Getting to know: Lea Graham.
Height: 5’ 4’’
Currently Live: Poughkeepsie, NY
Hometown: Fayetteville, AR
Instruments: Dental Scalpel & Mirror
Car: Honda CRV with a dashboard hula girl who has lost her sticky.
Secret Talent: I can find anything lost as long as it’s been lost by someone else I know well.
What is the best thing about your job? Getting to be publicly enthusiastic about poetry and language, in general. The classroom might be one of the few places where genuine enthusiasm trumps sarcasm.
What was your most embarrassing audition moment? There are so many, as my friends will attest. The two that come to mind are: having a Gatorade cap stuck to my butt while teaching a class—twice in the same class, and doing an Eddie Money imitation for my students to make some point. I can’t remember what the point was. I only remember the look of horror on their faces.
If you could live in any past era which would it be and why? To be a woman in the past, except in privileged circumstances, would have been tough. At the same time, with this economic/political climate so many past eras seem appealing. I’ll say living through the World Wars would have been an interesting time if not especially healthy.
Who is your role model and why? Past teachers and other writers and artists I know. The artists, Ed Colker and Elaine Galen come to mind especially. They have been working in their respective mediums for well over 50 years and always seem excited and fresh about their current projects. That seems like something to aspire to.
Do you have a good luck charm? I’ve had many over the years. I used to have a Greek cross pendant and a St. Anthony medallion that I carried with me. I recently was given a “caja de oracion.” It’s a silver pendant in which you can insert a small piece of paper with your prayer/wish.
Wackiest fan encounter: Not sure this was quite a fan, but a cab driver in Texas told his buddy my name and the buddy called back after having looked up my work and said, “Ooh…hot…sexy.” I was so creeped out that I almost gave up publishing on-line.
Before I die, I want to: Visit every country in the world and accrue a working knowledge of at least three other languages. Beyond that, I’m working on my boot collection.
When I fly I have to have: This has changed over the years…it used to be a fashion magazine then it became one pint of beer…now I just have to get on the plane in time and hopefully, with a bottle of water.
If I had to spend $10 at my favorite fast food joint, I’d order: Well, I try to limit any fast food purchases to under $5, but ok…if you are twisting my arm, I’m going with Taco Bell’s bean burritos.
My coolest article of clothing: A green leather jacket from Bilbao
When friends come over, we: Tell stories…embarrassing and otherwise
Do you like to cook? If so, what? Yes! I make a good paella, great salsa, and beet and goat cheese salad (not together, though). I’m going to learn to make home-made pasta this year.
TV show I never miss: I’m a BBC Mystery Series fan
If you could interview any celeb whom would it be and why? I’m interested in those celebs that are actors who disappear into the role and who I would never be able to identify on the street. The art of disappearing into a character is what I’m curious about. Gary Oldman comes to mind. I would also like to have a long chat with the director, Jim Jarmusch. He started out as a poet which is clear to me in the way he’s able to stretch a scene and how often he includes poetic references. I want to know the story of that and hear about some of the other choices he’s made.
Anything about yourself you wish you could change? My messy office and the fact that it bothers me when one of my colleagues comes in and turns up his nose in disgust. (Yes, Dr. Jimmy! You contribute to my self-loathing and angst!!)
I’ll eat sushi, but not: Anything living that might wriggle down my throat.
What are your best and worst subjects in school?
If you could be granted 3 wishes, they’d be…
Where on earth are you most dying to go? Goa
What’s the last thing that made you cry? Telling someone how two of my profs in undergrad were rooting for me. It’s so young adult-angsty-predictable, but still….
Do you ever wish you could just be a normal kid? Normal kids don’t exist.
What would people be surprised to know about you? That I could have been a scientist.
If you had to name one song as your theme song, what would it be? “Thunder Road”
Have you had a starstruck Hollywood experience? Who was it with? I waited on Bernie Mac and members of his family. I was only star-struck after someone told me who he was (this was well before his TV show and Ocean’s Eleven). He gave me a big tip and told me I was “cute.”
Favorite Movie: I don’t have favorites, but the movies that have stayed in my imagination for different reasons: Chunking Express, Gloomy Sunday, Kurosawa’s Dreams, Ondine, Muriel’s Wedding….
Favorite Body Part: My crooked left hand with a double-jointed index finger. I call it my “rodeo hand.”
Favorite Singer: I’m always amazed at La India’s range (especially alongside Eddie Palmieri) and I like imagining her studying opera with a neighbor while she was growing up in The Bronx.
Favorite Candy: If you’re 44 and standing in the candy aisle, why not just go for the bread, cheese and wine?
Favorite Philosopher: Gaston Bachelard…yes, I know it’s cliché to all you poets.
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Let’s go back to the bread, cheese and wine….
Favorite Sport: I like athletic activities, but few commercial sports. Ok…I am intrigued by baseball, if you must know. Going to Fenway, recently, was dazzling. My friend told me that I looked like I had been singing “Sweet Caroline” in that crowd my whole life.
Favorite Sports Team:
Favorite Book: Harry Potter 1-5. Just kidding. I don’t know… . I can always turn to Frank O’Hara or Denise Levertov or Robert Duncan or the recently deceased, Robert Kroetsch for when I need to be reminded of what I want to do as a writer. I love Garcia Marquez, Faulkner, Morrison…. More recently, Bruce Chatwin’s Song Lines, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.
Cell Phone or iPod: Cell Phone because it gives me the illusion of being organized.
Summer or Winter: Spring and Fall
Ice Skating or Gymnastics: Ice Skating except that it reminds me of how my grandparents tried to convince me to get a Dorothy Hamill haircut for what seems like years.
LA or New York: New York for its calming effect
Skiing or Snowboarding: Snowshoeing
Chocolate or Flowers: Peonies or rudbeckia by the roadside
Dogs or Cats: Both—but I’m allergic to cats, sadly. My former cat, Sushi, actually lives the life that many would aspire to: She’s probably 95 in people years and was adopted by some hunky 27 year old guy who moved her to Washington State and renamed her “Death Metal.” What a way to go.