SR72 Contributor Interviews: Caroline Chavatel

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IMG_1208 (1)What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

In a lot of ways poetry allows me to explain or investigate a phenomenon in ways clear-cut prose just can’t. And that, of course, is no slight to prose writers. I do think, however, the fluidity of poetry and poetic forms presents us with a new language with which to consume our world in more fresh and magnetic ways.

How does this published piece fit in with the larger thematic concerns that you see in your overall work?

“Burgundy” is part of a manuscript that interrogates ideas of the consumed female figure both in flesh and not. There’s magic, philosophy, and love sonnets; there are sex work poems, circus poems, and phantasmagorical pieces. I’m concerned with exploitation, profit, the body, mechanical and personal illusions, and how these intersect. With that said, I’m still developing as a writer and a thinker, but these are my current poetic obsessions.

What are you influenced by? 

Mostly, other poets—that community. To name them all would take up too much space on your site. To name some: Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Terrance Hayes, Larry Levis, Kevin Prufer, John A. Nieves, Nikky Finney, Hanif Abdurraqib, Alexandra Teague, Kaveh Akbar… and so many others. I’m also influenced by disorder and disaster—the ways we singularly or collectively veer off track. And, ways we define and value that “track.

What does your typical writing schedule look like? What aspects of working do you look forward to? What aspects frustrate you?

I’m in a M.F.A. program so I’m lucky that a material part of my life literally forces me into a productive space. I took a workshop last year where we had to write a poem a day for almost the entire semester. Now, I’m focusing on more tightly-researched, longer projects. In other words, my schedule is dictated by the structures that be. As for what I look forward to, I always anticipate that clicking moment when the poem’s gears all begin operating as one and I can feel (and hear) it. (Once, in office hours with Carmen Giménez Smith she used this metaphor of a clock to discuss a poem and it’s now seared into my writing process forever.) Conversely, all the broken parts hanging out on the table is what frustrates me most. Despite my love for them, writing long poems also exasperates me because it feels as though I can’t wrangle all those parts in as easily.

For fun, if you could pick one meal that matches the piece we published, what would it be and why?

Probably a glass of full-bodied red wine, like a Cabernet, with some sort of steak. I feel this poem unravels in a dim space similar to that of an old-school steakhouse from the 1970’s, despite the mention of “lunch” at the end. Maybe it’s the mood. Although, I’m not sure this poem even calls for a full meal because of its insistence on emptiness, so maybe just the wine.

CAROLINE CHAVATEL is an M.F.A. candidate at New Mexico State University where she serves as Assistant Poetry Editor of Puerto del Sol. Her work has appeared or will appear in The Cossack Review (2016 October Prize for Poetry winner), phoebe (2017 Greg Grummer Poetry Award finalist), Gulf Coast, Fugue, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Nimrod International Journal, and Epoch, among others. She currently lives in Las Cruces, NM.