Poet Spotlight: Sonya Vatomsky on breathing life into poetry

Sonya Vatomsky

Sonya Vatomsky is the author of poetry collection Salt Is For Curing (Two Dollar Radio) as well as chapbooks My Heart In Aspic (Porkbelly Press) and And the Whale (Paper Nautilus). A digital alchemist, their creative output ranges from mini-documentaries for the CDC to reported features in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Smithsonian Magazine. Sonya is a member of the Cheburashka Collective, a group of female and non-binary writers from the Soviet diaspora, and lives in Manchester, UK. Find them by saying their name five times in front of a bathroom mirror or at sonyavatomsky.com and @coolniceghost.

And the Whale by Sonya VatomskyCongratulations on publishing your new chapbook, And the Whale. Can you tell us a bit about the project and how it came into being?    

Thank you! So, the bulk of the poems were written in late 2015 and throughout 2016, though I didn’t actually assemble the manuscript until 2019. It’s always strange to talk about the ‘about’ of poetry, because so much of the medium’s magic is cupping it into your own hands and breathing life into it, but the poems in And the Whale are — to me, anyhow — about two things.

One, about the death of a dear friend. About death and loss and grief and the foreverness of sorrow.

And two, about coming out as non-binary the same year I released my full-length book Salt Is For Curing, which was about (‘about’) finding power as a woman after sexual assault. 

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Culture Consumption: January 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

Initiated Memoir of a Witch by Amanda Yates Garcia“An initiation is a beginning, a rite of passage, a ceremony that signals an advance of some kind, into adulthood or a new form of knowledge.”

In Initiated: Memoir of a Witch,  Amanda Yates Garcia shares her journey as a witch, beginning with being initiated into the tradition by her mother, which she pulls away from as a young woman. Her path takes her through abuse and hardships, through which she struggles against the expectations that society tries to place on women. In her desire for beauty and love, she find herself surprised by a number of initiations over her her lifetime that guide her back toward the practice and ritual of witchcraft. Garcia’s prose is beautifully poetic and interlaced with mythology and the stories of magical women throughout history, which I found enlightening. I really enjoyed taking this armchair journey.

I read two great poetry books this month. Meg Johnson’s Without: Body, Name, Country (Vine Leaves Press) presents poems and flash creative nonfiction that explore identity, illness, and politics. Broken into two parts, the first section offers poems that explore various personas, while the second presents memoir the author’s experience with a harrowing illness in the form of short, evocative flash pieces.

And the Whale by Sonya Vatomsky (Paper Nautilus) is a gorgeous chapbook, filled with powerful poems that weave mythology and Russian folklore into an exploration of love, sex, grief, and trauma. I was personally in love with the persona of the Widow, who features in several poems that examine the shadows of the past.

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