Habits of the Rabbit : Megan Hudgins

Work featured in this issue:

"Feeling What It's Like to Fall Down", "Ode to Gene Wilder"

Was Gene Wilder your first crush? I had a thing for Flower from Bambi. Don't judge. How did you approach composing an homage to the great Mr. Wilder?

You know, I think this affection for Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka has actually become more prominent as I've gotten older, maybe because he's all wrapped up in nostalgia for me now. I was (as most of us writers and artists were, I'm sure) an odd and very sensitive child and so I became attached to odd fictional characters pretty frequently. For Willy Wonka specifically, I think my young mind really sort of misinterpreted him because I always saw him as this soft, sweet, and very sensitive fellow, when, in fact, the guy (Wonka) was so damn detached, so emotionless (apart from rage at some points). This was part of his act, of course, but I don't think I was bright enough to fully understand all of that. I suppose the poem was really generated as a means of thinking about myself at that time, about my own sensitivity and how impressionable I was. Like a lot of my poems, it's a lament of that lost innocence.

Would you have passed Willy Wonka's morality test and be the only one left in the end?

Having said [it's a lament of that lost innocence], I was also a very sneaky child, often stealing ho-ho's and whatnot from the pantry, so, no, I highly doubt I would have been left at the end!

"Feeling What It's Like to Fall Down" features an epigraph from Watership Down, which I've come to recognize as quite a large influence on your other work. What's with the rabbits? How did you go about reconciling Watership Down with the subject matter of this piece?

Watership Down. Rabbits. Yeah. I'm still trying to figure out why rabbits have invaded my life and my work, because it is a pretty recent thing. I wrote a poem as an undergrad about the time I accidentally ran over a baby rabbit with a riding lawn mower, and that poem, too, is heavy with loss-of-innocence. Somehow the rabbit has that concept written all over it, for me. We've (or just me?) come to think of the rabbit as this extremely docile creature, fluffy and sweet, the ultimate prey in the wild. (How many Easter themed photo shoots have you seen where a toddler is holding a live baby rabbit, and if not that, then a fuzzy little chick? Innocence.) But if you begin to delve into the real life and habits of the rabbit (and Watership Down is a great fictional illustration of this), you'll see that rabbits are fierce and cruel when they need to be. At any rate, as we all know, humans are cruel. Humans are perhaps the worst animals, and, even though the cruelty in "Feeling What It's Like..." is only implied, I'm trying to use that Watership Down quote to create that human/animal juxtaposition. I want the "he" in the epigraph (which refers to a strange rabbit in the book) to work two ways, as both the victim in the poem and the perpetrator who's off the page.

Hm. "Habits of the rabbit..." Is that the title of your next poetry collection?

It is now!

In "Feeling What It's Like To Fall Down" you write, "I can only wonder whose hands lied they loved her". That's such a mysterious and powerful line. What's your opinion on the place of mystery in poetry? Is there a line to be drawn between too much obscurity an absolute clarity?

Wow, yeah, that line between too much obscurity and absolute clarity is one that I really struggle with in my poetry. I tend to lean toward obscurity (not necessarily for the better) because I guess I don't want to simply hand everything to the reader, and as a reader myself, I don't want everything handed to me; I want some room for interpretation, for double-meanings and possible buried metaphors. But, for this poem specifically, I think mystery is there for a slightly different reason. The speaker of this poem is, herself, left in the dark (pun intended) about the truth of the matter, so I think it's important for the poem/reader relationship to leave the reader where the speaker is left.

What do you make of these statistics? Do you think that sexism is the primary problem with the ratio of published men to women or are their other factors at work?

I hadn't seen these statistics before - how disconcerting. To be honest, it does seem to be par for the course, doesn't it? Gender equality has come a long way since, say, Adrienne Rich or even since our own Allison Funk began writing, but literature is still such an old-white-guy's realm. I wonder, too, though, if people have a difficult time with what women are writing. Sharon Olds rocks the hell out of some people's socks; her poetry makes some people, a lot of people, uncomfortable. Do women write more about the things "people" don't want to hear, or are afraid of? Are women writing more socially subversive poetry? I don't know, but I'd like to think that's the reason. I'd like to think that male publishers are afraid, because then we (female writers) are doing something right.