Patty Seyburn is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Threshold Delivery, and a professor at California State University, Long Beach. Zócalo’s December curator for our Poetry Curator Series, she joined us in the green room to chat about why the breakfast burrito is a superior food, the poetic value of awkwardness, and the best movie she hasn’t seen yet.
Who is one poet you’re currently reading?
I’m sort of obsessed with Marilyn Chin. She can do anything. She can write and she’s also a really great reader of her works. Her work on the page is brilliant, and then, when she performs, it’s like oh, damn. She’s so good. I’m teaching her in all my classes.
How has the pandemic affected the way you think about or write poetry?
There’s a social phenomenon that I jokingly call the “new awkward” because for so long, we couldn’t see each other, so we don’t know how to have fluid conversations anymore. But I think that hesitancy and awkwardness, the nature of working in fragments, feeling on the fringe, is so much a part of making poetry. It’s interesting and valuable.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Passover. Every year, you tell the same story, and it’s very participatory, and there’s special food. In terms of holiday traditions, my husband, kids, and I have been going to Detroit where my family is from for Thanksgiving, and I’d say the over-abundance of dairy in every dish is my favorite thing right now.
Where’s your favorite spot to write?
Where I’m sitting right now, in my bedroom. I live in a two-story house, and when I’m downstairs, it’s like I’ve entered the public space and there’s things it asks of me or that I ask of myself, like, ‘here’s the kitchen, I should do some food prep.’ But up here, I can be a little removed from the world and collect my notes and thoughts.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Bad drivers. When people are mean drivers or just bad drivers making poor judgement, it’s like, c’mon! We all got to get along out here. It irritates me, but I tell myself to cut them some slack, not everyone grew up driving in Detroit. I tell myself to be generous.
What’s the best movie that came out this year?
There are so few that come out in theaters. Everything I’ve seen has been at home and so much of the directorial directions and cinematography are lost on the small screen. Can I tell you the best movie I haven’t seen, but was told will be the best movie that I’ll see? Several credible people recommended Decision to Leave by Park Chan-wook.
If you were not in your current profession, what would you be doing right now?
Theater production. I was involved in it in college and I love theater. It was very meaningful to me. I could see myself continuing that involvement at a professional level.
What’s the best food to eat during this time of the year?
It’s really an anytime food: the breakfast burrito. It’s a superior food—you get the eggs, the salsa, guacamole, maybe beans. As winter approaches, it feels substantial. My graduate students and I are making our way around all the diners in Long Beach. It’s great.