Kailey Tedesco: How David Lynch has Inspired my Writing, for Better and for Worse

            I’ve never been an advocate for killing off darlings. I’m actually just the opposite—the kind of writer that keeps alters to those who are of deep inspiration and mood boards for those passing, yet burning dalliances between myself and my interest in another artist.

            When I entered my first, official MFA workshop in 2014, I came in with a little packet of poems all inspired by Lynch’s Blue Velvet. I was convinced I was living in a Lumberton of my own, having just found out the house around the corner from me once harbored a grisly homicide, and very shortly thereafter discovering one of my students, an eighth grader, conspired and murdered her own mother. I was both terrified by the way small towns deliberately force a veil of superficiality around themselves— “things are fine / this is my honor student / we have a chocolate lab…”

            Yet, I was fascinated by the way the veils lift to reveal grotesqueness of what’s beneath them. I had way too much aplomb, I can now admit, in presenting my tiny packet of poems which a professor of mine later deemed the “ear in the field” collection. But I stuck with them.

            I read Spinoza and I read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and I thought: I will make this collection work—this will be my book. I forced it to the point where, when “strange” things stopped happening in Fogelsville, PA, I no longer had any creative fodder. I made things up, I got more surreal. I borrowed the bearded lady in the radiator from Eraserhead. Week after week in workshop, I’d get “neutral” comments. Nothing that would say the poem was necessarily good or bad or interesting or hateful. Just “I like this line… change that em dash.. New title?” —my poems weren’t getting the engaging and thorough discussions of my peers, and it was because, I soon realized, there wasn’t much to discuss. They were Lynchian… OK—but I realized then that’s the easy part. Anyone can create something Lynchian. The true Lynchian task, I now understood, was to actually create.

            So I took a break from Lynch in terms of writing (of course, I was still re-watching the Twin Peaks finale at least once a week…). I found myself breaking down the labyrinth I had built in my subconscious that only allowed for one kind of poem to fit through. I learned, gratefully, how to freely associate and build worlds in my poems. I experimented, thought about my beliefs and what it means to believe in the first place, and I stopped forcing my poems to live in a known reality—even the Lynchian realities that thrive upon the unknown.

            The most important thing I discovered was: any existing universe, even within the universe of art, is a reality as soon as it is shared. The key to creation, in my own opinion, is to deny these realities altogether—put yourself into nothing at all, and then build.

            I learned this from Lynch after years of analyzing his work and reading his interviews. I never killed him off in my mind, I just decided I needed to stop creating a world that already exists beautifully. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still inspired, though.

            This past weekend, while watching the return of Twin Peaks, I turned to my partner in tears. A figure appeared in a glass box and suddenly a couple was entirely destroyed. It was the kind of meta-scene that reminds us that we’re doing the same as that couple—watching a glass box, hoping, but not expecting something will happen that will change the way we believe, and then, suddenly, we are destroyed by what we see—we need to start again from scratch.

            I did have an emotional response from the young man and the wicked step-sister from A Cinderella Story sitting in a torrent of their own blood, but this isn’t why I teared up.

            I told my partner that it hurt so much to watch something so perfect, almost like it was planned over these 25 years. It hurt more to know, as an artist, that I’ll never be Lynch. I just won’t…

            But if my inspirations were saints, Lynch would be the Saint of all Belief.

            By recognizing I won’t ever be Lynch or maybe even truly Lynchian, in the primary connotations of the word, I am able to enjoy both myself and my inspirations more. Another writing primer that I’ve learned from Lynch is that belief is something you enter into willingly, and that belief will, without doubt dictate your reality.

            If you believe bones are made of the fossils of ghosts, so they will be. If you believe a purgatory exists in red velvet, just beneath the forest, where the duplicity of your very self resides—so it has already been for a very long time.

            So, to be Lynchian, I try to wax poetic about everything: coffee, gorgeous cherry pie, the town I live in. But I do it according to my own belief in my ability to alter realities through words—to be both the strange and the wonderful.

Kailey Tedesco’s books, She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publications) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) are both forthcoming. She is the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and a performing member of the NYC Poetry Brothel. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She received her MFA in poetry from Arcadia University in 2016. You can find her work in Luna Luna Magazine, Hello Giggles, UltraCulture, Maudlin House, and more. For more information, please visit www.kaileytedesco.com