Poet Spotlight: Holly Lyn Walrath on hybrid writing and the idea of femininity

Holy Lyn Walrath

Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. ​Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or on Instagram @Holly__Lyn. (Bio from author’s website.)

You recently published your first collection of poetry, Glimmerglass Girl. Tell us about the project and how it came into being.

Glimmerglass Girl by Holy Lyn WalrathSome time ago I realized I’d written a lot of poems centered on the idea of femininity. It made sense to me to compile them into a collection. Many were poems I loved but that weren’t getting a lot of attention publication-wise. I think the most surprising thing about putting the collection together was that those poems (which at the time seemed like failures to me) suddenly made sense as a part of a collective whole. They spoke to each other in a new way. So that was my process, finding the pieces that I loved and wanted to contrast with each other to create new meaning.

What lessons did you learn in the process of pulling together your debut collection of poetry? What was the biggest challenge in finishing the project?

For me, the writing of a thing is the easiest part. I already had these poems I wanted to share with the world. The biggest challenge was marketing and getting those ideas out there. It is a lot of work to market a book as an indie author. You’re doing everything yourself: reaching out to people to ask for help, contacting reviewers, updating your website and social media. It’s exhausting in many ways but also thrilling because each bit of effort has a huge payoff. I feel forever indebted to the people who’ve supported my work and helped me get through it all.

Which poem is your personal favorite in Glimmerglass Girl? Why?

Oh, this is so hard to pick. I love every one of these poems, the strange little beings that they are. I guess my current favorite is “I am Going to Find the Unicorns.” For me, this piece is about defying the odds both as a woman and as a writer. I refuse to give up being a “genre” writer. I want to keep believing in the magical parts of our world, the dark bits, the shadow-monsters, the unicorns.

I am going to walk around this earth
and believe it is not real until
the other world comes out to greet me
from the shadows.

You self-identify as a “weird writer.” How do you define weird writing? What attracts you to the weird?

Weird writing inhabits a liminal place between genres. It’s the stuff of the strange and not-quite-definable, a hybrid kind of writing that sings its own song and creates the instruments as it goes. Basically, it’s anything that doesn’t fit the mold. I think this approach excites me because I don’t really think or dream in the ways that are expected. For example, in Glimmerglass Girl, the poems could be called prose, and there are illustrations along with the words. This is just what felt natural to me while writing, and the fact that it’s weird is just a bonus.

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?

I struggle so much with revision. First drafts are shiny and exciting to me, but after that point I just get frustrated and struggle to make the essential cuts. I’m still learning how to revise in a way that works for me.

Do you have a particular place where you like to write? Any particular materials you prefer to use (paper and pen, computer, Post-It notes)?

I love to be outside when I write, whether it’s on my balcony or at a coffee shop. But I’ll take anywhere as long as its quiet and there’s writer fuel, be it coffee, tea, or birdsong. I tend to write all of my first drafts by hand, even longer pieces. I write until my hand can’t keep up with my imagination, then I shift to the computer.

You also publish a monthly email circular called The Weird Circular. Can you tell us about this project and its purpose?

The Weird Circular is a monthly newsletter for weird writers that’s chock full of writing prompts, calls for submissions, editing tips, music for writers, and news about my own writing life. I started it as a way to connect with other writers, but also as a way to experiment with prompts. It’s also a great motivator for me — scrolling through the calls for submissions each month keeps me on deadline.

Do you feel community is important as a writer? How do you stay connected?

I’m a member of several writing groups both in Houston and online. I feel like we’re so often told that writing is this solitary thing — that if we’re not locked up in our rooms in the dark, pounding away at our keyboards, then we’re doing it wrong. But the truth is that I get so inspired by other writers. Just hearing that someone else has the same problems as me, that everyone else is struggling to, that helps me a great deal. It makes me feel less alone. I think going to writing events and meeting other writers can be so helpful in that way.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished R.F. Kuang’s outstanding book The Poppy War. It’s brutal and brilliant and fantastically written. I’m also working my way slowly through all of Ursula K. Le Guin’s work. She is a writer I discovered late, but I am continually amazed by her range.

Name a poet you think more readers should know about.

I’ve always had a soft spot for authors that no one knows are also poets. Herman Melville was a fantastic poet, as well as being known for Moby Dick. I love his little poem “Art”:

Art
BY HERMAN MELVILLE

In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.

Other famous writers who were undiscovered poets include Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, and Vladimir Nabokov. Oh dear, I’ve cheated again and failed to list just one poet!

What can the world expect from you in the future?

I have several new projects on the horizon, if I can just get there. I’m continually adding to my erasure series focusing on canonical male voices. I’m hoping to wrap up a book of very short poems quite soon. And, I’m always working on new short fiction and fantastical tales. One project is never enough!

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