Maya Bornstein

Hi Maya, can you tell us about your relationship to poetry?

It’s always in flux. Poetry is like a person with whom I have an old, tight friendship with

long stretches of silence, stretches of extreme closeness, periods of sexual exploration or

romance, and some periods of conflict. Right now we’re in an I-miss- you-but- have-no-

time-to- hang period.


Can you remember the first words you fell in love with?

I’ve definitely been a reader from really early, but I’m not sure which words were first.

When I was about ten my parents’ friend gave me a volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets and

I spent the summer wandering around a farm in Israel memorizing as many as I could.

There were probably works of fiction I ate up before then but that was my first poetic



What is your earliest memory of writing?

My grandfather died when I was nine and I wrote a poem to read aloud at his gravesite.

All of our relatives kept asking which book I’d found the poem in. Haven’t really stopped



Can you describe your current writing process?

It’s not a healthy one because recently I’ve been too busy to really sink my teeth in.

There’s a Somerset Maugham quote I like that I would model an ideal process after: “I

write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock



Where do your poems come from?

Some of my favorite writers talk about how their best works felt like they were merely

channeling them, and while it sometimes feels like that, I really dislike the idea of being

just a conduit. Poems are sparked by something external – conversation or art or a

glimpse of something ugly, striking, triggering. But by the time they scrape their way

through the filter of your experiences and linguistic identity they hopefully grow to be

about something more or deeper than whatever it was that sparked them.


How does poetry connect us as human beings?

It conveys unspoken, unspeakable, yet familiar things. It’s one of the most powerful ways

of smashing taboo, so it’s liberating. It allows confession with impunity, so it’s liberating.

It gives us a language to identify what’s behind the real, like looking at the negative

instead of the photograph.


What is your dream for the world?

Lately, with so much blatant injustice going on, I would settle for a little more justice in

the world, and a little more universality on the definition of justice. It feels like some of

the loftier dreams we used to have when we were younger or more idealistic have been

stamped out. I realized the other day it suddenly seems obvious that peace is just not

within the realm of potential human achievements, so it hurts to even dream it anymore. I

don’t know if that’s a reflection of this time or of my own age.


Who would you like to see interviewed on We The Tender Hearted?

Derrick C. Brown! Or Douglas Kearney. Both are incredible poets and incredible


Photographs by Dani Fine