Francine Marie Tolf

recorded in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

 

[Of Course—I Prayed] by Emily Dickinson

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Francine Marie Tolf

I’m Francine Marie Tolf and I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis is a wonderful place to be as a writer. You get lots of support, there are lots of readings going on, so I guess it feeds into my writing as support, and I think that’s wonderful. Is it inside of me like the way Joliet, Illinois is, my hometown? No. Joliet, Illinois is something that has seeped into my bones and is part of my dreams. I mentioned at the reading that I did last night at the Loft that I still dream about the factory towers and the bridges and the black water of the canal and that town is inside me and I think has influenced very much both my poetry and prose. People have told me that your beauty is always damaged, in your poetry or in your prose you always write about damaged beauty, if you write about hyacinths, they’re at Wal-Mart, under artificial lighting, if you write about water, it’s dirty water, and I think really, growing up in Joliet, that was part of it. You had to really cherish the beauty that you found, because there was a lot of grittiness, there was a lot of aging industrial landscape, so when I saw something beautiful as a kid, I really treasured it. And I think I got this idea when I was little, that beauty always comes from the past, it’s always old. And of course I realize that’s not true, all you have to do is pick up an infant, but the idea of damaged beauty, I think Joliet has produced that in me. And it’s kind of my personal metaphor for damaged beauty.


The Knox Writers’ House

Joliet is a smallish town in Illinois, do you see Minneapolis competing with that at all in your writing?


Tolf

Well, actually, I think with my essays, it is more present. Well I don’t know if that’s quite true. I wrote an essay about being in the MFA program, but I find that, and I think this is true with a lot of writers, I have to experience something and I have to get distance from it before I can write about it. So probably, I will be writing about Minneapolis ten years from now in a much better way than I’m doing now, and I can gain some perspective in a way that I have over Joliet and over Chicago.