Poet Patricia Lockwood sipped from her Red Bull at the podium while choosing what to read next. She flipped through pages of her work and came to a decision.
“Let’s do ‘The Whole World Gets Together and Gangbangs a Deer.’”
Lockwood came to Emerson last week and discussed topics including her memoir, Twitter, and Donald Trump, and read from her 2014 poetry collection Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.
The 33-year-old spoke to roughly 30 students, faculty, and members of the public in Paramount’s Bright Family Screening Room. The Q&A was part of the department of writing, literature, and publishing’s Reading Series, which brings writers, poets, and novelists to Emerson. Kimberly McLarin, an associate WLP professor and director of the series, hosted the event.
During the discussion, Lockwood said she is currently finishing her memoir, which comes out next year. She said it’s about her family and her childhood, and she wrote it while living with her parents. Her husband’s troubled health and their subsequent financial issues led them to move in with her mother and her father, who is a married Catholic priest.
“So I’m moving back home and I’m like the crazy [liberal] who wants to just be enormously bisexual on an island in France waving communist flags,” Lockwood said at the event. “And [my father] is a dude who believes that Elton John became gay because he was raised by too many aunts.”
Lockwood said it was challenging to write her memoir, particularly because she underestimated how difficult it would be to write about her parents while living with them.
“You want to tell the truth and you don’t want to give anyone a free pass. But you also don’t want to write something that’s just complaining for 200 pages,” Lockwood said. “And you want it to have bearing on people’s lives and some sort of universality. I was really juggling a lot of balls I had never touched before.”
Lockwood recently profiled Donald Trump for the magazine The New Republic. She said the publication was sending writers who weren’t journalists to craft articles on politicians. She said the process was exhilarating but that being in a space with Trump was horrible.
“When you set down to write a piece about Donald Trump, all you want is to shoot poison flames out of your mouth in the shape of the words ‘racist, sexist, islamophobic, fascist,’” Lockwood said. “But instead you have to write something coherent and more human.”
Lockwood said she, as a poet, had more latitude than journalists because she didn’t have to be objective.
“Ultimately I do not think I’m a person with political insight. But I think that you can get maybe an interpersonal insight,” Lockwood said. “Part of it is about the freedom of my position and it’s about me saying, ‘I don’t actually know much about this stuff. Here’s what I see.’”
In discussing the role of poets in society, Lockwood said, they can be truth-tellers, but that it isn’t always a conscious endeavor.
“You don’t sit down at your desk in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to tell the truth about humanity today.’ You’re getting at it by a different means,” Lockwood said. “Or it happens, maybe not as an accident, but as a flash of lightning, an intersection, something just coming to you but also coming to your position in the world.”
Lockwood joined Twitter in 2011 and has almost 56,000 followers. Lockwood’s most famous tweets are her “sexts,” a series of fictional sexual text messages. A tamer one reads, “Sext: I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me.”
Lockwood said that when she is recognized in public, it’s usually because of her Twitter account and, for some reason, it’s usually in a Trader Joe’s. But she said the idea of fame doesn’t cross her mind.
“You’re in your own home wearing not even pajamas—it doesn’t even rise to the level of pajamas—and your hair is just like the worst rooster hair,” Lockwood said. “You haven’t brushed your teeth and you have a very wild look in your eyes. You’re not thinking to yourself, ‘I’m famous.’”
Following the Q&A, Lockwood read mainly from Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, but also included some of her older and newer works. Copies of the book were sold afterward, and Lockwood was on hand to sign them.
Jonathan Griffey, a Boston local who said he follows Lockwood on Twitter, brought his own copy of her bookfor her to sign. Griffey said his favorite poem that Lockwood read was “The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics,” which places Emily Dickinson as the father of American poetry and Walt Whitman as the mother.
“It’s absolutely wonderful and silly,” Griffey said, “and also poignant. It talks a lot about sexism and reversing gender roles.”
Rachel Dickerman, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, said the Q&A helped her to better understand Lockwood’s poetry, and that the humor of Lockwood’s writing inspires her.
“I think she’s so good at weaving together modern humor with the classics and making light of very serious topics,” Dickerman said. “But not in an insensitive way—in a way that makes them more universal and makes us able to talk about them.”