Lora Mathis

I interviewed Lora last September and it's still one of my favorites:

“I do all the things you used to hate. I dye my hair colors that make the church ladies stare. I go to bed without dinner and subside entirely on air. I make tea and pour cream in after. I give up reading. I give up The Beatles. I never eat another plate of scrambled eggs. I shape myself into someone you would dislike. My speech sharpens. My teeth turn to fangs. I let go of the softness that drew you to me. My fingernails itch to become claws and I don’t fight it. This is what it takes to survive. I let people into my bed that I would have walked right past with you. He is sad-eyed and needs my flimsy paper wrists to support him. I pour every late night with you into him, until he says, ‘I love you, I love you’ and I say, ‘Shh, you’ll ruin the fun.’ I do what it takes to forget you, and at the end, have more bruises than the ones I started with, but I can finally look at a sunset and not feel anything at all.”  I Practice Death to Forget You – Lora Mathis

Intense, but that was the first poem I had ever read by the sultry SoCal poet; needless to say, I was hooked. Over a year ago, I was going through a really rough time in my life where one of the only places I found comfort in, were Lora’s words. We were obviously strangers unaware of each others personal mishaps, but for some reason I felt like she knew what I went through and she felt it too. At a time when you feel most aloof and unattached from the world around you, a little empathy goes a long way – whether it’s premeditated or coincidental. That’s what being human is all about right? Embracing life as it happens; it happens to all of us.

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way, when did you begin to write?

I don’t know, everyone asks that! I wish I had a set time, a life event to center that around, but I don’t. I’ve been writing, really, for as long as I can remember.. I decided to make a blog just dedicated to writing when I was 18 and once I created a blog, I actually had a place to put all of my work. Before that, poems would just sit in my journals and collect dust. I like typing more than writing and barely journal anymore. Now everything I write is on Tumblr.

It takes so much courage to pour your soul out into a public space like Tumblr, I admire the rawness. Did it scare you to put yourself out there like that, under your real name and everything?

My url is now my first and last name, but it used to be Soggy Poetry. Finally, I was told myself, “Okay screw it, if you Google me anyway all this comes up.” The internet’s weird, but it’s also been very helpful. Any success I have is completely attributed to the Internet and Tumblr and people finding it.

Now that you have put yourself on out there on Tumblr, your readers not only relate to your writing, but ask for your advice on their personal problems. How does it feel having this voice?

At first it was the occasional question,  but now it’s people who are going through incredibly difficult issues. I wanna help them, because I feel like if they’re asking me, it’s my duty to at least respond as best as I can, but I don’t have the answers. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because I feel like they need someone to offer them significant help and my contribution I is so small. On the other hand, I’m honored that people actually care about my opinion. That really means something to me. I’m glad we can connect because of things I’ve written, but nobody knows everything about life, especially me. I have my own problems. I don’t even know how to deal with breakups! Everyone thinks I’m like a breakup leader and I’m like I don’t know how to deal with it, I suck at breakups!

Speaking of breakups, in part of the dialogue from 10 Reasons to Be Alone, you write, “We both know poetry is a bunch of lies that sound pretty.” Are your poems based solely on real-life experiences, or do you tangent off of an experience that has inspired you? 

It really depends on the poem. Some of them are clearly directed at one person, but others are completely fictional, like a poem I wrote that was inspired by Lolita. In general, I’ll start with someone in mind and then skew it with my own perspective. However, I suppose when you rule out the handful of poems that are completely fictitious, and not based on my own experiences, than yes, my poems are about someone, or the idea of someone. Some are about an idea of someone or even an idea of myself. When I write about myself, it’s not entirely me, it’s just a side of my personality. What I show is my perspective, but it’s often not the whole picture.

In It Could Be Home, you write, “I never felt like myself until I saw who I was in your eyes.” Do you feel like you often write about this one specific person in mind?

Yes and no. Everyone inspires me to write-strangers, family members, friends, people I’m romantically involved with. I believe that poem was written about my best friend, Mindy. For awhile, much of the poetry I was writing was about a “you” that was one specific person who I’d ended things with romantically. I think it’s obvious, I mean, if I’m writing about breakups that much, something must have happened or else I’m really good at making things up (laughs). For a while, all of the poetry I read was them, and I hated it. But dealing with my emotions and thoughts through poetry was a large part of the healing process for me. And now, realizing other people connected with what I wrote helped significantly. I don’t know if I’m always conscious of who I’m writing about though. I only say I “wrote a poem for this person” because I was thinking about them when inspiration hit. Often, I’m not writing a poem about someone in a way that would allow them to recognize themselves. I’m writing a poem with a “you” and although I know who that “you” is, it’s very vague.

Everyone has that “you” in their past who has put them in a dark spot, this may feel isolating. Do you feel like isolation is healthy while coping through darkness? 

It depends. I don’t think shutting yourself up alone in your room and going hard and cynical is a good way to cope with being human. However, personally, I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of things, a lot of healing through isolation-keeping to myself, writing a lot of poetry, and staying away from people. Whether or not that was by choice or simply circumstance, I’m not sure. But I spent a good year or two just coping and not really feeling a total part of the outside world. That can be pretty lonely – but I think that loneliness is, first of all, what drives you to create and second of all, a natural part of life. You’re gonna go through it either way. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s especially positive to stay alone in your room, ignore everyone’s calls, and hope you feel better soon. Figuring out who you are when you’re alone is positive. But reaching out for help and continuing to connect with others is as well. For me, it didn’t take cutting out contact with the outside world to heal. It took spending some time with myself, experiencing new things, and figuring some emotions out in writing and conversations with people who understood and cared about me.

 Finally, tell us two of your favorite poems – one of your own and one from another poet.

The Crunch – Charles Bukowski. He really got me into poetry because of his hard-hitting style. He says what he needs to say and nothing else. My favorite poem I’ve written is I Am Not the Sea and it mentions Bukowski so even better.. I wrote that and had no idea where it came from. It just poured out of me one morning.

xo, Has