You published two collections of poetry before The Liars’ Club made you a literary celebrity. I’m wondering how you imagined your literary life playing out before you knew how the memoirs would change things for you. What did you think your life would look like as a poet?
What I imagined is that I’d marry some great poet. That’s really what I imagined, that he’d write poems about how wonderful I was and how generous, which is really ridiculous because anyone who knows me knows that I’m a selfish bitch. The idea that I’d be Nora Joyce or Vera Nabokov is highly unlikely. But that was the model. Heather [McHugh] and Louise [Glück], the reason I sought them out as teachers was that they were the first women you saw who weren’t merely pieces of ass.
Isn’t it so much better not to be?
I don’t know; it’s probably easier the other way. I said to Louise once, and I wrote this in a poem, “If I had a choice to be happy or to be a poet, I’d choose to be happy.” And she said, “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t have that choice.”