3 Questions with Éireann Lorsung
Poet and editor Éireann Lorsung on sitting down to work, avoiding comparisons, and cultivating the practical invisible skills of the art business.
3 QUESTIONS is series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.
PNCA’s MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research (CT+CR) welcomes Éireann Lorsung, designer and editor of MIEL and author of Music for Landing Planes By to campus to read from her newest book of poetry, Her book, in an event facilitated by PNCA student Marshall Astor, MA CT+CR ’13.
“Work accrues if I keep at it.”
What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?
I don’t know what a career in the arts would really look like, in the traditional sense of a career, meaning one does a certain amount of work and can reasonably expect a certain (and regular) amount of pay for it. I can say that if students are thinking that the arts are where they would like to make their lives, that diversity of skills has gone a long way for me. Being able to print and understand print processes; understanding programs like Photoshop and Illustrator; having some facility with HTML/CSS and typical interfaces like Wordpress; being fluent in online communication (and having impeccable manners); and being able to manage a budget, including writing grants; learning to coordinate events; and becoming familiar with publishing and other areas of professional life in the arts—these are some of the practical, invisible skills that have helped me work as a writer and artist. That said, it’s mainly the strong desire to make my work and help others make theirs that keeps me going. I think if students have that it’s already a good start—next is just a matter of finding the bits and pieces, or, if they’re lucky, the full-time or part-time paid work, to support the writing or artmaking.
How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?
I have to decide very consciously to keep making work. It’s easy to get bogged down (not enough success or recognition; awareness of others’ prolificness/success; questions about the point of making work at all) and it’s hard sometimes for me to remember, on a daily level, that the work accrues if I keep at it. I maintain my practice by persuading myself not to pay attention to what my peers are doing, by setting goals for myself and forcing myself to stick to them, and by reading, walking, looking at art, listening to music, cooking—doing things that charge me and make me see connections. The work itself keeps me engaged, as long as I can convince myself to sit down to do it. Getting to the table is more than half the fight.
Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?
Walking into the room with Cy Twombly’s The Ceiling in the Louvre was life-changing for me; I had just been reading James Elkins’ book Pictures and Tears, which is about crying as a response to work that is potentially useful from an art-historical or -theoretical point of view, and I was pretty certain I would just be one of those people who would never cry in front of a painting. But then I walked into that room and burst into tears; the painting was just so immense and I felt so welcomed by it. It affirmed things I wanted to believe about affect and knowledge and the kind of work I might make. A bit more recently, and on a smaller scale, I have been totally charged and excited by reading Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover and Kimiko Hahn’s The Narrow Road to the Interior.
ÉIREANN LORSUNG is the author of the debut book of poems, Music for Landing Planes By. She received her MFA in writing and BA degrees in English and Japanese from the University of Minnesota. She studied printmaking and drawing at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy, and taught high school in rural France. She is the designer, creative director, and editor of MIEL, as well as the editor of the journal 111O. A chapbook of her poetry is forthcoming this year from dancing girl press.