One (In Two Parts)
by Lydia Havens
they call me rapid. water in the winter. fish stuck under the manic of me, gaping and slowly crimson. i’ve had four hours of sleep and i want to kiss the most typical of mouths—the mouths that don’t understand but are sympathetic. there is more to this. i dream of what i have never experienced with my eyes open. i see myself, and another girl. we are pressed against undressed pillows, hands grabbing at what does not feel real to me. i don’t know if there’s a word for that.
my mom says that during an episode, my laugh changes.she won’t explain how. i tell my therapist i don’t know how to distinguish mania from the ‘normal’, hyper-sexuality from the ‘growing up’, and she doesn’t explain how to solve this either. i’m left with too many comparisons for my body: jar full of loose change.guilt. pile of unfinished eulogies. again, the frozen river: trout beneath the becoming and the risks.i fall under the lullaby of the current, and i taste blood. i tap at the ice, and there is no one thereto explain how to get out. i feel my lungs peel back like citrus, and realize there is no such thing as reliable.
First published in Winter Tangerine 2016.
Lydia Havens is the author of Survive Like the Water (Rising Phoenix Press, 2017) and the self-published chapbook Eight of Resilience. Their work has been published in Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others. They live and thrive in Boise, Idaho.
Lydia’s work was brought to our attention by poet Marisa Adame, whom we interviewed here. We offered Marisa the opportunity to “pay it forward” by choosing another poet to interview, and she chose Lydia. Marisa said, “Lydia Havens’ work stood out to me so strongly that I Googled their name to find more of their work before I’d even finished reading Winter Tangerine’s “Reshaping the Bell Jar” issue. Their piece struck me as the perfect balance of simple truth and vivid imagery—that is, the poem had the ornamentation of metaphor while still communicating specific details of the story. I felt I had a lot to learn.”
So, here is Marisa’s interview with Lydia.
Q~How would you describe your style?
A~My style is conversational and vivid. Any poem I write is being read aloud as it’s being written, and I’m always trying to write things that work well both being read and being heard. I don’t know whether this is because I first started writing poetry while participating in poetry slams (which I still do), or because so many of my poems are born out of different conversations I have with different people I love, but my poems feel like an extension of my daily speech patterns. I’m just usually a lot more eloquent in my poetry.
Q~Tell me about “One (In Two Parts)” and what drew you to the Winter Tangerine theme, “Reshaping the Bell Jar”?
A~One (In Two Parts) is about having Bipolar I and is one of the only poems that I’ve written about that (still, even two years after it was written and published). It was actually fairly easy to write, all things considered—a lot of the images about a frozen body of water were from a dream I had as I was coming down from a manic episode, and I wrote the whole poem in one sitting (which doesn’t always happen with me). After I finished it, I immediately knew I was going to submit it to the “Reshaping the Bell Jar” issue of Winter Tangerine. I’ve worked with WT a lot over the years (I was an intern for them in 2013, and was a reader for another one of their themed issues, “Fragments of Persephone”), and that particular theme was incredibly important to me. It’s probably one of the most important (to me) poems that I’ve ever written, and finding out it means something to others is always so wonderful, especially considering how infrequently Bipolar Disorder is talked about anywhere.
Q~What’s your writing process like?
A~Almost every poem of mine starts with a single image or sentence that pops into my head, and then I go from there. As I mentioned earlier, most of my poems aren’t finished in one sitting. It can take anywhere from a few hours in the span of a day to three months for anything I write to be truly “finished.” I also have to read the poem out loud as I go on writing it, so as it’s being written, I’m also usually playing around with diction, tone, volume, speed, and other performance aspects. I can write pretty much anywhere, but I have to finish poems in private and alone.
Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?
A~Give your poems time, and give yourself time. I feel like poems can be pretty stubborn things, and sometimes the timing just isn’t right getting one out, whether it’s because of the subject matter or your own headspace. I’m a huge advocate for never forcing anything, especially poems. You’ll get there when you get there, and when you do, it’ll be better than anything you would have had to pressure out of yourself.
Q~Are you involved in your local poetry scene? What’s it like?
A~I’m very involved in the poetry scene in Boise, and I absolutely love it! There are two poetry slams every month, and they’re always just the most amazing time. There’s also a literary festival every month that’s in association with the Treefort Music Festival, Storyfort. It’s coming up in March, and there are all sorts of readings and panels planned that I’m so, so excited about. It’s definitely a smaller community, but incredibly welcoming and kind and fun. I absolutely love being a part of it.
Q~What drew you to slam poetry?
A~I first started competing in poetry slams when I was about 15, and at the time I was really shy while simultaneously having a lot to say. Past traumas had left me feeling like I couldn’t ever be heard, but after seeing a flyer for a slam in my hometown, I thought that that might be a good outlet for that. Slams have a very special kind of vulnerability to them—it’s passionate, versatile, and honestly thrilling. Poetry slams helped me learn how to use my voice.
Q~Who are you reading now?
A~I just finished Whereas by Layli Long Solider, which is an absolutely spectacular collection that challenges the “expectations” of language, and a lot of the documentation (or lack thereof) of how the United States government has treated indigenous peoples. I also recently finished Hanif Abdurraqib’s collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. He’s one of my favorite poets, and this collection is probably one of the best things I’ve read in a long time (maybe my whole life). I’m currently reading When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen, Just Kids by Patti Smith, Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, and a lot of singular poems by my friends or that my friends recommend (one recent example: “Ode to Mennel Ibtissam Singing Hallelujah on The Voice (France), Translated in Arabic” by George Abraham).
Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?
Q~Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
A~I just self-published a small chapbook full of poems about joy, healing, and gratitude, which is for sale here. It’s probably the most special project I’ve put together, and the covers on the physical copies are all hand-painted! Also, I’m going to be reading poems sort of all over the place in the US this year. There’s a whole list of dates on my website under “Events”—if any reader can go to any of them, I’d love to see them there! Please come say hi 🙂
Marisa Adame, storyteller/creative from Dallas, Texas, values work that balances as much as it deconstructs. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Red Savina Review, Hold the Line, and St. Sucia zine. You can find her on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and at marisaadame.com.