Like, Fer Caesura: An Interview with Cait Weiss Orcutt

Cait Weiss Orcutt Author PhotoWinner of the Zone 3 First Book Award, CAIT WEISS ORCUTT’s work has been published in The Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, Prelude, and more. The founder of the Writers Guild Community Creative Writing Workshops in Columbus, Ohio, and a former workshop leader at New York Writers Coalition, Cait now teaches through the University of Houston, Inprint and Writers in the Schools. She is the recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship. Her first book, VALLEYSPEAK, came out this November.

Jon Riccio: VALLEYSPEAKs opening poem “Calabasas” exfoliates (to use a 90s beauty term) new life into the construct of origin—“I grow up in the valley under porn / stars, inside cars” concluding with “It’s a miracle to be born a vessel. We have so much / rind to burn.” How does the collection address potential, unmeasurable as it is, though often touted in quantifiables? On the inverse, what does VALLEYSPEAK say about squandered potential?

Cait Weiss Orcutt: Potential requires a linear understanding of time and a strong belief there is only one reality—and I suppose an origin story does too. I’m fascinated by cycles, by the belief that time itself is a series of spheres instead of one straight line from Point A to Point B. VALLEYSPEAK is constantly racing against itself, doubling back, finding shadows between generations, unearthing the future through conjuring ghosts.

As a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up playing a lot of Mario Kart. I was especially captivated by the idea of a “ghost lap.” In a “ghost lap,” you race a semi-transparent version of yourself, a version of yourself endlessly repeating what you did the lap before. As the child of an alcoholic and an alcoholic myself—and as the child of two seekers, and a seeker myself—I imagine my potential and my origin as being interwoven with that of my parents.

I don’t think there can be a 21st century conversation about origin and potential without bringing up privilege, too. As a white cis-gendered able-bodied woman growing up economically stable, I have inherited a large degree of privilege. The family in my poems is white, far from poor, and has easy access to the industries and entertainments of a major American city. There’s a line in the poem “Charity”: “Our money, good money, crooks its fingers / in our breakdowns. Pulls our family’s addicts back up / by our teeth.” The women in my poems are often white, cis-gendered women, women with a specific privilege tied to social conceptions of beauty, beautiful objects, and how men with power and capital can and should use them.

So what is VALLEYSPEAK saying about potential? That it’s a myth, really. I don’t mean to devalue potential by calling it a myth, either. The most powerful things we have in our world are myths. Whether we use myth to re-inscribe power structures or subvert them, how we justify what we do is almost always traced back—not to potential, not even to origin, but—to myth.

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Review: László Krasznahorkai’s The World Goes On

the world goes on .jpgSpeaking to the The Guardian as a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2015 (a prize he later won), Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai said, “If there are readers who haven’t read my books, I couldn’t recommend anything to read to them; instead, I’d advise them to go out, sit down somewhere, perhaps by the side of a brook, with nothing to do, nothing to think about, just remaining in silence like stones. They will eventually meet someone who has already read my books.”

Woe to those literalists who crouch now in the mud. To those who have not taken his advice and remain comfortably inside, it may be more useful to begin with his new short story collection, The World Goes On. The stories within reach toward philosophical and spiritual questions that haunt the periphery of thought, questions whose answers, as Krasznahorkai writes, lie beyond “the bewitchingly confined space of the human viewpoint.” The book doesn’t comfort you, but it does reward readerly cathexis with big, gorgeous gestures.

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SR72 Contributor Interviews: Caroline Chavatel

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.

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S71 Contributor Interviews: Robin Myers

RobinMyersWhat is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

I don’t do much to push against the borders of genre as such. But poetry is an intrinsic shape-shifter, and I love this; I think it offers potentially infinite opportunities to find freedom within constraints, to forge complicities between what words say and how they say it. I’m especially interested in the mysteries of voice and register, about in shifts and tensions and fruitful contradictions: who is the “I” (visible or otherwise) in a poem? What does it trust? What does it want the reader to trust? What does it want, period? What is it willing to disclose and why?

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