Nin Andrews, author of The Last Orgasm, has published poems in many literary journals and anthologies including Ploughshares, Agni, The Paris Review, and four editions of Best American Poetry. She is the author of seven chapbooks and seven full-length poetry collections. Her collection, Why God Is a Woman, won the Ohioana Award. Learn more at NinAndrews.com.
Get to know Nin in this Q&A and then join us on Thursday, April 22 at 12 PM ET for the return of our Shelf Life series of virtual events to hear her discuss her work in SHELF LIFE—Worlds within Words: A Poetry Reading.
Festival: What motivated you to become a poet?
Andrews: I blame my mother for everything. I am the youngest of six children, and in order to keep us from beating each other up, she read aloud to us every night at the dinner table. Her reading voice was mesmerizing. But she read what interested her, not children’s books. The Iliad, The Odyssey, Greek myths, and poetry were among her top picks.
Who or what are some of your creative influences?
Amy Gerstler, Claire Bateman, Frank Stanford, Henri Michaux, James Tate, García Márquez, the dictionary, and my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Wallace, who sent me out of her classroom every other day. “Why can’t you behave like the other children?” she asked. I never fit into a normal classroom. I learned slowly to keep my thoughts and dreams to myself, and later, to record them in journals.
What was your favorite part about writing your latest poetry collection?
In The Last Orgasm, the orgasm speaks. She has a lot to say about the world of humans, but she is a little sad to be saying goodbye. I like listening to her commentary.
Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?
Loneliness and angst (the fear that life is meaningless, and that man will destroy the planet) inspire me to read and write and imagine, at least for the time I am with a book, another reality. I want love and truth and beauty and all good things to win in the end—and to be upheld in poetry and fiction. Yes, I do love fairy tale endings.
What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers?
A little craziness is not a bad thing.
Describe how a book changed your life or perspective.
I was seven years old when my mother read the myth of Persephone, and I burst into tears. “Hades can’t just steal her away, can he? Her mother is a goddess,” I sobbed. The myth kept me awake at night and gave me nightmares. I suppose it was my first exposure to an explanation of the relationship between men and woman, of patriarchal power, and of rape.
Also, the poem, “The Third One,” by Yannis Ritsos in his collection, Gestures, changed how I saw myself. In it, three people look at the ocean. One sees it, one talks about it, and one drowns in it. Ah, I thought. Now I know why I write. Otherwise, I will be the third one.
What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?
Last week, I would have said The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galleano. This week, Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. Patchett’s description of the writer’s life and of the friendship between women writers is insightful, uplifting, and heartwarming.
What are you working on next?
I am writing a memoir. Or what I think is a memoir, but I have not been able to make it past first grade. I might have to call it Dear Mrs. Wallace.