SR71 Contributor Interviews: Joseph Zaccardi

JoeZaccardi1What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

My journey to the prose poem took many years to develop. When I was in the seventh grade I wrote a 200-word essay on poetry using alliteration throughout the piece. My teacher, Sister Mary Francesca, impressed with my effort, said to me that I should try to write poetry, she said, “And Joseph, in a poem you don’t have to punctuate”; she knew I had a fear of punctuation. So I began there, and for a few years wrote a few poems, and because of the freedom of not having to use commas, periods, and that monstrous semi-colon, I sort of self-taught myself how to line break. Later in my twenties I embraced punctuation, found that it really was a valuable tool. It was in 2012, when I started work on a poem about the lynchings of African-Americans that I found that an unpunctuated approach gave me more freedom. Here are the first few words from that poem titled “Little,” which is the name of a soldier, Private William Little, who had just returned from serving in WW1 and was beaten up and murdered for wearing his uniform, the only clothes he owned:

“If he had the sense he was born with but he did if he’d taken off his doughboy

uniform that a hostile band of whites demanded but he didn’t …”

I quickly saw that with that freedom came a need to find the right transitions so that the reader wouldn’t get frustrated and give up. As you can feel in my poem in the Sonora Review, “What’s Wrong with That Boy,” there’s a tension that, I think, wouldn’t work as well in a more structured form. So I now think of my style as a prose poem in a poem-box, something both contained and free to bounce off the walls

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SR71 Contributor Interviews: Jordan Scott

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

I came into fiction from a place of being a poet first and foremost, which has really informed the way I construct my short stories. There’s something pleasurable about accessing modes that feel more rooted in poetry—such as a sort of incantatory lyric—and braiding them through a story on a sentence level. The short story as a form also gives me ample space to layer different ideas into my writing.

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“Investigating the Nature of Reality”: An Interview with Brian Evenson

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Photo of Brian Evenson

Recently, Sonora Review‘s 2017-2018 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Patrick Cline, interviewed Brian Evenson, writer of numerous works of fiction and our 2017 Fiction Contest judge.

First off, thank you so much for judging our Spring fiction contest. We love your choice, Kate Berson’s “Luz, Milagro,” and are thrilled to publish it in Sonora Review #72. What do you admire about this story, and what led you to choose it out of the other submissions?

I found it a subtle story, and somewhat elusive–which I mean as a great compliment. It’s the kind of story that gave me just enough to move forward but also maintained a certain amount of mystery. It’s also not necessarily the kind of story I would naturally gravitate toward, and so it had to work a little harder to draw me in. I found it an exceptionally well written story: that, above all, was what convinced me to choose it.

As a semi-frequent contest judge, can you give us a sense of your process in this role, both in this case specifically and generally speaking? What do you look for in a story, and what do you pay attention to? Do you see any tendencies in your choices?

I try to go into each contest with an open mind. It’s more that I’m waiting for the story to convince me that it should be chosen than that I’m looking for something specific–which I guess means I’m looking for something well-written, original and convincing. But, honestly, the story that I chose for the last contest I judged and Berson’s story are radically different. The only thing they have in common is that the people writing them are thinking really actively about language and what it can do.

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