An interview with AMONG ANIMALS 3 contributor Elisabeth Benjamin

This interview was conducted and edited by Ashland Creek Press intern Rachel Harris. 

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: For five years I worked on a farm where we raised and slaughtered birds for meat. I am fairly comfortable handling living animals and dead animals, but I can’t get myself to kill an animal—the impediment is profound. During those years, I thought so much about life, the living body, and the mysterious line it must cross to become a dead body. The story is a very small meditation on this.

Q: The details in this piece are so vivid—what research did you do for this story?

A: The story came out of daydreaming on the job.

Q: Which writers inspire you the most?

A: When I’m adrift, I return to Shirley Hazzard, Tove Jansson, Jean Giono, Annie Dillard, Yasunari Kawabata, Woolf, Rilke, Austen. Two new books I love are sur vie by Youna Kwak and Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal.

Q: What inspired you to focus on chickens?

A: When I wrote this story, chickens occupied my psyche. I spent my days with them, and I often dreamed about them at night. So I wrote about chickens.

Q: The three women are very reminiscent of the Three Fates of Greek mythology. How do you feel this allusion works in the story?

A: Three women huddled around a steaming scalder—I’m embarrassed to confess I never made this connection.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

A: The story is a compressed collection of images, and I hope there’s one in there that might stick with someone. A good image can create a tiny new facet that bends my perception of the world—it’s why I read and write.

Elisabeth Benjamin’s story, “Everything That Can Go Wrong with a Body,” appears in Among Animals 3. Elisabeth lives in rural Maine and works with plants. She has a chapbook, The Houses, published by The Catenary Press.