Today we are excited to welcome back poet Sarah Carey on our Authors Talk series. In this podcast, Sarah shares some tips for getting “unstuck” in your creative process. She revisits an unfinished poem and walks us through her process of revision with fresh eyes—giving us some incredible insight along the way.
“Don’t give up, explore the hidden…practice self-love, forgiveness, kindness towards yourself and others, and rest.”
Today we are pleased to feature poet Catherine Kyle as our Authors Talk series contributor. Join Catherine as she shares her thoughts on using a fantastical framework to talk about real feelings and experiences and how poetry provides a unique medium to do so.
“When you think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and turning it into something else.”
I’m Catherine Kyle, and I’m going to be talking a little bit today about poetry
and magic. When I looked back over the two poems that were published in Superstition
Review in issue 11, all the way back in 2013, the biggest thing I noticed
was that both poems have this kind of sense of myth and mysticism that I think
is still really present in the kind of poems I write now.
2013 was a long time ago—it’s seven years ago—and since then, I’ve experimented
with poetry and magic in lots of different ways. I’ve had a few chapbooks come
out since then, and one of them was about a kind of “guardian angel of art” who
wanders around an abandoned city rescuing library books and forgotten paintings
and things like that; the two poems that Superstition Review ran ended
up in a chapbook called Flotsam, which was all about the ocean as a
symbol of the unconscious that has a lot of mermaids and seaside villages and
kind of a fairy tale vibe—things like that. So it’s been a definite thread in
my writing for a long time, and in all these cases, I want to have stakes in
the real world, but it has always been really helpful to me to frame real
feelings and real experiences in this kind of mystical or magical light—to kind
of approach it through a different angle. Part of what I’ve been thinking about
a lot lately is why poetry seems like the best way to do that, as opposed to a
different type of art. Why I’ve gravitated to poetry specifically to do that. And
something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been trying to untangle that knot is
that poetry is really rich in metaphor, and I think there’s something almost
inherently magical about metaphor. It’s transformative, right? Like, when you
think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and
turning it into something else. And to me, metaphor feels different from simile,
because when you’re using a simile, you’re saying, “This was like this,”
which is something you could do in creative nonfiction, for instance: say, “This
experience was like being in a fairy tale.” But in poetry, you can use
metaphor more freely, I think—in metaphor, you’re saying, “This was this.”
It’s just a little bit different, but it feels powerfully different to me. Again,
in a poem, you’re not necessarily saying, “This felt like a fairy tale,”
you’re saying, “This was a fairy tale,” and there’s room in the poem for
those two things to be true simultaneously. The literal thing is true, but also
the figurative thing is true, and they’re existing simultaneously in this almost
paradoxical and, to me, kind of magical way. It’s a liminal space where two
things can be true at once.
other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot as far as why magic is this thread
in my poetry is that honestly, I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy as genres
for as long as I can remember—my whole life. And it took me quite a while to
realize that part of what I really like about sci-fi and fantasy is also part
of what I like about poetry. I think they both have the ability to ask, “What
if…?” and answer it in some new way. They both rely on imagination to think
about things that maybe don’t exist yet or could never exist in real life, that
are only possible in the realm of art (at least at this point). For example,
about a year ago, I wrote this sequence of poems where, like, an older, cooler
version of me drives around in a car and picks up younger versions of me who
needed a big sister figure and shakes them out of whatever situation they’re in
and gives them a little life advice and dusts them off and kind of holds space
for them. Obviously that can’t happen literally, right? Like, I can’t literally
time travel. But the fact that it can happen in a poem makes a kind of
catharsis possible that’s not possible any other way that feels almost
supernatural to me. So those are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about.
I’ll just read you a couple of poems from my two collections that came out last year. I had a chapbook come out from Ghost City Press called Coronations that consists of some fairy tale retellings, and I had a book come out from a press called Spuyten Duyvil called Shelter in Place, which, unfortunately, now is a phrase many more people are familiar with. I’ll read you one from Coronations first and then one from Shelter in Place. In Coronations, again, my goal was just to revisit traditional fairy tales and give some of the princesses a little bit more agency. Other writers have done this, but I wanted to try it out for myself. I’ll read you one called “Collective,” which is inspired by Swan Lake.
Somewhere adjacent to the world, we rule, gowns our feathers.
When stars blink out like carbonated water, limbs re-human. We rub
ourselves with bath salts, make a bonfire, and dance. Lake a slice of armor,
silver breastplate we surround. When dawn begins to infiltrate
the copse with prying hand beams, we stamp out what orange coal still smokes,
pack up our camping gear. We do not wait around for arrows, heartbreak, drowning—
none of that. We pirouette to bird form. We sail beyond its reach.
Okay. So that was one inspired by Swan Lake. I just always liked the character of Odette and was sad that she meets a tragic end in the original. I think in some versions all her friends, her swan attendants die with her, so it was just putting them in a contemporary setting where maybe they would have a little bit more agency.
The other poem I’ll read you is from Shelter in Place. While fairy tales are my favorite type of magic or allegory that I visit in poems, Shelter in Place has more of a cyberpunk feel. The whole book is set across a backdrop of this dystopian, futuristic city, and I tried to use that not only to talk about some of the grief and heaviness I feel when I think about some of the problems the world is facing right now—environmentally, economically, in terms of human rights, all kinds of things—to articulate the pain of living in a time where we’re facing the things we’re facing, but also to look for metaphors of hope and resistance in the face of all of that. So, I’ll read you one that was inspired by a flower I saw on a walk one day that was just bursting through the cement. It was just bursting through the sidewalk, right in front of me. There were no other flowers around—it was just this sea of concrete and then this very healthy-looking flower somehow, despite it all, against all odds, living there and thriving in the sidewalk. So, this is called “Blossoming 1.”
On these evenings our heads tilt up and become flowers, busting out of our collars, all iridescent. Geranium, freesia, gladiolus erupting straight out of our used T-shirts. With smartphones in our pockets—our long winter coats. Our cheeks shift to druzy, a spiked hymn of glitter refracting and clutching the siren-scraped light. The red -green-yellow No Vacancy din. We are all wind, all magenta. Our laughter a rooftop vertigo, a circle of lips on a bottle’s swan neck. Geode heartbeats keeping time. A wallowing, a daisy in cement.
Okay. Thanks. I’ll stop there, but thank you so much to Superstition Review for inviting me to be part of this series. Thank you for listening in. It was really fun to be part of this, and I hope you’re reading and/or writing something fun today. Thanks again!
Today we are pleased to feature author Jennifer Martelli as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Jennifer talks about her poem, “Yomi.” She uses her poem to discuss the process of revising one’s work and how she utilizes other poets and authors to help her in that process. Jennifer tells of the importance of a poetry community and how it affects her writing.
“I don’t have to tell the story exactly as it is, the truth is something different from the actual narration.”
As a bonus, Jennifer also shares another poem, “The Drop off.”
You can read Jennifer’s poem, “Yomi” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature author A. Molotkov as our Authors Talk series contributor. Anatoly is interviewed by Willa Schneberg.
Anatoly talks about a piece from his memoir, (Mis)communication, that tells of his early life in Albany, New York after having moved there from communist Russia. He tells of the language barriers and his experiences working the night shift at the deli as he begins his writing career. All the while he studies the conversations he has, both in Russian and in English, pulling them apart to find where they intersect, and where he fits between them.
In the interview, Anatoly discusses the differences of writing a memoir as opposed to writing fiction and the significance of his decision to write in English rather than Russian. He also talks about the difficulties of deciphering humor and romance in a non-native language.
Today we are pleased to feature author Adam Houle as our Authors Talk series contributor. Adam talks with Mason Yarborough, discussing his poem, “A Time to Tear and a Time to Mend” which was featured in Issue 24 of Superstition Review.
Adam goes through his poem in detail, remarking on inspiration behind lines, the narrative the order builds, and how to know when a poem is finished. Adam also talks about how his writing has changed over the years, relating his work now to back when he first contributed to the magazine.
You can read Adam’s previous work “Three poems” featured in Issue 9 of Superstition Review.
You can also check out Adam’s book, Stray, at Lithic Press.
Today we are pleased to feature author Gage Saylor as our Authors Talk series contributor. Gage is interviewed by Sean Coolican a fellow college at Oklahoma State University. Both Gage and Sean are part of the school’s PhD. Creative Writing Fiction program.
Gage shares his insight on the creation of his short story, “The Dirt Beneath the Concrete”, revealing where the inspiration came from as well as techniques he uses. He talks about “Description not just for the sake of description,” and how to add narrative and emotional weight to the setting. Finally, he teases information about upcoming work of his.
Today we are pleased to feature author Todd Dillard as our Authors Talk series contributor. Todd answers questions submitted by his Twitter followers, building a discussion of his new collection: WAYS WE VANISH, his methods, and ninja turtles.
WAYS WE VANISH centers around the loss of his mother and his grief at her absence. Todd details how he curated his collection, how he originally failed, and why his collection is better because of it.
Todd also talks about poetry in general–from knowing how to revise, to knowing when a poem is ready for publication. He also touches on a wide variety of other points like the importance of the musicality of poetry, line lengths and their effects, and how to assemble a book of poetry.
You can read Todd’s work “Rewind” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.
Check out Todd’s website and preorder your copy of WAYS WE VANISH.
Today we are pleased to feature an interview with Sarah Viren. Sarah is a journalist, writer, and translator working at Arizona State University specializing in the art of the creative nonfiction essay. She is the author of an essay collection entitled MINE.
In this fascinating interview she discusses her experience with writing from her working in journalism to her transition to writing literary essays. During her time as a journalist, she found that she wanted to write about things that “had no place in newspapers” and essay writing provided a new solution. The literary essay presents its own problems as the author is dealing with real people and Sarah explains how she has learned to write ethically about close loved ones from her sister to her children. Literary essays allow the author to “find ways to let those people have their voice be heard” while also showcasing the uniqueness of their own.
Sarah also takes time to explain her writing process from inspiration to research and observation identifying herself as a fan of the idea of “writing something and giving it time.” She uses moments of inspiration and wants to write honestly about herself and others, to share meaningful stories. In memory writing she says “remembering the self I was” can be hard and that in writing of others it is the “people that are outside of our sympathies… those are the people you need to write about.” Her essays are dark and honest and real, and though they are at times difficult to write she remembers “it’s hard work, but good work.”
This interview is a culmination of immersive student work on non-fiction narratives for ENG 509 in the Narrative Studies program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. In this class, students read longform non-fiction writing and listened to author interviews to theorize writerly practices related to a variety of non-fiction genres. Students’ final reading for the course was Sarah Viren’s essay collection Mine. After a semester of critically engaging with author interviews, they composed their own questions and interviewed Dr. Viren on Tuesday, November 19. Watch the full interview to learn more about her creative process and inspiration and be inspired yourselves by the reflections and advice of a fellow creative mind.
Sarah Viren is a writer, journalist, and literary translator. Her essay collection, Mine, won the River Teeth Book Prize, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and was longlisted for the Pen/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Her translation of the novella Córdoba Skies by the Argentine author Federico Falco was published in 2016 by Ploughshares Solos, and her co-edited anthology of the essay in the Americas, The Great American Essay, is forthcoming from Mad Creek Books. An award-winning newspaper journalist for half a decade in Texas and Florida, Sarah holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is now an assistant professor at Arizona State University.
Michelle Stuckey is a clinical assistant professor and the writing program administrator for the Writers’ Studio, a fully online first-year composition program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Stuckey is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and teaching are informed by feminist and critical race theories.
Kendall Dawson is a current Narrative Studies Master’s student at Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication and English Literature from Central Michigan University, enjoys reading, and loves her hometown of Chicago, IL.
Delena Humble is a first year graduate student in the narrative Studies MA program at Arizona State University. At ASU, she also serves as the primary research assistant to New York Times best selling author, Jewell Parker-Rhodes. Delena’s passions include writing and studying Latinx identity negotiation, ethical story representation, and autoethnography. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two cats.
Riley Hess is a second-year graduate student in the Communication Studies Master’s program at ASU’s West Campus. He is working on a short memoir about his trials and tribulations as a student-athlete in high school and college, as well as an applied project using persuasion theory to effectively fill out a general grant application form for nonprofit organizations.
Monique Medina is a second year graduate student. She is in the beginning stages of her Capstone project, which will focus on the relationships between parents and their trans children. This topic hits close to home as she has a trans nonbinary child and it’s been a journey in rediscovering who my child is, while building upon and redefining our relationship.
H. Rae Monk is a graduate student in the Narrative Studies Master of Arts program. She is currently doing grant funded public history research in the rural towns of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. She resides and works in Mesa.
Today we are pleased to feature Alison Mandaville as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast she speaks with her partner and takes the time to reflect on how her journey as a writer has progressed and how she got to where she is today.
For Alison, “poetry was always there” from a young age and she recounts some of her earliest memories of writing poetry. Like many other writers, there was a time in her life when writing took the backseat to other priorities, but Alison came back to writing later in life. She discusses the events and inspirations that have recently fueled her creative writing such as her work in Azerbaijan, where she made connections with other writers, and her choice to go back to school. She claims that it was experiences like these that “opened up the page ” for her to get back to poetry. She also discusses her work with translation and how it helped her to write poetry. She notes that translation is a way you “take something that was already beautiful and get to make another beautiful thing out of it.”
Along with her close work with the intricacies of language, Alison gives credit to her experience with creative residencies where she has been able to collaborate with other writers who are serious about their work. She gives advice on how to apply for these residencies and the benefits of attending them for aspiring writers. Here is a non-profit resource for finding these residencies designed for artists and creative writers.
You can read Alison’s poetry in Issue 23 of Superstition Review.