years later. I’ve revised it several times since. I remember that the poem’s characters, Jesus and Maria, and their encounter amidst the clotheslines just sprang from my head onto the page as I was writing, and I liked them. Living in Manhattan for over a decade, I was probably inspired by seeing the small yards hung with laundry on visits to Brooklyn and Queens and by the idea that so many New Yorkers have names like Jesus and Maria and Angel and the layers of meaning that could be evoked as a result. Also, I enjoyed playing with the extended metaphor of Maria embodying the Universe. It was a fun poem to write.

What do you like about Carve—why choose to submit to Carve?

After I lost a non-profit job during the recession, I threw myself into learning all about entrepreneurship, freelancing and marketing, determined never to be at the mercy of a full-time employer again. That’s why I love that Carve is so darn entrepreneurial—giving readers so many options for accessing the magazine; providing payment, classes and large prize opportunities to writers; and offering curricula to teachers as well. That is truly an example of providing service and value to ‘customers’, just as entrepreneurs try to do in other businesses.

I also like that Carve seeks ‘authentic’ poems—that’s what I enjoy reading and do my best to write.