Pride Community Project Episode Four: Claire van Doren Interviews Gretchen Rockwell

Pride Community Project Episode Four: Claire van Doren Interviews Gretchen Rockwell

Superstition Review is excited to share a podcast project planned and produced by SR intern Claire van Doren. In this four-episode audio series, Claire will be talking with SR’s queer contributors. In today’s final episode, Claire interviews Gretchen Rockwell, who is a queer American poet and educator. Xe is the author of the chapbook Lexicon of Future Selves (published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), which was nominated for the 2022 Elgin Award. Xe has work published in Drunk Monkeys, the Lumiere Review, Up the Stairs Quarterly, Glass:Poets Resist, and elsewhere. To learn more, visit xer website website.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity. Credit goes to for the sound effects.

Claire van Doren: Hi! My name’s Claire van Doren, and you’re listening to the Superstition Review Pride Community Project. Today, we’ll be hearing from Gretchen Rockwell. They’ll be discussing their experiences with the queer community and how it impacts their work. This is one of four Pride Community specials. Stick around to hear from more of Superstition Review’s queer contributors.

[Phone ringing]

Gretchen Rockwell: My name is Gretchen Rockwell—pronouns xe/xer, the “xe” as in “xenomorph,” but I’ll also use they/them. So my work is—how I do I summarize it… A friend of mine told me my brand is space, science, and the deep sea, and I feel like that pretty much sums up a lot of what I write about. I also write about gender. I’ll write about mythology sometimes.

I also really enjoy writing about unusual connections. So, a lot of times my work will start one place and then pivot abruptly to something else and then come back. I really enjoy taking things that don’t really go together and saying, “No, yes, they do, and here’s how.” I find a lot of joy in exploring connections like that.

I like to combine gender and sexuality with history, myth, with science-based, the deep sea—for a lot of reasons. I think partially it’s because my process of discovering my own gender and sexuality has been a lot of discovery and a lot of self-questioning and self-interrogation and a lot of probing myself. I feel like that really mirrors a lot of what we’ve done with space and the deep sea, in terms of you have to send these probes into this mysterious, unknown territory that you learn only as you explore it. And there’s something in that that resonates with gender and sexuality—for me, at least.

I feel like part of why I shift between these disparate things is part of my ADHD—that my mind just kind of pinballs around. I see the connections, and sometimes I have to trace them out for other people, say, “Here’s how I got from A to G. You don’t see the steps, but they’re there.” In my poetry, that’s something that really has shaped it as well—just pulling those thought processes together.

For me, it’s always been about my own interests and my own experiences, rather than trying to tell a unifying story or speak for a group of people. I really can only speak for myself. And so I think that’s something that my identity—in a lot of ways—has shaped. I’m very aware of my identity and what it is and what it isn’t. I really try to be conscious of only speaking from that and to that, rather than trying to speak for other people.

I have never really felt, necessarily, a connection to the broader queer community as such. My queer community has always been my friends and the people around me, and somehow we’ve all just discovered our own queerness, kind of side by side, and unintentionally we’ve just found each other, somehow. But I don’t necessarily feel that I have a broader queer community that I’m connected to. Figuring this stuff out about myself has been something that’s done either in isolation or with close friends. And so the way I feel, the connection to the broader community, is that I’ve always kind of hoped that putting my work out there, and putting out my voice, someone—like an individual somewhere—can find it and see themselves and feel connected to it. Rather than necessarily writing for a community or to a community.

It’s just kind of funny how we all seem to find each other. It’s just something that we sense in other people that we’re drawn to. I’m not sure how that happens or why that happens, but you just feel that sense of sameness. Like I have a lot of neurodivergent friends as well because we just all flock together.

I guess that kind of unusual connection that I find in my work is represented to an extent in how I relate to other queer people. Because it’s this… Counter-cultural is maybe the way to put it. Counter-this is heteronormative, making it by default unusual. I don’t know if I’d call it an unusual connection, but I think that the threads of connection and finding those threads of connection—in small ways and in small things—has been more evident to me than finding big connections.

What I’m hoping to accomplish with my writing in the future is, again, just putting myself and my work out there so that maybe someone who hasn’t seen themself in poetry so far or hasn’t seen themself represented in art so far—can maybe one day find my work and be like, “Oh, this person gets it, xe gets it.” Just to have it resonate with even one person is what I would love for my work in the future. There’s so many projects that I’m sure will come to me; they seem to kind of spring out of nowhere.

I can’t wait to see what’s coming, I have no idea what’s coming, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

[Phone hangs up]

CVD: Thanks for joining us! Be sure to check out our YouTube page for more audio and video content, as well as our official Superstition Review blog.

Meet Issue 28’s Contributors: Part 1

Meet Issue 28’s Contributors: Part 1

It’s time to meet Issue 28’s contributors! As we prepare to launch Issue 28 on November 30, we thought it would be fun to get to know its creatives. This post focuses on some of our Art and Poetry contributors.

What’s your coffee/tea order?

Artist Teresa Sites says, “Every day, I make myself a black 1/2 regular coffee and 1/2 decaf coffee at home. When I ordered this combo at a coffee shop, the next person in line complimented me saying that I was a ‘professional coffee drinker.’ I was so proud!”

Poet Grace Q. Song shares: “I don’t drink coffee/tea, but I do have apple juice every morning!”

Poet Gretchen Rockwell enjoys “a caramel latte, unless I’m in the mood for chai.”

Where do you like to vacation? 

Poet Leah Falk is easy to please: “Give me an ocean and I’m good.” 

Along those lines, poet Preeti Vangani will go “anywhere with a beach and fresh sea food.”

Teresa loves “staycations and just having the luxury of extra time to relax at home.”

What is a holiday tradition that you love?

Poet Glenn Shaheen is a fan of “horror everything for Halloween season (September 1st through October 31st). My mother also makes a delicious cream cheese salsa dip at Christmas but it’s not really a ‘Christmas’ thing. She’s sent me the recipe a million times and I could theoretically make it any ole time of year.”

Artist Kateryna Bortsova says, “My tradition is to not have traditions.”

Preeti looks forward to “playing cards with my cousins, and losing money. I have never ever won.”

Tell us about your pets!

Poet Liz Marlow has “a silly dog, Lola, who loves putting her head on my keyboard while I am trying to write. She also loves swimming in the lake at the dog park but refuses to swim in a pool (that water is too clean!). I also have a fish tank with neon tetras, cory catfish, and a clown pleco.”

Poet Ronda Piszk Broatch tells us: “Ciri, a Torbie cat, is an explorer and thief, who loves socks and crinkly shoebox paper. She is named after the princess in the Witcher series. Z, or Zilpha, is a black siamese who is quite pissy, long-limbed, and has a need to be brushed several times a day – first with the rubber scrubber, then the wire brush. They like Irish cheese, and salmon fat.”

What are you reading right now?

Leah is in the middle of “Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, and a book about the science of how children acquire language called The Infinite Gift. Also just finished Krys Malcolm Belc’s incredible The Natural Mother of the Child.” 

Teresa is enjoying “art manuals! I have stacks of these and I enjoy leafing through all the inspirational projects and possibilities! One thing I love about art is that there are seemingly endless things to learn and discover. Art manuals compile and share so much practical information for artists. I revisit these books continually, as the different ideas presented can shape and guide my own artistic projects.”

What are you streaming/watching right now?

Liz “recently watched Dug Days on Disney+ with my kids.”

Ronda “just finished the Welsh mysteries Hinterland and Hidden, and we’re on to the final two episodes of Baptiste. Thrilling!! Unlike my grandmother who didn’t like mysteries, and who would tell me the plot of anything we watched when I was little, I adore anything British, Belgian, Australian, Welsh, Irish … Acorn TV is a go-to.”

If you could instantly learn any language, what would you choose? Why?

Kateryna would go for “German, I don’t know why.”

Gretchen would learn “Japanese, so I don’t have to rely on subtitles or translations.”

Preeti is interested in “Spanish, because it sounds so musical!”

What’s the next thing on your bucket list?

Glenn wants to “see Aurora Borealis.”

Next up for Grace is “surviving college.”

Liz says, “I would like to go to New Zealand, take a helicopter ride to a glacier, and ski all the way down it.”

What is your most-used phone app?

Preeti, Kateryna, and Grace say it’s Instagram.

For Teresa, Ronda, and Glenn it’s email.

Glenn also shares: “If email doesn’t count then Tumblr because of Star Trek reasons.”

What song can you listen to on repeat without it getting old?

Gretchen says, “Too many… currently, ‘What’s Good’ by Lou Reed.”

Leah enjoys “‘Aicha’ by Algerian Raï singer Cheb Khaled. Right now I also keep looping 10,000 Maniacs’ version of ‘Because the Night (Belongs to Lovers).’”

Kateryna is a fan of “Golden years” David Bowie. 

Thank you so much to our contributors for sharing a little bit about themselves! Join us all on November 30 at 12pm AZ time for our virtual launch party!