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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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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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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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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