I open / the sealed envelope: everything in the sky / folded, gathered into one body.
Catching Up with poet Peter LaBerge
Peter answers questions about writing "Boy Saint."
- What inspired you to write your poem “Boy Saint?”
“Boy Saint” was a new kind of poem for me. I spent the prior month anxiety-ridden and away from the writing process. Before that month, I’d spent so long writing about and for queer adolescence, and I think that month really enabled my work to reach young adulthood.
When I sat down to write “Boy Saint”, I wanted to write a poem that examined queerness and upbringing from this newfound perspective of adulthood. Throughout the process of writing the poem, the anxiety I was experiencing clung to the horizon—from the constant reinvention of the self being “born and reborn” to concerns maintaining HIV negative status.
It should be obvious to open-minded people in the world at this point, but there’s so much that the LGBTQ+ community has to consider and combat that many in the cis-straight world will never encounter. This active process of imagining the body’s sudden psychological or physical scarring can be sobering, at the very least. “Boy Saint” happened when anxiety met the manifestations of these alternate selves in my mind.
- What was the process of writing this poem? Was it a ‘gift poem’ or did you have to go through several rounds of revision, etc.?
For most of my undergraduate years, I was a poem factory. In a lot of ways, I think that was an essential period in my development as a poet and as a person, but sometimes I think I was reaching for what I wanted to say without actually saying all of it.
When I sat down to write the poem, one draft came, and then the next. Because of the buildup I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, there was a new level of intensity, of precision—time didn’t matter. Outside obligation didn’t matter. When the dam of my anxiety broke, I was at the mercy of my tendencies, and the poem—start to finish—happened in one night.
- Why did you decide to submit this poem to Motionpoems? What was the most exciting prospect about seeing your poem told in this medium? Were there any trepidations about handing over creative control to a filmmaker you didn’t know?
From the first draft, “Boy Saint” felt wholly cinematic in nature. I wanted the anxiety and the sense of suffocating tension to be present in the poem—as a testament to both the process and the life behind the poem. I think the poem needed to enter the visual realm for that to happen.
In terms of relinquishing control over the poem’s visual interpretation, I’m so grateful that I decided to fully trust Tom’s artistic vision. We had an initial call, during which I walked Tom through the poem’s intended interpretations and references. I let Tom take charge from there.
I don’t think either of us could’ve created the final product without working together, so I’m incredibly appreciative of all the work Motionpoems to make that happen!
- How did the final Motionpoem differ from your expectations of what it’d be like? In what ways, if any, did it surprise you? How, for you, is the poem as film different from the poem as poem?
I truly don’t think I had any expectations. Just excitement to see the poem’s application to the visual realm, and to participate in my own small way in the process behind it.
In terms of the relationship between the mediums of poetry and film, I think they’re actually quite close to each other. To produce a film, you must have a script, and a poem is just one type of script.
The way I see it, a poem is a body with a story and a history—when that poem is brought to the screen, the story and history are also given a voice. The accessibility of the poem is broadened substantially, which is very exciting.
- What are you working on next?
Living! I recently started a new job as a content marketer at a start-up in San Francisco, so I’m adjusting to that life. I should also say that I’m working on a longer script for a follow-up to “Boy Saint”. Motionpoems got me hooked! Who knows if it will go anywhere, but I’m enjoying the process—going somewhere isn’t always the point.