Today we are pleased to feature Megan J. Arlett as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, she takes the time to discuss her nonfiction piece, “Narrative,” published in SR’s Issue 21. The lyric essay explores the 2008 disappearance of Amy Fitzpatrick as well as language and storytelling.
Megan looks back at her 2017 notebook to discover what she was reading while she drafted “Narrative” and to find out which texts influenced her work. While she struggles to remember an initial spark of inspiration, aside from constantly thinking about the disappearance of her classmate and neighbor, she does notice how certain writers have tapped into her “brain space” to influence what she originally “thought was going to be a poem,” but later became the lyric essay that sits nicely between the nonfiction and poetry genres.
Looking to the musings in her old notebook, Megan discovers that she was obsessing over the poetry of Li-Young Lee at the time. She had written a note to herself about his work that reads, “Long poems need externalities.” In her old notes, she also finds a scribbled question— “Bowman-style meditation for the cyclical obsession with missing people?”—referring to Catherine Bowman’s poem “A Thousand Lines.” Lastly, Megan realizes that the newsprint style of “Narrative” was influenced by Jehanne Debrow’s The Arranged Marriage, which helped give her lyric essay form and made the nonfiction piece feel complete.
It seems that Megan’s creative work was driven by her obsessions at the time: her fascination with poets Li-Young Lee and Catherine Bowman, her admiration for Jehanne Debrow’s literary style, her love for true crime, and her curiosity about Amy Fitzpatrick’s disappearance.
Reflecting on her writing, Megan wants her readers to acknowledge that beauty and horror can exist simultaneously, concluding “There can be voicelessness even amid countless voices.”
Today we are pleased to feature Paisley Rekdal as our Authors Talk series contributor. In her discussion with fellow poet and classicist Kimberly Johnson, she takes the opportunity to talk about working with classical literature, the complexities of language and translation, women as translators of the classics, and the themes of the classical writings which the two have used as inspiration for their own work. They discuss mainly Paisley’s work with Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Kimberly’s translation of Virgil’s The Georgics and how they have found inspiration in these classical poetic texts. And with their work, they’ve become “steeped in an ancient idiom” which has influenced their own poetic style and translation methods.
Paisley speaks to her own journey in contemporizing Ovid’s myths in her book of poetry Nightingale which is to be released in May. She notes that one of the trials of her work was finding how to “contemporize the myths without becoming a slave to just retelling them” and how she wanted to try “translating images of power” and “structures of change” that exist within the myths into her own poetry. She details the struggles and trials she faced in her work with the text and more.
They also take time to discuss the trials of translation of the classics and Kimberly’s work with Georgics. Kimberly notes that she “lives the world in lines” as a translator and poet, wanting to preserve the experience of the original poem. She and Paisley “reside in that complexity of language” which is inherent to poetry as an expressive art. Their extensive interest and creative engagement with the classics also helps them speak to modern topic of women working in classical translation and the appeal of the classical myths to a modern audience. For them, “the classics holler out to us from a period of imagined stability” and the themes and unique stories of those works are particularly attractive to modern readers. To hear more about the intricacies of their creative processes and their perspectives on the classics, please take the time to listen to this fascinating podcast.
Today we are pleased to feature Xanthe Miller as our Authors Talk series contributor. While being interviewed by Stephanie Welch, Xanthe touches on many aspects of her work including the social issues they speak to and her own personal relationship to art. We get an inside look at her artistic process and intent in creating pieces of art that will “endure long after we’re gone.”
Xanthe uses recycled materials to construct her work, which started when she began to see the objects as “pieces of little, tiny cities” and decided to build those cities herself. She is particularly concerned with migrant life and is “drawn to issues of environmental justice” because of her own experience and background in the American Southwest, which led her to use a lot of Southwestern artistic motifs in her work. In attempting to portray the various ideas and themes she wishes to address with her art, she notes that they typically “start with a color, or sometimes two colors, and the relationship they could have with each other.” The process seems to start so simply and, yet it becomes something so much more complex and powerful.
Xanthe comments that “art always felt unapproachable” to her, but she began creating her pieces as a way to “interact more deeply” with the desert environment that surrounded her. Her story and experience truly speak to the natural inclination of the artistic mind and to how art is more than what it seems, often commenting on the current social and political climate of our culture.
Today we are pleased to feature Beata Wehr as our Authors Talk series contributor. She takes the time to discuss how she arrived at her current artistic style and what she wished to accomplish in creating and sharing her unique artist’s books and boxes, some of which are featured in Superstition Review.
Beata discusses how her artistic style has changed over time to include artist’s books and mixed media work which she sees as a “container for my ideas,” providing more opportunities than a singularly visual art form such as a painting. She also notes that her art is like “an allusion to a narrative” which the viewer may interpret themselves and this helps her achieve her artistic goal of “recording the passage of time” with her work.
Now living in Tuscon, Arizona, Beata is originally from Poland and develops her art by drawing on her unique life experiences as an immigrant. She describes her thought process and some particular choices that went into creating some of her pieces as they were made as a response to “the disturbing spread of nationalism and xenophobia.” This sentiment is then combined with a desire to demonstrate a “hopefully harmonious and yet ambiguous opposition between nature and culture” through her art. She also notes that she is “attracted to the beauty and mystery of found objects,” which speaks to the heart of her artistic work and style.
Today we are pleased to feature DJ Lee as our Authors Talk series contributor. She takes the opportunity to talk with her daughter, Steph Lee, about her creative essay “A Syntax of Splits and Ruptures”. The essay covers the period in which DJ and her daughter were estranged, their reconciliation and, in a broader sense, the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.
The two discuss the difficulty of writing a personal piece about family, but they acknowledge writing can be a way to process family traumas. DJ considers Steph’s reaction to the essay, as she felt the person in the essay is “another form of me.” After reconciling, DJ felt she needed to publicly share their story through her writing, speaking to “people dealing with this kind of loss, especially of a child.”
DJ also considers the inspiration she found in the earthwork sculpture, Spiral Jetty, built by Robert Smithson in the Great Salt Lake. The art piece, significant to the pair, became an important element in the piece as she constructed the essay “to have a spiral form, to sort of fold back on itself like the relationship between mothers and daughters.” She also considers the idea of “something very beautiful and precious and special being under the surface.” Not only does she find meaning in this inspiring art piece but uses numbers to connect the fragments of her essay in order demonstrate the “ruptures in peoples lives” and how “a fractured relationship” can be made whole.
Today we are pleased to feature Thomas Gresham as our Authors Talk series contributor. He takes the time to discuss his work “Iris.” Touching on many aspects of his writing, he details the impetus for writing the piece and his mental process in developing it in addition to many other topics. His varied discussion demonstrates organic sources of creativity and an inside look at how literary fiction is developed.
Writing the piece for a monthly reading event, Thomas draws on his real-life experiences weaving in themes of time as he contemplates how “we talk about the past while the past is happening” in events of tragedy and violence. Considering modern issues of mass violence and domestic abuse, he reflects on the feeling of being “trapped in the horror” of hearing bad news and applies the idea to concept of recalling such events where things begin “fading in and out of memory.” However, through this grim focus on violence in its many manifestations, he seeks to emphasize the phenomenon of “negative things resulting in positive things” which stems from his own worldview. His discussion shows writing’s complicated process and varied influences.
Today we are pleased to feature author Laurie Blauner as our Authors Talk series contributor. She discusses her experience working with creative nonfiction in her work “I Was One of My Memories” in which she writes to grieve the loss of her pet cat, Cyrus, but the book encompasses much more than that. Rich Ives joins her to talk about the ins and outs of writing creative nonfiction and distinguish its significance and strength as a literary form.
Having appeared in previous issues of SR, Laurie has worked in poetry and fiction writing, now she has chosen to tackle the creative nonfiction genre with some advice from Rich Ives. They first discuss the importance of analogy in nonfiction and Laurie, when she began writing this piece, asked herself “how much am I allowed to use my imagination”. Rich responds to this question by highlighting the “complexity of certain kinds of truth” determining that “truth is not singular” which distinguishes the creative nonfiction genre from a typical research-based essay. According to the pair, truth and context are some of the main concerns of creative nonfiction. Laurie notes that the genre allows people “to become each other’s witnesses” providing a thoughtful insight to the writing process and how to approach creative nonfiction.
Today we are pleased to feature author Sunny Nestler as our Authors Talk series contributor. The artist takes the time to discuss their recently self-published artist book Undergrowth in which five drawings previously published in SR are featured. They consider the creation of the book with their collaborator, A A Spencer, as they talk about the artistic and creative choices that went into developing it.
Accompanied by audio meant to elaborate on the drawings, Sunny describes the “imagined parallel universe” which the art illustrates, representing a “journey through the hairy underbelly of desert”. The imagery of the book is uniquely interspersed with text by other creative minds in collaboration with the art. In speaking of his own relation to the artwork, Spencer considers the presence of “a lot of time and a lot of space” which seemed particularly “immeasurable”. This contributed to the work of “visionary fiction” which he produces as a companion to Sunny’s art. Sunny also discusses the drawing Tectonic Microgrowth which shows “various snapshots of growth”, speaking to the overall theme and purpose of the artistic work.
Today, we are pleased to feature author Elaine Parks as our Authors Talk series contributor. Elaine discusses both her inspirational sources and how she creates her sculptures. She draws on the quiet desert surrounding her Nevada home and, as she wanders, uses the connection she feels to nature and the past to inform her artistic choices. By this method, sculpture becomes the language by which she translates her experience.
She asks that the viewer “reads her work as an artifact” as she contemplates both the history illustrated through nature and her personal experiences. In considering the past tenants of the region, she remarks that “the vastness of this country both day and night must be the same” and that connection to history is resonant in her art. Using “earth objects” to represent these feelings, she chooses “each thing for a reason that is aesthetic, textural and resonant in some specific way,” though the meaning of her work lies beyond the material. She thoughtfully considers the enormity of night sky and the various constellations we see in it as a representation of humanity that may help us consider how “for all our human activity, we’re just tiny specks,” part of something “impossibly large.”
Today we are pleased to feature author Joe Bardin as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Joe discusses the process of envisioning and writing his essay “Trenton into Time.”
Joe reflects how he first realized “that there was an essay to write” during a conversation with his housemates, where he “started talking about this period of my life…And I realized… that the things I was recounting were, in some sense, remarkable.” He affirms that “I think there’s a kind of epiphany that some writers experience, when at different points we realize that… our experience matters, that it has some kind of meaning or substance,” and states that, “That’s what got me going onto ‘Trenton into Time.'”
“We all sort of live ‘on top’ of these stories and experiences that have happened to us,” Joe declares. “We may remember or not remember [them] clearly, or consider or not consider [them] important, but underneath lie these moments in time that are part of who we are.” He calls the exploration of such moments “a kind of archaeology,” stating that “the person we are now is like the city built on top of a hill that’s full of relics of the past.” He emphasizes that “there’s something very intimate about remembering… and making some kind of sense of it now.”
You can read Joe’s essay, “Trenton into Time,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.