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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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: Kevin McLellan  

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

I am turned on by enjambment and consequently the subtext it creates (especially when the subtext challenges the meaning of its respective sentences) and poetic forms that allow for multiple readings and/or different experiences with reading.

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

These quadratic experiments (“Terra Cotta” and  “Without Curtains”) address the condition of not being considered (seen/heard/understood), a perpetual trigger that I find myself up against, yet the form insists on finding meaning through separation.

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