Isobel O’Hare’s all this can be yours (University of Hell Press, 2019) presents a series of erasures crafted from celebrity sexual assault apologies. These poems offer fierce explorations of the truth hidden behind apologies intended to explain away or dilute culpability, rather than accept responsibility. The result is a powerful collection that opens up a wider conversation surrounding sexual assault and the need for change on a systemic level.
Erasure poetry for me started out as a magical, playful, light-hearted exercise to jog the brain, to sort of get me thinking differently. And it also started out as a conversation with someone else’s work, and sort of a reverent one—approaching someone’s work with great respect and the desire to bring something out of it that might be hidden beneath the surface. There are lots of methods of doing that—I’ve used whiteout in past erasures, and I’ve done blackout with Sharpie. I’ve experimented with cutting words out.
The idea is you’re removing something—or you’re not removing something. Jen Bervin had a really interesting term for it . . . something like restitution. It’s a really interesting word for what you’re doing with erasure, which is not necessarily removing something, but bringing something forward. So it’s not always you violently attacking someone else’s work, which it can feel like sometimes, but you’re allowing things to bubble up to the surface that may not have been apparent before.
Sara Ryan is the author of the chapbooksNever Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned(Porkbelly Press) andExcellent Evidence of Human Activity(The Cupboard Pamphlet). She was the winner of the 2018 Grist Pro Forma Contest, and her work has been published in or is forthcoming fromPleiades,DIAGRAM,Booth,Prairie Schooner,Hunger Mountainand others. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Texas Tech University.
This collection manifested in a material culture theory class during my MFA. In this class, we contemplated objects in literature and how those objects were handled in these literary worlds. We were challenged to choose our own objects and engage with them critically and creatively, and after a lot of research into my various interests, I found an old book in our library that lead me on a strange journey into the world of taxidermy. This book, Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting: A Complete Handbook for the Amateur Taxidermist, Collector, Osteologist, Museum-Builder, Sportsman, and Traveller by William Temple Hornaday (published in 1891) became the nexus of this collection.
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.
Some 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.
Joanna C. Valente is a ghost who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Joanna is the author of five poetry collections — Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing By Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017), and received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. They are the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and an editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms. Joanna also currently teaches courses at Brooklyn Poets. (Bio from Joanna’s website.)
How did you get started as a writer? What keeps you writing?
I started writing as a child, around age 11. I always made art, always had a strange, ferocious drive to communicate and make something that spoke to others. That made us all feel less alone. I think that still rings true today. I write because I want to understand myself and others, and connect to the world in a more fulfilling way. I think all art is political, the personal is political and especially in such a contentious time, where we need to shed light on inequalities in order to really create a truly better world, making art that sheds light on different perspectives is important to me. Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Joanna C. Valente on spirituality and the drive to communicate”