Drive Here and Devastate Me, queer femme author Megan Falley’s fourth collection of poetry, is a love letter to the queer community. Though it includes more than a handful of personal love poems and breakup poems, the jam-packed volume speaks as a voice from the community to the community, and wrestles with subjects close to our collective heart: love and heartbreak, yes, but also shame, mental health, fear, femme invisibility, gun violence, body positivity, toxic masculinity, and self love.
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oh, just my latest book daydreaming in a garden bed! but for real, @alyontour is the first to hold, “drive here and devastate me” and i’m a little jealous! are you gonna be one of the first people to hold it? did you preorder your copy yet? available everywhere sept 26th! blooooooom!
Reading this book as a queer woman feels like a gift; Falley puts words to the feelings that haunt us at dusk and delight us at dawn. I can see myself in every line of Falley’s work, see my life between every word, and feel my heart beat between every consonant.
Falley ends the book with a poem to herself, a thank you note for not committing suicide, titled “Holy Thank You For Not.” The final stanza concludes: “Now imagine it is yourself/you’re driving towards. Call that your new home./Go home. Come home. Be home.” If Falley wanted these poems to exist as a thing queers could drive toward, she has succeeded. These poems are home.
Megan! I loved Drive Here and Devastate Me so much. It is so full, and covers such a range of time and feeling. How did you compile this collection?
My goodness, thank you. That means a lot to me. My last book was published in 2015 and was comprised entirely of poems about Lana Del Rey, and the book before that came out in 2014, so this book in many ways has been a long time coming.
The poems are snapshots (and also shaky handheld videos) of my life in the past three to four years since those earlier collections were published. That life has looked like a big break-up, being totally broke, falling in major big time wild wild love, a lot of therapy, flourishing queerness, the election of the Commander in Grief, the #MeToo movement, tremendous loss, and grappling with wanting to be alive.
I write to tell stories, or to unravel very human emotional experiences, or to try to understand how I feel about something, and after a while all of those writings take shape and ask, in their own quiet or nagging ways, to be born.
One of the major themes of the collection is queer love – tender acts of climbing into the bathtub with your lover, brave acts like existing in the world after Pulse, and sad acts of breaking up and leaving. Each of these show different facets of the queer experience; what is your favorite kind of love poem to write?
Someone called to my attention that love is the entry point into almost all of my poems. I felt really charmed to hear that — not that it is necessarily a compliment — but I began to celebrate that about myself and my art. If there just one path a poet can take to journey to the heart of their message — what better path than love? (At least for Me, a Gush-Gush Romantic Extraordinaire.)
I really love writing all sorts of love poems, but I think my favorite to write are funny ones, little idiosyncratic homages to my partner, because they just feel so personal, like public love-notes, true odes to who someone is rather than love as an idea. This book has poems about my partner having a panic attack and peeing themselves on our tandem bicycle (twice, on separate instances, might I add) or talking to my therapist about the concern of them loving our dog more than me. They’re fun, they’re real, and they could be written by no one else and about no one else. That’s special to me.
You write so much about being queer and femme and sometimes invisible because of it, which I personally relate to so hard and which I really adored seeing explicitly on the page as well as implicitly from you as the poet. How have you handled not always being read as queer, and as you indicate in some of your poems, having both your work and your life taken out of that specific context so that it doesn’t mean what you intended?
My public platform has been the antidote to femme invisibility. While I don’t have any of the defining queer attributes in my “look” (argh, what an absurd concept) — my shows are so gay. My book is so gay. My social media is so, so gay. I try to be a one-woman pride parade with my words and public persona, even if my haircut and lipstick make people think otherwise in my more pedestrian life. But I’ve been thinking of getting some knuckle tattoos, and this question just made me think of HUGE DYKE as a great potential option. My mom will love it.
Another theme that hits very close to my heart is that of being a fat girl, and also not being a fat enough girl to speak for the fat and body positivity movement. I wish I could just ask you to talk about those feelings forever, because there is so much to unpack. Instead I will ask you – why did you write “On Being One Of The Skinny Girls At Fat Camp”? And what are you intending to convey with “The Weight”?
It is deeply complex. In 2012-ish, my career took off with a poem called “Fat Girl” –– a piece I wrote reflecting my experience of being called Fat Girl in some way or another for at least fifteen years.
My weight had been a Very Public Concern of my family and community since I was about eight, and the repercussions of that and the dialogue around my body had been one of the top three major traumas of my life. So I wrote about it. I wrote what I knew. And the poem has been embraced by so many, and, with that, came critique as well, that I wasn’t fat enough to have written it.
It has been complex to be a person who has been called fat for her entire life, and also have thin privilege. I have thin privilege. I can go to the doctor and complain of an ailment and the prescription won’t just be to lose weight. I can buy a single seat for myself on an airplane, be comfortable, not receive dirty looks or cruelty from strangers because my “unruly” body will brush against theirs. I don’t have to worry about there being chairs that can hold my body at a restaurant or friend’s house. Stores carrying clothes that might not flatter, but fit me.
I recently read Roxane Gay’s Hunger and [recognized] my own immense privileges here. But still — how do you grapple with the experience of being harassed, shamed, diminished for your body still being very real? So I wrote “On Being One of the Skinny Girls at Fat Camp” to be a little more vulnerable, to let people in a bit, to acknowledge, as the poem states — “my privilege and my pain.” “Fat Girl” is an anthemic poem with a ton of humor and reclamation of the “insult,” whereas “On Being One of the Skinny Girls…” is sort of a reprise in a minor key. I wanted to be known, and seen, and to speak to the nuances of having this body.
With “The Weight” (a poem about finding one of my former fat camp friends acting on a feminist porn site), I am trying to acknowledge that I still struggle with the issue of loving my body, even as someone who has built a platform on body-positivity. Sometimes I feel like my inner narrative to myself is “Every Body is Beautiful! (Every body, except yours).” I recently listened to a Dear Sugar podcast of Cheryl Strayed talking about weight and body image and admitting that she may never feel/be evolved enough to accept and love her body at its bigger sizes, to transcend the toxic violence of thin-obsession and brainwashing of this culture. It killed me. And it made me wonder what it would really take for me to LOVE this body wherever it’s at, not just when it’s smaller and “behaving.”
How do you write your poems? I know a few years ago you completed a project where you wrote one poem a day. Is that still something you find useful?
Writing every day is totally useful and something I recommend to every student or writer asking me for advice and also something that I struggle to do myself. I can be super goal-oriented, so sometimes things like completing a 30 poem a day challenge is the way for me to go, but in recent years I’ve been writing less, and reading less, in a way that I worry is a detriment to my soul — but every time I sit down to write now it is with a potency and urgency, and most of my drafts end up being fairly complete poems quickly, so—I’m not sold on being prescriptive anymore. I don’t know if there’s a better advice than Marge Piercy’s, which is — “Work is its own cure. You have to like it more than being loved.”
You play with form in a really dynamic, fun way throughout the book. I was just as excited to see how each poem would be laid on the page as I was to read the words. Have you always played with form? Do you use it as a guide or does it happen naturally? And how does the way your work appears on a page influence or affect how you read your work out loud?
Thank you! I consider myself a visual artist even though I may never have anything hung in a gallery. I like to treat my life as an art. From photography to painting, fashion and constructing eyebrows, to my own handwriting, to interior design — I am always striving to utilize whatever space I am given for more beauty. As a person who intends to read most of my poems aloud, it’s important to give dynamics to the page as well. I want everything I do and touch to be in the tradition of beauty and interest, in some way, from the verbs I choose or the car that I drive or the tattoos that litter my arms.
The collection as a whole reads as such a generous and vulnerable love letter to the queer community, to your partner, and to yourself. Was this your intention? What do you hope readers feel when they finish this book?
Perhaps it circles back to what I said in the beginning: love is my path into everything.
When readers finish this book, I hope something has made them laugh, and something has made them cry. I know that’s simple, perhaps cliche, but I want readers to feel the spectrum of human emotion, as I have when writing and living these poems. My writing isn’t all flattering — but it is whole. I want others to come away with a sense of wholeness.
In the last poem, “Holy Thank You For Not” I have a line — “You are awful, yes, and wonderful. You have been wretched and you have been beautiful.” I want this book to hold space for people to be both flawed and fucking incredible, I want it to hold space for me to do the same. I believe that all of us — sweet mistake-making beautiful misery miracle machines that we are — are most often trying to do good no matter how the world has smacked us silly. I want to celebrate the complexity of being a person.
I hope this book feels like love.
Drive Here and Devastate Me will be available September 26, everywhere books are sold. You can pre-order it right now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. Megan Falley will be on tour all fall – check out her website for tour dates – and if you’re in Boulder, CO you can buy tickets for the book release show on September 29. Follow Megan on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or at her website, meganfalley.com.