Carina Finn explores the contemporary zeitgeist through the lyricism of fashion, pop, and the youthful vernacular, engaging readers by asserting a sense of self that is at once aware of its place in the cultural collective and of its undeniable otherness


Carina Finn, Lemonworld & Other Poems, Co.Im.Press, 2013.

Carina Finn's debut collection LEMONWORLD & OTHER POEMS explores the contemporary zeitgeist through the lyricism of fashion, pop, and the youthful vernacular, engaging readers by asserting a sense of self that is at once aware of its place in the cultural collective and of its undeniable otherness. The poems in LEMONWORLD are sound bites on crack, designed to be aurally devastating and always well dressed. -

Carina Finn's debut collection LEMONWORLD & OTHER POEMS explores the contemporary zeitgeist through the lyricism of fashion, pop, and the youthful vernacular, engaging readers by asserting a sense of self that is at once aware of its place in the cultural collective and of its undeniable otherness. The poems in LEMONWORLD are sound bites on crack, designed to be aurally devastating and always well dressed.
"Whisper something sweet, ginger snow cake," begins a poem here titled "My Serious Virgin Mary Tapestry." And whisper something sweet this ginger snow cake of a book does indeedy, over and over again, until the teeth rot out of your eyes. Pithy as sexting, bratty as junk food, Carina Finn belches weird profundities here spontaneously, even and verily in the midst of all this burnt Barbie hair. "Peace is a field of graves," she says. Or, "My name is Christmas, will you merry me?" Lemonworld is as bright superficially as a sunrise, but what's inside will make you pucker so bad it'll ruin your face forever (4-eva).

Most People I know would hate this book, I think. They wouldn't be indifferent about it. They'd hate it.—Nick Demske
Carina Finn's works are like the poem equivalents of attending a tea party. Her voice is clear and young and true, and you kind of know exactly what she means in lines like, “this browniemix in me makes me wanna die.” These poems are little slices of cake, and some of them are poisonous, but all of them are sweet.—Amy Rose Spiegel
"I'm living in the alarm of a hand grenade swing": In Carina Finn's irreverent, fierce and clever Lemonworld, cuteness is weaponized, melancholy is threatening, and poetry is saturated by fashion's necroglamor. How does one read a book with this many hooks? Some may eat it like cake, but I prefer: "We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now." It's funny, scary and beautiful.—Johannes Görannson

She’s basically a modern princess (one of the poems in this book is titled “modern princess”) who has come home for winter break to visit her mommy and sigh flippantly and eloquently at the whole entire universe. Carina likes yummy food (browniemix), fashion accessories, like ribbons, violence (“peace is a field of graves”), and the types of things Gertrude Stein would like — “16-year-old girl looking to buy a moustache.” To spotlight her forceful mercuriality, Carina includes plentiful exclamation points, one of the most comely types of punctuation marks ever. A couplet: “don’t trump the mode / there’s a rabbit in the marshmallow!” - Seth Oelbaum


JC: The poems in Lemonworld and Other Poems suggest a singular lyric voice, so singular in fact that they strike me as issuing from a persona, a unified psychic source. What could you tell us about this voice? How would you like us to envision the speaker of these poems? Or is this simply too heavy a way to read your book?  
CF: Must a unified psychic source be singular? I don't think so. Comprised of multitudes of uniqueness, probably, but not singular necessarily. & must that which is singular be a persona? Definitely not. The voice of LEMONWORLD, though, was actually very specifically designed to be a sort of mesh-"I" for a unified psychic source -- the website Lookbook, in particular. I was really attracted to the way that fashion brought a global population of relatively young, sartorial-minded visual and writerly types to a focus point. I wrote the book during a time of great political unrest in Egypt; I was really affected by it, and my distance from it. I noticed a sort of bleed between the news aggregating sites I was reading and the fashion teenspeak and that seemed really significant to me. There are no heavier topics than teenagers and war, I think. 
JC: Reading your collection, I found myself thinking not only about persona, but also about location. Where might this ‘Lemonworld’ be found and what would it look like: is it urban, rural? Is it suburban? Is it some combination? Is it perpetually bright there ? I couldn’t help but think of a boardwalk yogurt stand. You know: the kind of place that seems charming, at first glance, yet by the end of the day, as early evening approaches and the debris gradually accumulates outside its foundation, appears a somewhat sad, seasonal, soon-to-be shuttered place.
 CF:  I worked at a boardwalk ice cream stand on the Jersey Shore the summer before my senior year of high school. Sometimes I feel like that experience infects a lot of my writing. Persona and location were two things I was thinking a lot about when I wrote it. I had just moved from the Blue Ridge in Virginia to Indiana, which was the flattest, vastest place I'd ever been. I wrote the whole first draft just outside of Miami, on my sister's bed. And I felt eternities away from horribly real tragedies. I felt both placeless and steeped in location. I was very consciously trying to conjure an alternate space in which to house my self, temporarily, and it seemed important to stow it with the many-tongued utterance of a universal: tragedy.
 JC: The style here interests me. These poems possess a quality of recklessness – is that a good word to use? – or a heedlessness – perhaps a better one? You attended graduate school, and have your MFA. Which means an exposure to theory and examples from an inclusive literary canon, yet these poems seem, in some sense, antithetical to those concerns. Is Lemondworld & Other Poems a book of oppositional gestures? Poems written against the serious, often overwrought products of the typical MFA workshop?
CF: In some ways, this was a reckless book; in others, it's some of the most careful work I've done. I wrote it very quickly, total immersion-style, and in that way it felt and feels reckless. That being said I literally did nothing else for weeks. I'd go running and to Bikram and cook and write these poems and that's it.
My MFA classes were far from typical. I never brought these to workshop, though -- the only people who saw them before I sent them out were my advisor Johannes Goransson, my friend CJ Waterman, and my sisters, who were 16 and 10 at the time. I wrote the poems for my 16 year-old sister, specifically, so I guess in that sense they're anti-"Workshop." It bothers and always has bothered me, the way the connection between poetry and teenage girls is thought of as somehow auto-kitsched, because the interest of the teenage girl is fleeting and superficial. In part, the brevity of the poems is a comment towards this. I wanted to write serious poems for that demographic, poems that addresses their concerns without sacrificing a complicated relationship with craft and form.
There is something oppositional behind these poems. It has nothing to do with MFA programs or the socio-political/pseudo-economic landscape of contemporary poetry.
JC: Some of the poems here are rather hilarious. “Quite Possibly Rock & Borrow Rose” comes to mind. The ending defines a certain contemporary attitude: 

good morning, school bitches,

f**k me, I am famouse!

We labor over endings of poems. The workshop encourages this in us. What you give us instead is a mixture of Franco, Gomez, and Korine. The poem shows us a way which isn’t the way, according to some, but is nevertheless a perfect ending. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see this phrase tattooed on a bicep or forearm one day.  
CF: That would be a baller tattoo. The Exeter Book Riddles are a major major influence on these poems. I think those poems are hilarious, almost in a mean way; they have swagger. It's deciding to smoke a cigarette when you're fucking someone and they really don't want you to stop.  
JC: Brief poems, many poems. The use of couplets, words strung together reminiscent of the wordplay of E. E. Cummings, iteration reminiscent of Milton’s “O dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon’, pop culture references, drug references, love poems, and poems of direct address – thus my sense that there is a consistent persona behind these poems and even a locale – a version of the protected garden? – a ‘lemon world’ , fragments that suggest the Sapphic, a slightly 60s vibe (think Richard Brautigan and Lou Reed), a kittenish, playful tone at times, a great lonely sadness at other times. How would you correct my approach to your poems? What would you tell me, as I begin to read these poems again, that my serve as a corrective to my misunderstandings, that might help me experience them more accurately than before?
 CF: Oh good lord. I don't think there's an accurate way to understand a poem. I'll just say some things about each of the things you've mentioned: I read a few e.e. cummings poems in this really great two-semester seminar I took in college called Modern and Contemporary Poetry. We read the Norton anthologies and a lot of criticism and Lifting Belly in its entirety. I love that line of Milton and I love pop culture. I'm not sure how I feel about references but what would a person be like if they were never referential to anything, ever? They would be an intolerable narcissist. Drugs, love, and direct address are three things I believe in. When I was a teenager I painted a bust of Sappho as a chorus girl in a modern adaptation of West Side Story and forced my mother to display it in the front hall of our house. I have a Lou Reed playlist on my Spotify but I did not make it.
Today I was lying on a futon in the mountains watching the Perseid meteor shower and thinking about sadness and a wild kitten jumped into my lap. 


a body is a car accident. like, a cardboard box is the bloodiest retraction. windowsided backbreaks are the preeminent tragedy. the age is lemonade. this is the horizon of modernity. a woodcut is plastified; the input is trimmed. masquerade! there is an age. like, who even uses sentences anymore.

JC:  This is certainly one of my favorite poems. It’s incredible in its critique of our modern world, our ‘lemonade’ age. But modernity, which is canonical by now, still exists on the horizon. The woodcut really is ‘plastified.’ I’ve seen them, and they really are monstrous. Input, input everywhere, but not a drop to drink!  Have we really reached the end of the sentence? Are we on the verge of ‘whatever will come next’?
CF:  These are the questions. I ask them all the time. I have a hard time with the idea of the modern world. Sometimes I think it's a total ruin. Especially when I'm in nature, which is where I am now, and I think about the urban landscape, all that comes with it, and everything you lose. 

something different – a spring feeling!

                    grooveking, anyone can tap my heart

doublemercy pushing kiddo,

photograph me to nowhere

                   & triarevolution in a sea of pastel cups.

JC: Which is a delightful poem!  I find its echo of Cummings rather wonderful, and the employment of the word ‘tap’ truly inspired.  
CF: I aspire to incite delight! Truly. I have this troubador theory about my fundamental self and that it is probably why I feel best in acts of wooing, acts of charm: singing and poem-writing and everything power-ballad, arriving astride a horse. 
JC: Is there a poem here that seems utterly essential to the book, that single poem without which the book would not have been written? Perhaps there is a group of poems, a central few?  
CF: The whole thing went off inside me at once. I remember its genesis as nuclear; immediate. 
JC: Carina, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your new collection.
- Jon Cone


Carina Finn, My Life Is a Movie, Birds of Lace, 2012.

Exteriors, interiors, film sets, sisters, cowboys, government, punching screens, voracious living death instincts, and everything of life or just propelled towards it with a ratty bow in its hair.

I fall in love with a cowboy in the middle of a great tragedy. the great tragedy is my life.
I love a title that I can’t say without bringing the back of my hand to my forehead and affecting a Katherine Hepburn voice. Anthony Hopkins affected a Katherine Hepburn voice for the role of Hannibal Lector. I have hungered for a book like this a cannibal hungers for flesh. This is like getting a text from my boss that says OMG, this book. This book is forty-nine pages, it’s a chapbook, with the kind of shimmering density that dances and transcends that giant, strapping books can never achieve. I want to quote the whole thing.
in real life I am at a bar wearing a white lace dress with a collar taking whiskey shots and fighting about the significance of mania or I am in the streets wearing white stockings and falling down and having done so give myself permission to stay up late eating icing. tomorrow I will spend a long time considering the potassium content of bananas and comparing the labels on cereal boxes in an effort to refrain from falling down or I will run up and down all of the stairs in red leather stilettos or I am soaking my teacups in brine. I coddle eggs in jars or bake tiny muffins in heart-shaped tins or roll out dough on the kitchen table while reciting long passages from sylvia plath’s biopic. I am frightened and little orchards emerge. I buy organic milk organic eggs tofu and three kinds of coffee, one of which is icing-flavored. in the morning I will drink three cups of icing-flavored coffee and read blogs and wear my apron until noon. I will think of what it is like to live in the land of the free.
Carina Finn’s poetry is the icing-flavored coffee of the English language. I knew I needed this book when Finn posted COSTUME DRAMECONOMIES (WHAT THE NEW NEW SINCERITY CAN DO FOR YOU!) at Montevidayo. Finn said she arrived at her final thesis reading at Notre Dame “in a pretty typical outfit: red-orange lace babydoll dress, white thigh-high fishnets with giant bows, black over-the-knee boots, a blue satin ribbon from a poet-friend worn as a belt.” When she was finished reading, no one spoke to her.
I wonder whether my ideas would have been received differently had I worn a black suit, or even a dress that was not bright red, or had eschewed the fishnets and boots in favor of some sensible heels or ballet flats. But, as is always the case when I read or speak in public, my outfit was a major component of my performance. A director wouldn’t send a Violetta onstage to sing Sempre Libera in sweatpants, and I wouldn’t throw myself into a hostile intellectual environment without my fishnets & bows.
Without Finn’s fishnets and bows, I would not throw myself into a hostile intellectual environment, I would not brave that cold and stupid world. Woe to those who diffuse tantrums: you’re in trouble. “in real life I discover that diet cereal does in fact taste like cardboard + I have managed not to kill myself for three days in a row which is an accomplishment.” I like books that admit that admitting does nothing, that transcription is impossible, that catharsis does not answer its own questions, is not a neat phallic mushroom-cloud, that Anne Sexton’s analyst was a fuckhead. When asked why it took her thirty years to write poetry, Sexton told theParis Review in issue number fifty-two that her analyst told her the value of her poems lay in what was springing forth without her knowledge – the secrets she was too damaged to appreciate – not the skill with which she crafted them. “I didn’t know I had any creative depths.” Carina Finn knows and she knows it shows. She affixes her depths to her babydoll dress. Little orchards emerge. Even when she is frightened, look at what is wrought.
I go to a lot of bars or apartments mostly to get very drunk and coordinate outfits by text message from across town or spend an entire day getting lost with a purpose. in the afternoon it is so white or I am standing on the wrong subway platform watching the sunshine like murderlight or morning-sex light in french films and this foreign man walks up to me and tells me I am beautiful and asks permission to ride the train with me like it is okay to be so earnestly romantic in the afternoon or I am a girl getting into a taxi alone and asking to be taken to the site of a disaster. - Kari Larsen 


LMB: You recently defended – for lack of a better word – the use of melodrama in poetics. Why do you think people are so uncomfortable with it?
CF: It’s funny, because I don’t think melodrama itself is the problem; think, for example, of the melodramatics in Keats, in Eliot, in Donne – the first stanza of The Good Morrow is as dramatic as any Lana Del Rey song or Minnis poem. I think the real issue is that people have a problem with feminine melodramatics; it’s why Plath became the poster child for some crass concept of Confessionalism (even though another melodramatic man, Robert Lowell, is really responsible for that whole mess) in spite of the fact that she was a master craftsman and genius of the literary costume.
So, I think it’s a gendered issue more than a simple one of dramatic/not-dramatic. The “problem” with girly melodrama in contemporary poetry has to do less with the gesture and more with the thing against which the dramatic girl or queer of female-identified poet is reacting against. Look back to Freud’s case study of Dora, the classic hysteric: her fits of melodrama made people uncomfortable because it forced them to acknowledge some previous hurt or wrongdoing. It’s easier for people to discount the dramatic female voice in literature as a substanceless performance rather than actually dealing with the issues that would cause someone, say, to want to put together something like Marie Calloway’s Google Docs, or Joyelle McSweeney’s very bratty and dramatic Percussion Grenade – which is all about acting out, being loud, wearing costumes, and throwing a tantrum.
LMB: MY LIFE IS A MOVIE – the title itself – is a good bit melodramatic. People seem to be afraid of too many details; I’ve been told myself that “sparse” is good. Less isn’t more, to me, though. In fact, I think melodrama goes a long way. You detail your work extravagantly; I feel like I am getting wasted and then having my heart ripped out. Did you write this book for you, or for the world?
CF: It is dramatic, and intentionally so. In a lot of ways, this was a way for me to work through the issues I have/had with the label of Confessionalism; A lot of the things in MLIAM actually happened, and that’s why I chose the title. The scene with the Austrian welder and getting lost at Ground Zero, and there’s a bit where a jogger gets hit by a car; I workshopped an early version of this and someone actually said that the getting hit by a car thing felt too contrived and overtly melodramatic, that it seemed as though I had put it there for shock value.
The other thing that’s important to note is that MLIAM came directly out of the co-morbid phenomena of reality TV and child actors. My mom and sister had just started filming Dance Moms: Miami, and I had shot two episodes with them and felt really conflicted about it. I was a professional actress for like the first eleven years of my life; I used to be really ashamed, and kept it secret. In graduate school I decided to “come out” as a former child actress when Johannes [Goransson] made us write these manifestoes in my first graduate workshop, and for the first time I allowed myself to acknowledge how intensely that experience (I mean, it was literally half of my life, at the time) affected my poetics.
Growing up in the film and television industry gave me a really different way of thinking about ideas of framing, narrative, truth, and performativity, I think, and in MLIAM I try to give the reader a sense of what it’s like to live within or in the aftermath of that experience.
LMB: You’ve created The Bratty Poets Series. Is there a certain brattiness in all poets that goes unidentified that you’d like to showcase?
CF: Absolutely, and that’s why I started the series – which is less a “Series” in the traditional sense and more a sort of watering hole around which people might gather when they’re feeling a particular variety of thirst. The thing about brattiness is that it’s sporadic, irrational, sometimes childish, and always right. It has an aesthetic but it also doesn’t exclude any particular aesthetic or camp, it’s cliquey but it’s a quality of every clique, by nature. The Bratty Poets Series, more than anything else, is a way to start breaking down the whole “these cool kids over here, those cool kids over there, these aging hipsters hanging out in Brooklyn, those pretentious hipsters in the Academy” quality of “the scene,” such as it is. It’s a nicely decorated padded room in which poets are totally allowed to have a fit.

LMB: Your book trailer is touchy. In it, I say that men don’t only love women for their breasts, but it’s sure a reason. Why did you choose to record your friends, and how does this relate to MY LIFE IS A MOVIE, aside from the obvious?
CF: MLIAM has two definable locations – the City and the Old West. It’s never really clear which is the real and which is the sur-real, because they’re generally interchangeable terms in this movie. When I moved back to New York this summer I was staying with different friends, all of them poets, I was out of school for the first time in almost ten years, I had one suitcase and a guitar, and I felt this really intense sense of being non-locatable. So the footage I shot during those first weeks when I was back in the City and I was really emotionally in shambles for various reasons were in some ways an effort to create for myself a sense of reality; this is my place, these are my people.
The first video I took was of a poet friend sitting on her couch, on which I was sleeping at the time, smoking a cigarette and crying and talking about how many times she had tried to quit smoking. It was very early in the morning, and all anyone had done so far that day in that apartment was write poems and smoke cigarettes, and the light was really perfect and her sadness was so real and beautiful and happening right then; it was like when you see your favorite painting for the first time and want to keep it with you forever. I had an iPhone and there was this gorgeous thing happening front of me and I thought, people should have access to this. Which is the same thought that’s really at the heart of MLIAM.
LMB: If your poetry were any pop-star, who would it be?
CF: Alanis Morisette. She’s such a brat, and very angsty and melodramatic. She’s also a brilliantly talented technical musician. People tend to not see the latter and just think of her as that heartbroken 90s girl who screams, but she’s way more than that. And my favorite Alanis Morisette song is Unsent, which is absolutely no one’s favorite Alanis Morisette song. I was eight when it came out, and it was and is very relevant to my life.
LMB: We both just received our MFAs in poetry. There is a lot of talk about uber-Masters and medieval practices and sheer wastes of money. What are your experiences with the system?
CF: I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this, because I believe fully in the ideas of Poetic Lineage, the tradition of an apprentice being shepherded along by a Master, and Feudalistic economies in general. I write about it in an essay on my blog called FEUDALISM IS RAD, and you performed the role of the Idol in my play, EVERYBODY, LET’S BELIEVE IN THIS IMAGINARY CURRENCY at The Bowery Poetry Club last summer, which was essentially “about” the whole issue of the MFA economy. As far as the MFA itself goes, there are a two things I was told by the person who taught me as an undergrad, and these are some of my personal ultimate truths: don’t pay money to get an MFA, and don’t get an MFA for any other reason than the luxury of two (or three) years during which you have no obligation except to your work.
That being said, once I got to my MFA program (which was amazing, by the way, and certainly not for everyone but I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else) I got very angsty and resentful of the whole thing. I wrote this long allegorical poem called The Princess and The Ivory Tower, which was a very bratty treatise on what I perceived as the injustices of being a young female in a fundamentally broken Academia, during my first semester. That poem really idealizes the sort of Grand Pastoral experience of learning about poetry, which is an exaggeration of my experience as an undergrad, as antithetical to the sorts of masturbatory arguments that can happen in a hyper-theorized context. In retrospect, I’m really glad that such places exist so that arguments, in general, can happen. They need not be “productive,” they need only to continue.
LMB: You write, “I feel so sincere it makes for bad poems” in MY LIFE IS A MOVIE. How does any good poet balance sincerity with craft, and how do you translate the bigness of life into a poem?
CF: That’s the Big Question, isn’t it? Especially with all of the “New Sincerity” vomit all over the internet (to which I’ve admittedly contributed a few bucketfuls). During my aforementioned Grand Pastoral upbringing, my teacher brought two irises into his office when we met to discuss my poem one morning: one was a wild iris, and the other was a hothouse iris. They were both formally excellent examples of an iris, but one had certainly been bred/crafted to have a quality of showiness, whereas the other had more or less just grown. I think the lesson he meant to teach me that day was about the difference between a public and a private poem, but it seems to apply to the sincerity argument, too. Is the hothouse iris less of an iris; is the wild iris less beautiful?
LMB: Your life/poems is/are a Lynch film. Which one?
CF: Actually, I totally can’t watch David Lynch films. And I don’t like Twin Peaks. I’ve tried, and I just can’t – but I get why other people are into it. My life/poems are a Meg Ryan romantic comedy, or one of those movies in which Drew Barrymore fucks everything up and still gets the boy.

Carina Finn, Heart Marlon Brando, Wheelchair Party Press, 2010.

poems in
poems in
poems in

SANS SOUCIfor Ariana
“I lay traps for troubadours who get killed before they reach Bombay– The Rolling Stones
Epilogue: The day falls beigly on a corpse in a citadel alongside the sea.All night, the regent’s lips wax shut.Her silence is not free; people will pay good money for a missed train,to watch her fuel get leeched, and shimmer…
The kingdom by the seais actually a screen. I am a queen I cannot decry. I am dressed,not darling; my sisters are coming.We are going to sand down the beaches like heathens. We are going to
plant kisses on handsome enemies. Little bower –you are a drudge, a misstep.I am going to take you home to fret. It’s not a pomme on a desk it’s anoligarchy. It’s how the masterful shine of our souls
bespeaks a curse.Tables of smoke grow quills like a dirge for tattered girls pressing linesin old snow. A coin is sewn into the lining of a cloak.Anathema quiets lambs on the breeze; they are licking up
blood from their bottles, decanting a language the populace forgot.And here we are soaked in a hutch of root & rot.Some rabbits I have known try to cuddle the book.They practice with crowns but it is useless; their crowns are buttons.
Their buttons are horrible favours of dread.They are holding out their necks for the priest with a fiat, fiat, fiat rex.A cope of sky, a vestement. A diadem won’t make you happybut it might stick a fowl for your table & follow faithfully          to rest.

this is the hour of erasure.this is the moment of the desolate commensurate.we are sorry, we cannot address your requestat this time. we are sorry, our best dressesare already occupied. are you interested in trading inyour body for apostrophe? are you a participantin the metalphysical scene? imagine you’re anomnivore about to make a line break. imagineyou’re a hollowwhore who has to break a timesteak.there are infinitely many consciousnessesin which we could exist.a book is a freakout which deletes transition tryst.without strong static, who’s an addiction?a whole concentric verse of being.helpless throes of metacorpse,aprocryphallic dangerhoax;this is the joke of the century boys.this is the tome that creates a many drones get to hold you, my love?how many holes to mannermasque?I was a text & a trusted friend.the verse reversed my urge to hide.these hallowed minds rescind my prideand mine the hapless, heartfelt line –

Carina Finn is a poet, playwright, and multimedia artist. She is the author of I HEART MARLON BRANDO,which was published in a limited screenprint edition in 2010 by Wheelchair Party Press. Her play, EVERYBODY, LET’S BELIEVE IN THIS IMAGINARY CURRENCY, premiered at The Bowery Poetry Club, and THIRTEEN WAYS OF BREAKING was workshopped and premiered thanks to the generosity of the Film, Television, & Theatre department at The University of Notre Dame. She a graduate of Sweet Briar College, has an MFA in poetry from Notre Dame, lives in New York City, and blogs at