NRM: Reading through your work, I’ve noticed that your poetry is in-between mysterious despite being straightforward and enlightening. What does Louise DiLenge write about? And what do her subjects mean to her?
Louise DiLenge: As a writer, I reflect the human condition, literally and metaphorically. RECIPE FOR SALVATION: Awake O’ Sinner Trilogy thematically illustrates a rural landscape, innocence lost, and environment shaping perception. Each lyrical narrative concludes with a recipe for feeding the body. For me, those “recipes” encapsulate observation, acknowledge lessons learned, and generate forward motion.
Survival instinct, self-awareness, and existential questioning are states of being that motivate or demotivate. We have the choice of denial or embracing. Recognizing human foibles and facing our fears allow us freedom to experiment.
NRM: Due to this pandemic and the fact that a lot of people are obliged to stay home, a lot of artists have been using this time for their artistic expression—what have you been up to lately?
LD: The COVID-19 experience will definitely surface in my future work. My process is evolving and adapting to Seattle’s stay-at-home guidelines. I now balance routine versus risk. In other words, some writers work best in solitude. However, due to this pandemic, my once welcomed state of solitude is becoming a state of isolation. Consequently, I am applying new methods to keep productivity on course. It has been a challenge, to say the least, and continues to shift my creative lens daily. Simple things I took for granted like walking my dog, meeting friends at a restaurant, hopping on a plane are compounded—social interaction will never be the same.
NRM: Who were your early influences in the arts? And what are the things that fuel your imagination?
LD: Born into an illiterate working-class household, I sought refuge in the grade school library. Over three years, I read every book in alphabetical order. A consumptive reader, it didn’t matter who wrote the words, the unfettered feast drove me. I literally grew up in a movie theatre. My father projected films. My mother sold tickets and concessions. Sitting in the dark, my reality took on a 20’ x 50’ proportion, thundered Surround Sound and erupted CINEMASCOPE.
My high school arts teacher, Charles Smith, tapped my shoulder as one of The Chosen, elevating my arts history and technique to college level. Which was a blessing, as I never completed college. In my 20s, Tomata duPlenty, former San Francisco Cockette and ringleader of Seattle’s Ze Fabulous Whiz Kidz lifted me from despair and taught me to be fearless, gender fluid, and funny.
Over the years, prolonged exposure to local and global visual, literary, and performing artists gifted me multi-cultural appreciation. Travel has offered endless inspiration. My imagination is self-generating.
NRM: You have worked in the theater industry for the longest time, can you tell us some of your favorite magical moments?
LD: From 1969-1971, I lived with Ze Fabulous Whiz Kidz, performing “guerrilla” drag cabaret in a subterranean club beneath Seattle’s Smith Tower. My first production effort paired the Kidz with shock-rocker Alice Cooper in the Paramount Theatre. Alice told the Kidz: “You scare me”. That was fun.
Decades later, Teatro ZinZanni afforded the opportunity to participate in production of a bi-lingual stage play that traversed Japanese and American agricultural communities. Labor of Love (aka: the “rice play”) morphed into Gumbo Ya-Ya, assimilating Catalonian musicians and a third language to participate in the 1992 Goodwill Arts Festival in Barcelona. This experience profoundly changed my worldview.
In 2017, I bowed out of collaborative arts production, leaving behind a legacy of arts events and theatrical manifestations. The ending of that bittersweet, magical chapter of my life brought forth a new phase of singular artistic endeavor.
NRM: As a writer and an artist, what do you think is your role in society?
LD: My characters wrestle for survival, bear the pain of self-awareness, and contemplate the mercurial nature of existence. All of us are a product of our experiences. I strive to narrate honest reflections of a complex reality.
NRM: What makes Louise DiLenge unique?
LD: Am I unique? We all have experiences. My repetitive truth has and continues to be: Gather what is offered—brutal or beautiful. Face reality. Reshape a new path around obstacles. Continue to experiment.