The Story of My Book: Lynne Thompson

Published periodically, “The Story of My Book” posts bring our collections to life through a series of five questions we ask all of our poets that highlight what makes every book unique and why Perugia is the right home for each of them (and may be for you and your book too).

Lynne Thompson on Beg No Pardon (Perugia, 2007)

1. What was the genesis of your Perugia book?

Beg No Pardon as a collection was born from the suggestion of David St. John. I attended numerous private workshops with him, and he suggested that my poems would make a good collection. I was stunned to hear this as I had never thought I would publish a book. Compiling the poems into a cohesive whole was more of a challenge. Lucille Clifton said when she thought she had a sufficient number of poems, she’d stack them on the floor and encourage them to “talk among themselves.” It didn’t work! But I found a way to work with groups of poems, then string them together to make the manuscript you read today.  

2. How did you find out about Perugia Press?

I saw an advertisement in Poets & Writers about the press. The fact that submissions were limited to women poets seeking to publish their first or second book of poetry was too compelling to ignore. In addition, Perugia promised to support the eventual winner of the contest through readings and other promotional efforts, and that was attractive to me.

3. Can you describe an experience that confirmed Perugia Press was a good fit for you?

I have a good friend whose first book of poems was published by a small press of comparable size to Perugia not too long after Beg No Pardon came out. Her experience was the complete opposite of mine and quite disappointing for her. Susan Kan (the founding director) promised me that she would not publish a book that I wasn’t completely happy with, and I was meaningfully involved in every step of the process—from cover selection to page layout and more. I’ve come to understand that this is often not the case.

4. How have you changed as a poet, writer, or creative person since your book came out?

The sense of confidence I got from publishing my first collection of poetry is immeasurable. The experience deepened my commitment to write better poems as well as to support and nurture other writers—women writers, in particular. Because Perugia submitted Beg No Pardon to several post-publication contests, it was awarded the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, which came with the opportunity to read at several Midwestern colleges, something I could never have achieved on my own, and which led to professional relationships that have endured to this day.

I also believe my appointment as Poet Laureate of Los Angeles for 2021-22 could only have been attained based on the confidence that was first nurtured by Perugia Press. This appointment has afforded additional opportunities to support the poetry community. For example, my “Poems on Air” weekly podcast for the Los Angeles Public Library, and “A Day of Poetry in LA” reading celebrating local poets.

5. Other than poetry, what moves and motivates you? 

Other art forms—paintings and music in particular (see a painting that is referenced in a poem in my new as-yet-unpublished manuscript)—greatly influence my work as a poet and are frequently cited or relied upon in the poems themselves. In addition, I’ve turned to cooking—and to cooking shows like Chopped—as a creative outlet. I’ve purchased a lovely new set of knives, and there are a number of references to salmon and other foodstuffs in recent poems!

Lynne Thompson’s latest book,
Fretwork (Marsh Hawk Press, 2019)