Interview with Celia Bland


What is a current project you are working on?

I’m very excited to be writing an essay about the work of abstract painter
Colleen Randall for her January 2020 exhibition at the Hood Museum at
Dartmouth College.

What is the one piece of writing advice, good or even bad, that you have received that has impacted you the most?

Jane Cooper, my poetry professor at Sarah Lawrence College, once told me that
a person’s gifts as a writer will only carry them so far; from there, it’s discipline
that propels, and even more importantly, desire.

What are some of the greatest influences upon your writing, whether other
writers or outside influences?

Currently, I’ve been influenced by the Victorian historian Lord Macauley’s
History of England; Leonid Tsypkin’s My Summer in Baden-Baden; and the novel
in five linked stories, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor Von Rezzoli. These
last two are reprints published by the New York Review of Books. Their international selection of novels, histories, and memoirs is always an inspiration me.

Do you have a favorite place to write, or are there any habits, inspirations, or
rituals that help you?

I generally am up with the chickens, writing in the darkness before dawn. I
write longhand before typing up my drafts. I find writing by hand frees me up,
lets me take more risks and try new avenues. I revise for years.

How do you find inspiration for your work, particularly these pieces?

I began these pieces when I was teaching in a maximum-security prison for the
Bard Prison Initiative and I was thinking about my students’ drive to succeed,
and more generally, about guilt and second chances.

You recently released a book, Cherokee Road Kill, where your poetry is
accompanied by artwork by Kyoko Miyabe. Do you feel the added context of the
artwork changes your pieces in anyway?

I know that Kyoko’s beautiful pen and ink drawings enhance my poetry, as
Dianne Kornberg’s photo-shopped photos gorgeously framed and contextualized
Madonna Comix. Writing is such lonely work, I’ve found it both exciting and
challenging to work with visual artists – exciting because I’m in awe of artists’
creativity, and challenging because they always ask questions about my poems –
images, lines – that are hard to answer, which can prompt some satisfying