Pearl Aviary: An Interview with Rebecca Valley

Rebecca Valley Author PhotoREBECCA VALLEY is a poet and editor from Saint Albans, Vermont. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Drizzle Review, a book review site with a focus on under-represented authors and books in translation, and serves as associate poetry editor at Fairy Tale Review. She currently lives in Northampton, MA, where she is an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her first chapbook, The Bird Eaters (dancing girl press), was released in August 2017. Find her online at www.rebeccavalley.com.

JR: The Bird Eaters is a going away present of sorts, its publication shortly before you moved cross-country for your MFA. Likewise, we open with the giving of a gift,

This morning

the cat left a body on the porch.

It was a yellow songbird,

the size and shape of a fist. (“We Ate the Birds”)

How does the theme of exchange influence your collection?

RV: It definitely feels like a going-away present, though I didn’t think of it that way until you mentioned it, Jon — I spent my last few years in Washington working on these poems, and when I received the chapbooks in the mail at my new apartment in Massachusetts it was a bit like opening up a short-lived time capsule.

There are definitely a number of conversational and physical exchanges between myself and my cat in these poems, but on a less material level, I was thinking a lot about failed exchanges while I was writing this chapbook. “This Hunger” is a series of these kinds of failed exchanges, in my mind — the narrator coughs up a gift for her partner that he doesn’t appreciate, the partner responds in languages that the narrator can’t understand. I think there’s an extraordinary amount of pain in these moments, when the people we are closest to are incapable of understanding our intentions, or our needs, or our language, even.

I relied quite a bit on animal imagery, or distinctions between species to make that clear, I think — because what encapsulates a failed exchange more than a dead bird on the porch, a disgusted owner, and a proud cat? I find that when I’m trying to express an inability to be heard or understood, I often turn my narrators into animals. I suppose that’s an exchange too — of one body for another, hopefully better-fitting one.

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S71 Contributor Interviews: Mario J. Gonzales

Mario_Gonzales_Anthropology[1]bw (1)What interests you/draws you in?

The story Chisme concerns a few people I knew in Parlier, the town in California I’m from. A man who lived in a rundown building next door and went out each morning in search of cans. The town itself is predominantly 99.9 percent Latino and so I choose to write about people I know within the context of culture and economics. Which are what interests me being a cultural anthropologist by training.

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

As I mentioned above, I am interested in class and culture. In a sense, the story and many things I write are ruminations about people caught within the limits of their social circumstances and their voice, their behaviors are cultural creations. It is their weapon, their power, that which orders the world that may feel is out of control for them. Or a world that one must struggle daily to just survive.

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S71 Contributor Interviews: Ruth Williams

IMG_3459What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

I am drawn to writing and reading poetry in part because it allows me to look intensely at the world around me and to consider with conscious attention my relation to it. This attention isn’t something our daily life cultivates, so poetry becomes a meaningful way of slowing down, looking closely. Poetry is also a genre that maintains a wonderful duality: it can be intensely personal, derived so completely from the interiors of my own mind, and yet, when I put a poem out in the world, it takes on meaning for others in ways I can’t predict.

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Issue 72!

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Sonora Review 72 - Cover

We’re happy to announce that Issue 72 is out in the world! To purchase a copy, check out our Store.

And from Issue 72 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Samuel Rafael Barber:

Dear Reader,

Some insist upon comparing the release of a literary magazine to sending off a child to college (for the sake of rhetorical patterning, we will preserve the anonymity of these actors). For five months (eighteen years) you and you alone are cognizant of the undiscovered potential simmering (frothing) in your magazine (child). For this period you encourage the characteristics and instill the values you seek your creation to contribute to the world. You fixate, you obsess. You share an unrelentingly uncomfortable, devastatingly perverse intimacy with your magazine, your child.

Of course, despite the intensity of engagement, despite the establishment of what feels to be a permanent routine, time passes. Nothing haunts like the passage of time. Suddenly, you can no longer speak for your magazine, protect your child. Can no longer refine the page layout, teach life lessons. They are independent, they are alone.

Human women meet your child. Think her poorly mannered. Human men meet your literary magazine, read a story engaging with systematic geopolitical violence through the conduit of drone strikes and do not consider the sociological psychic implications of decades of sustained destruction waged by agents half the world away. Read a particularly perceptive, humorously titled poem and say, “Huh?” Say, “Tigers debasing what, now?” In considering marriage and moths, focus not upon the other side of hollowness (let alone this side of hollowness), but instead regurgitate, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Suddenly, our station wagon pulls up at the freshman dorm. I turn to Danielle. We tear up. We insist Sonora Review issue 72 phone home every Sunday night, insist Sonora Review issue 72 remember us, forgive us for our failings, our deficiencies. Suddenly, Sonora Review issue 72 turns away. Mumbles, “You’re embarrassing me, guys.”

– Samuel Rafael Barber, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Encyclopédie Quixotica: An Interview with Allison Campbell

Allison Campbell_Website PhotoALLISON CAMPBELL lives in New Orleans. She earned her PhD in Literature, Creative Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers where she served as associate editor of the Mississippi Review. Her poems have appeared in such places as Copper NickelThe Cincinnati Review, SwitchbackWitness, Rattle, Court Green, and Harpur Palate. She has guest blogged for The Best American Poetry website and regularly reviews for Rain Taxi. Her collaborations with illustrator Alf Dahlman have appeared in TammyDrunken BoatStory, and Palooka.

Jon Riccio: “People don’t often talk about the best thing that never happened to them.” So begins Encyclopédie of the Common & Encompassing’s first entry, ACCIDENT. What inspired you to write a collection whose prose poems consist of definitions for everything from EVENTUALIST, HUMANISTICISM, and SINKING to such locations as UNHAPPYVILLE and NOW YORK?

Allison Campbell: A short answer to the question of inspiration is Tomas Tranströmer. More specifically, his poem “Brief Pause in the Organ Recital” is what started the collection. The last two stanzas of the poem describe the encyclopedia set of his childhood, the “yard of bookshelf,” then quickly turn from the material to the immaterial, “But each one of us has his own encyclopedia written, it grows out of / each soul, / it’s written from birth on, the hundreds of thousands of pages stand / pressed against each other / and yet with air between them! Like the quivering leaves in a forest. The / book of contradictions.”

These lines helped me realize everyone had, and was allowed to have, their own encyclopedia, and that I was included in this “everyone.” My voice was valid. Moreover, these books held contradiction. I could change my mind, perspective, and feeling, however many times I wanted or needed to, and this, too, was acceptable. So Tranströmer’s poem not only gave me the idea to write an encyclopedia, it also inspired its style. The way definitions in the collection constantly shift and the logic circles around a subject, rather than pointing directly at it, stems from this permission Tranströmer’s lines granted; to both define and actively revise definition.

I should mention that these realizations, though they did come suddenly and fruitfully, did not come quickly. I went on a Jesuit mission trip in Mexico’s southern-most state, Chiapas, and to lighten my backpack before leaving I’d torn a small section of poems from Tranströmer’s collected—some ten pages from The Wild Market Square. So during the week-long trip, out in this village in the countryside, I was reading only these handful of pages over and over again. When I returned to San Cristóbal de las Casas, I sat in the covered patio of a café during a strong downpour and read the excerpted pages for the umpteenth time. I don’t know on which reading I experienced this supreme permission granting, but I did write the first entry in that café. It was the entry on rain. That’s what I knew about that day.
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