When did you start writing poetry?
I was drawn to poetry quite young. In the first grade I wrote a ‘poetry collection’- think rhyming couplets and magic marker drawings. When my teacher caught onto how I was spending my time, she allowed me to go ‘on tour’ to all the other first grade classes to present my work. This was my first poetry reading. I continued to read poetry throughout childhood and into adolescence, where I got simultaneously got very into sonnets (penning a few on the kitchen floor of my childhood in cleaning solution) and pop punk lyrics (Fall Out Boy, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday). Even a few years away from its general angst, I’m still a big fan of the genre- there is something piercing, illuminating and revealing (from a cultural standpoint) about a lot of pop punk and emo’s lyrical themes and qualities. More recently, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the poetry of hip hop- hip hop is doing a lot of important work right now. I would be remiss to not mention the lyrical and performative prowess of artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper.
What subject matter/themes do you find yourself most drawn to?
Power, domestic space, identity, ontology, suburbia, phenomenology. I like moving from the anecdotal to the philosophical or phenomenological- I turn olive pits to continents. I often write about faith.
Who are the poets and writers who most inspire you?
I grew up obsessively reading Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Karen Foxlee has this incredible novel called The Anatomy of Wings that I literally carried around everywhere between the ages of 16 and 19. My favorite poets include Louise Gluck, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Maya Angelou, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Adam Falkner, Ginsberg, Michael Dickman- I was obsessed with The End of the West. I actually ran into Michael Dickman a few times in my hometown! It was like meeting a rockstar and I was a real dork about it.
How have your travels affected your work as a poet?
As a poet, while I find that my work predominately speaks for me, I hope my words resound for experiences other than my own- I believe travel helps facilitate that. I’ve only lived my life, travel helps me dabble in other perspectives while expanding my own. I’m from the United States, but have spent varying amounts of time living in Switzerland, China, Scotland, and Ireland, while traveling and visiting where I could in between. It’s been an unbelievable blessing and absolutely an asset to my work. I also feel truest to myself when I’m travelling and that honesty carries over to the page. Empathy’s the rule of the day.
Is your poetry confessional?
My poetry is informed. This is to say I am very interested in telling the truth.
Provide metaphor that describes your process as a poet.
The words are spinning tops. My goal is to stop the tops.
You’ve published prose; what other genres do you work in? Do you have a preference of any kind? What are you working on now?
A lot of it has to with how my brain is working- there was a period of over a year I couldn’t read fiction because I was completely unable to suspend my disbelief. Some things are and were only meant to be poems. I was a music reviewer for an indie music magazine and I occasionally write cultural criticism. I am currently working on my first full-length collection of poetry. I’ve published young adult fiction and am also pitching my screenplay, American Lotus Project. American Lotus Project has a strong sense of bricolage but it’s cultural critique at its heart. It references young adult fiction trends and has a touch of poetry. It’s playful and acerbic.
Can you say more about American Lotus Project?
American Lotus Project is a conceptually interactive piece, considering narrativity- our relationships with the stories we tell and the ones that are told about us. It is a subversion of the manic-pixie-dream-girl-driven romantic dramedy. American Lotus Project is a refocusing of traditional narrative trajectories, noting how factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and mental illness affect audience viewing and understanding of tropes we encounter in modern romantic comedies.
You’re a performer. Does this at all play into the way you experience the relationship between poet and audience? How so?
I’m a contemporary dancer who dabbles in other styles and a classically trained soprano who also works in other styles. I sang vocals in a weird little band with an electric violin that changed names too many times. I’ve performed a lot of my poetry, but also have poems that feel more comfortable being read and digested. Either way, I believe good poetry facilitates embodiment. It ricochets. It’s visceral- you feel it. Some of my favorite poems feel roughly like a kick in the stomach. I pay a lot of attention to the musicality and dynamics of my poems, even if I wrote it to be read or to be ‘closer to the page’, rather than performed. I often struggle with the chasm between the academic/analytical and the emotional/performative. While I recognize this doesn’t have to be a binary, I have found it tricky to resolve the two. I often think this struggle comes through a lot of my word choices and plays into my relationship with my reader/audience.
You’re also pre-med?
Yes. And very sleepy.