Breaking Dolly Lemke
Dolly Lemke is a poet. And not your chain-smoking, sad-just-because poet. I’m talking artist-writer-organizer-real-deal-poet. So, why is she in the film section of VITAL? We’ll get to that. Stir in your Splenda and read on.
Since 2002, Lemke has been deeply involved in the Milwaukee arts scene. Be it film work, coordinating with artists on Gallery Night or thinking up ‘zine ideas with friends, Dolly is there. Lemke’s resume is totally take-her-home-to-meet-the-parents: she was recipient of the Howard A. Jansen Scholarship (2002-2006), poetry editor for FURROW Magazine (which she helped revive after a four-year hiatus), reader on the Wave Poetry Bus Tour, organizer for UWM’s Visiting Writers Series and contributor to locally-pressed lit publications Blue Canary and Burdock. She also somehow managed to find time to study abroad at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England.
Reviving poetry magazines? Who does that?! Herst-wha Castle? I’m not even going to Google that castle place – I’m afraid it will find out I’m questioning it and cast a spell on me. This fall, Lemke will attend graduate school at Columbia College in Chicago to fine tune her poetry and move toward starting her own Milwaukee-based press. Dolly is the kind of girl Morrissey has been writing about all these years. (Or is it a guy? Morrissey, you 80s juggernaut of sexual ambiguity! Anyway, you tell me.)
So, why the film section? Film is poetry in motion. And in addition to Dolly’s serious turns as a writer, she’s been on-sets for more than a few guerrilla-style, super-indie short films shot in and around Milwaukee. It should be required by law to interview people like her. Below is a pie slice of our conversation:
VS: What film breaks your heart?
DL: Tideland, by Terry Gilliam. I felt this instinctual force in me to take care of this little girl lost in her own fantasy world of fucked-up people and underwater pandemonium. [She] grew up not understanding real familial love, not understanding death, [she was] alone when her father overdosed. Although her imagination was stunning and beautiful – making for an excellent film – she didn’t understand the boundaries of being a child; she was destined for a dysfunctional existence. It really got to me.
DL: There is this poet named Peggy Munson who just came out with a book, Pathogenesis (Switchback Books). Her words represent something so painful and personal, [so] vivid and poignant. I empathize – and more importantly want to write as profoundly as she does; I want to know myself as sharply as she does. It is truly magnificent and heartbreaking, but not in a sob-story, memoir-bullshit kind of way. It’s completely human and real.
VS: Briefly describe the 48 Hour Film Project. How were you involved?
DL: The 48 Film Project is a chance for local filmmakers to bust ass for two days and create a work of art within limited means. I was a bystander, supporter, actor-on-demand, and PA; I held a clipboard and looked important. The team I worked with is called Guyshouse Productions and they have been active for several years doing comedy skits [and] short films. The main dudes are Ryan Spiering and Patrick Vitrano, Jacob Liptack, Bob Villareal, Justin Krushas, and Nadia Husain. It’s not like you can be strictly a filmmaker in Milwaukee, but you can have a very versatile existence … Ryan is a 3-D modeler for an architect firm, Bob works at Masteq, Patrick and Jacob work for Milwaukee County Parks, Justin has been painting his mom’s house for three years and Nadia works in NYC for Big Star Motion.
During the filming all I could think was “hurry up” and “what the hell is that for.” Everything just takes so long: changing shots, lighting, sound, getting the right take. [But] it really comes together in the end. It made me think about the steps in producing a book of poetry; a manuscript is taken into consideration, and with editing and finishing touches it can become a published book, but with far fewer time restraints.
VS: What about Milwaukee inspires you? Or not?
DL: My main gripe about Milwaukee is the lack of a thriving literary scene … one where every night there are readings all over the city. There is a lot going on, but it’s spread out, and the poets don’t live here – they come through here. Commuter poetry. There is a lack of small presses, independent publishers, literary publications, and again, I know they are here, but not enough to satisfy my future career goals. I hope to [return to the city] and start my own press or literary publication after grad school. So that lack of something inspires me to make something happen. I love Milwaukee and I know it like the back of my hand, but I am excited to expand the back of my hand and be able to come back and re-vamp the literary scene. VS
To read the full interview of Dolly Lemke, click on REEL Milwaukee’s blog.