If David Woodruff brought showers to the “Poet’s Corner” in April, Eve Anthony Hanninen brings flowers in May. Eve is an American poet, writer, editor and illustrator – in that order. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief of a site called The Centrifugal Eye – which is where I first met her. We’ve known each other (digitally, not Biblically) since early 2006. Since then, she and her site have never disappointed.
Eve and her husband presently reside in the weather-lashed Kaien Island harbor-town of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in Canada. Her writing often typifies her observations of how environment impacts human experience, and explores the combined results in poetic form. Recent publications include three poems in the new anthology edited by Lynn Strongin,: Crazed by the Sun (2008); another appeared in Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology (2007). Poems may be found in east to west: bicoastal verse; Sein und Werden (print and online); Moondance; Wicked Alice; Origami Condom; Shit Creek Review; and The HyperTexts – not to mention among numerous other journals. A limited artist's edition chapbook, as well as a collection of poems under fifteen lines, are both in the works. The three pieces featured in our interview are included in this last collection.
Eve's latest bookjacket illustrations adorn Ellaraine Lockie's Blue Ribbons at the County Fair and Patrick Carrington's Hard Blessings. She also contributed artwork to Lana Ayers's Late Blooms Postcard Series.
RRB:Eve, I’ve always wondered. Just how did you come up with the name “The Centrifugal Eye” for your site? I mean, the two – “eye” and “centrifugal” – don’t exactly fit.
EAH:What, give away my secrets? What self-respecting superhero would reveal her origins? Okay, I might – but just for you. Truth is, I’m an avid gamer, and The Centrifugal Eye poetry journal was named after The Centrifugal Eye, a female superhero who is my alter-ego for Sue Richards, The Invisible Girl (from Fantastic Four fame). In early 2005, the developers of an online game I “inhabit” asked me to choose another identity for my Richards-look-alike character due to rights issues they were having with Marvel Comics. I submitted three alternative identities and costume ideas, and “The Centrifugal Eye” was roundly approved. I thought at the time that TCE would be a great name for a publication. About five months later – after I’d made the decision to publish an online magazine – guess what came to mind for its title.
And ‘sounds like you’ll be surprised to learn about the connections between “centrifugal” and “eye.” As I understand it, the eye muscles actually make movements that are scientifically measured in a force-velocity relationship both as centrifugal (“away from the primary position,” or outer) and as centripetal (“towards the primary position,” or inner); they’re thought to be caused by “neural command signals,” according to physics researchers, Ansgar R. Koene and Casper J. Erkelens, both resident at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. My game character has a third eye in her forehead that centrifugally whirls disruptive, kinetic energies at her enemies while rendering healing forces to her allies.
RRB:Whew! I think you may’ve lost me about midway through that second paragraph, but I gave up hard science for Lent thirty-five years ago and have never looked back.
On to the subject of poetry. So, show us what ya got, girl.
EAH:Well, for starters, there’s this poem I wrote as part of an international postcard-poetry series in 2008. I mailed it to Ireland, but the intended recipient told me it had never arrived. The card art was a retro-modern line illustration of a chef in a poofy hat and a giant layer cake decked with architectural motifs and arches – and plenty of frosting, of course.
RRB:Excellent! And with this poem, you make a point I’d like to reinforce.
You know, Eve, far too many people think poetry has to deal with the grand themes to be any good. I don’t. I think poetry should entertain. One of the several lines in the film Amadeus, I particularly liked (and the script for which was written, if I’m not mistaken, by Peter Shaffer – hardly a slouch writer) was spoken by Tom Hulce, in the role of Mozart, as he’s decrying the then-current state of opera and how librettists treat the gods: “…(like) people so lofty, they sound as if they s**t marble.”
Care to comment (as both a poet and an editor)?
EAH: Certainly. I find that some of the most arresting poems are those that present small scenarios or vignettes and then progress in some sort of fashion. They may have only the briefest of connections with “the big issues” of life; they may or may not evoke emotional profundity. What these kinds of poems have in common (and that I enjoy so much) is characterization. They’re momentary representations of an event or profile. They do entertain – perhaps not necessarily humorously – but in a way that invites readers to peer through a peephole at the largely unselfconscious subject, who remains her-, him- or itself, usually unabashedly.
French Chef Harald LeClaire, for example, is a personality I made up. I think the reason his poem entertains is because it’s a slice-of-life setting he feels more than comfortable in, and the reader gets to learn about his passions, his manner of speaking, his belief systems – but also about his wit and lack of humility, all in eleven lines – or twelve, if you count the title – which places him in the center of this vibrantly contrasting, colorful wonderland of reverence.
As an editor, I’m always appreciative of poems that move beyond general issues and “grand themes” to zoom in on the specifics of what might appear mundane at first glance. Focus brings simple and complex details all together – take a macro lens and look about – sometimes what’s right in front of us, in our daily lives, is as interesting to write about as (or even more than) the sum of world views, especially in what’s human. Those common observations about characterization or personality are what draws a universal audience.
RRB:Thanks, Eve, for that insight into the mind of a warrio—, uh, editor-poet.
Now, let’s look at a second piece, shall we?
RRB:Do I detect a slice of irony here, Eve, doting on a bed of bitterness? Or am I merely mixing rampant metaphors?
EAH: Do you? Are you? I’d say, perhaps, a bit of ‘yes’ to both. This poem, also a postcard poem, is another fictional character – but one that’s built over the bones of my memories of an old friend. It’s meant to be a written caricature – not exactly loaded with bitterness, but irony, for sure. The real “Eliza” was loaded with witty charm and could toss out the odd ironic remark without even a thought of her navel. I tried to conjure up her personality by speaking flippantly through the lint of her voice.
RRB:“Flippantly,” huh? Hah!
Well, I certainly hate to eat and run – as they say – but I’m afraid I might be overstaying my welcome if I don’t get a move on. How about a parting shot, and we’ll then call it a night(cap)? Have you got anything in your dusty ditty bag slightly reminiscent (but with that trademark Eve Anthony Hanninen twinge of irony) of Auld Lang Syne?”
EAH: Well, how about a bittersweet song, er, poem, about a boy forced to move to a small town after his brother died? You may note: the subject of the poem isn’t death; rather, it’s another (mostly biographical) vignette based on personalities set in a narrowly-defined environment.
There’s not much humor to be had in this poem, but it unfolds line by line with observations meant to introduce characterizations of the boy’s mother – and later, of the deceased brother – that hopefully clue the reader into the events that may have preceded this particular moment. And, by suggesting that the trailer they’re now living in is mobile (i.e., “ticking of settling leafsprings”) rather than permanent housing in a trailer park, for example, I imply that their lifestyle has been made transitory by events, and that they may pick up, again, at any time.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what leafsprings are, they’re my own invention of a compound name for “leaf springs,” which are springs found in the suspension systems of most wheeled vehicles (and which are meant to reduce the fatiguing impact of road vibrations on a trailer’s or car’s frame). How’s that for mundaneity?
RRB:That, Eve, is what makes you a poet and me a boob. Good for you! Not a spot of mundaneity in it.
It’s been a real pleasure. We should do this more often. Tongues will wag, I’ll wager, but so what? Let them wag till the cows come home. And then, let. The. Cows. Come. Home.
Chef LeClaire in the Winter Cathedral
Arches waver with the flicker of prayer candles
beneath wafers of glass plotted like colored sugar