Tag Archives: musicality

Time Travel II / an interview with poet Valentina Cano

Time Travel II

by Valentina Cano

Head out the way you came
and I promise to forget the last hour.
I will roll up the minutes
like a stretch of unbaked dough,
pulling the sticky remnants from between
my fingers.
I will wind your voice up
like a fishing line,
the bait, the hook
tucked safely in the coils
until I’ve forgotten them.
You can erase the footprints,
I’ll leave that to you,
pick them up one by one,
with a spatula, with a finger,
as you like.
And when all traces are gone,
when your presence has been carved
out like a jewel to leave a dark hole
where an eye should be,
only then will I throw you
a smile, a sigh of
relief to land like a bird
on the branch of your shoulder.

from Event Horizon (mgv2>publishing, 2013)

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Valentina Cano is a classical singer and writer. Her works have appeared in numerous publications, and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.

When asked how she would describe her style, Valentina says,It’s a tough question, because I don’t think I have a particular style. What I try to do with my poetry is to drop the reader in a moment, it could be a sliver of time, or the aftershock of an entire day, and surround him or her with what I want them to feel, see, smell. I suppose I would call my poems vignettes, because there doesn’t tend to be a narrative arch of any sort.”

Bekah and Valentina’s work, including the above poem, recently appeared together in Issue 0 of Datura Literary Journal. Walter Ruhlmann created the inaugural issue to show future submitters what he is looking for: “”What I want from the work I read is that it traumatizes me, tortures me or makes me laugh, disturbs me in fact.” Bekah and Valentina have actually been published together quite a bit. You can also read them together in Issue 15 of TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, Issue 16 of Five:2:One Magazine, Issue 1 of Sanity Not Guaranteed, Issue 3 of Dirty Chaiand the Winter 2014 issue of Snapping Twig. We wanted to know more about Valentina and her work, so here is our interview with her.

Q~I love the use of figurative language in “Time Travel II.” Tell us a little about the poem. How is it representative of your work?

A~The poem submerges you (at least I hope it does!) into one of those moments I spoke about. You don’t necessarily know what the issue is or who is involved, but you know there is one between two people. I give you the emotion that brought me to write it, and I tell you that even as you read it, I wish I could un-write. It’s in the title. The wish to undo.

Q~Were you surprised that Walter Ruhlmann chose to reprint it in Issue 0 of Datura to guide future submitters on who they “should read and learn from if they want to contribute to this journal”?

A~Absolutely. I’m incredibly grateful to him because he was the one who published my very first chapbook, Event Horizon. He gave me the boost I needed to keep going.

Q~Did the poem come easily to you or was it hard to write?

A~It was an easy one, that one. The poems that have the most sting behind them are always the easiest. Suffering and artists, right?

Q~What’s your writing process usually like?

A~It depends a little on what I’m working on. For poetry, I like to do a free-write, meaning I allow myself to write down everything that comes into my head, without stopping to correct mistakes or reorganize my thoughts. No inner or outer editing. The paragraphs I write will then be distilled and made into a poem.

For prose, narrative is the most important thing for me, so it takes a huge amount of planning. I keep an entire notebook for each novel I write, with carefully outlined scenes, dialogue, and exposition. The freedom that I allow myself in poetry is unsustainable in prose, so I’ve learned to do both.

Q~You are also a classical singer. How do you balance your creative interests? How do they interplay if at all?

A~The great thing about being a writer is that there is no real schedule to follow, so I can engage in any other activities I like. Every day, around one in the afternoon, I stop whatever I’m doing so that I can practice whatever arias or songs I’m working on. Music, I think, has also given me a sense of rhythm that transfers to my writing, as well. The way the words sound together is important to me.

Q~On your website, you said you first began writing poetry to combat severe depression and have continued on to push your own personal boundaries of comfort and truth. How has poetry helped you?

A~I always think of writing, and writing poetry especially, as a kind of medieval bleeding. Slit a vein and let it all pour out. It’s a daily ritual that I maintain. Anything that has bothered me, hurt me, affected me in any way, I let it drip onto the page.

Q~ What are your poetry likes/dislikes?

A~The only dislike I have is rhyming. I’m just not a fan. It’s strange, I know, when I just mentioned wanting musicality in writing, but I always feel as if rhymes take away from the meaning of the poem. Makes it less impactful, since it leads me to think that the words written were not necessarily the best ones, but just the ones that could rhyme.

Q~Who was your poetry first love?

A~Margaret Atwood. I’d never been a big reader of poetry until I started reading her work. She paints pictures with her words and that is something that I’ve tried to emulate.

Q~Who are you reading now?

A~I will read anything and everything, so the books I can be juggling at any one time can be an eclectic mix. Right now, I’m halfway through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, and High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver.

Q~Are there any online resources you would like to recommend?

A~Duotrope is a great site to stay up to date on all of the literary magazines, blogs, and e-zines that take submissions. There is a monthly fee, but it is a truly minor expense for the wealth of information you will receive.

The other resource that I would like to recommend is one I do with a caveat. Absolute Write Water Cooler has lots of information on agents, editors, and the publishing process in general. My suggestion is to use it as a database, to find contact information for agents and others, but try not to engage with the forums. I’ve had nasty experiences with people who post on it. It is probably the only time that I will suggest lurking at a site, but in this case, it is the best way to keep your blood pressure at a reasonable level while still getting the information you want.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I have lots of poetry scattered around the web. If you type my name into Google, you’ll get some options of literary magazines where my work has appeared. The chapbooks I have out are also available: Winter Myths and Event Horizon And, if you prefer prose, my two Gothic novels are The Rose Master and Of Bells and Thorns.You can also connect with me via social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Maybe / an interview with poet Kay Bell

Maybe

by Kay Bell

Maybe, we all got on the flight to America;
our sister and I shared the window seat;
you sat on mummy’s lap
and then she left us.
Maybe, you will have your first birthday in Apt 5A.
Cake, ice cream and our sister’s cries
balanced on the rooftop of grandma’s bad temper.
Then, we grow up sitting stone faced on top of the blue velvet sofa,
silent talking, believing: “mum’s coming back.”
We brave the brown leather straps; eat Dinty Moore beef stew,
and read stories about siblings who were abandoned
but still humane enough to leave bread for the birds.
I can see us all now; checks stamped to our foreheads,
overweight and voiceless;
Maybe we will love each other?
Subsequently, mum will return with war stories
by courtesy of her husband who proudly smashes her face against the seasons.
But then again, you can always pretend it never happened;
slip out of mummy’s lap,
cry on the white beach of Barbados, pick up your packages from the Mail service,
eat Avocados out of your backyard
and write Christmas cards to the 17-year-old that birthed you…

First appeared in Free Library of the Internet Void 2018.

kaybell

Kay Bell has been published in the book Brown Molasses Sunday: An Anthology of Black Women Writers, Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters, The Write Launch, as well as other venues. She considers herself a bibliophile and lives in the Bronx with her sons, Zaire and Morocco, and their tabby cat, Chad.

Kay says, “My style of writing is autobiographical but also very confessional. It’s like, ‘I may have never said this to your face, but here it is.’ Sometimes I’m just confessing to myself, truths I refuse to say aloud. I tend to have a hard time verbally expressing myself, but poetry helps me to articulate my feelings.”

Bekah and Kay’s work—including the poem above—both recently appeared together in Collection II of Free Library of the Internet Void. We wanted to know more about Kay and her work, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about “Maybe.” Is there a backstory you want to share? How is the poem representative of your work?

A~The poem “Maybe” is a good example of what I mean by writing autobiographical confessionals. This poem is a conversation I wanted to have with my brother about my life coming to America. My siblings and I were born in the Caribbean. However, my mother made the decision to bring my sister and me to America and leave my brother back home with family. My brother resented my sister and me because he often thought we had a better life here in America. I never told him how I felt about what he felt, but “Maybe” is my response to his feelings. I think this poem is not only representative of my work because it’s declares something I never said aloud, but also because my poetry tends to always become a narrative. It’s also important to me that people have questions after reading my work.

Q~In your bio at Internet Void you said, “If it makes me cry, sweat or bleed, then it is worth writing about.” Can you tell us why you feel this way?

A~Nothing is off limits. If it is something I have experienced, it is worth writing about.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Absolutely. I think I’m constantly returning to family life in my work. I have always been intrigued with the family life and how it functions and the personalities and identities of all the people that work together to make it a unit. I am equally fascinated by how fragile it can be, and I often find myself examining its dysfunctionality.

 Q~How has your family reacted to your poetry?

 A~They are not familiar with my work. I have tried to read to them but it kind of goes over their heads. They don’t understand it or maybe choose not to.

 Q~Why do you write poetry?

 A~I have always loved all types of music, and that has helped my passion for poetry develop. Growing up in my house there was always music playing. Mostly reggae. My uncle was a disc jockey, and he helped raised me. My mother loved playing reggae tunes while cooking, cleaning and just to lighten the vibe at home. I took my love for music and started writing poems. I hear music when I write, poetry is my music.

 Q~What song is on repeat on your MP3 player right now?

 A~It’s actually a tie between Tori Kelly’s “It Should have Been Us” and a song named “Texting” by Wstrn featuring Alkaline.

 Q~Who was your poetry first love?

A~My first poetry love was Nikki Giovanni. Her work is so practical, honest and revolutionary. When I tumbled across her poetry in a college library during my first years of undergrad, I had never heard a black woman so self-assured and intelligent. Her poetry not only showed me how to better use my words, but it helped me mature as a black woman and writer. Ms. Giovanni’s work taught me confidence, sincerity, and how to be relatable.

Q~Who are you reading now?

A~I just picked up Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds and cannot put it down. I was also just reading Charles Simic’s Scribbled in the Dark.  I like contemporary poetry, but I really appreciate classics, too. I am also looking forward to reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s Americanah before summer ends.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~The poem will never be perfect. I often hear people say that they have never submitted a piece of work to a publisher because they have been editing it for a year. I’m like, “let go and give it to someone who needs it.” We write not only for ourselves but because there is someone who needs to hear it. I think as writers we tend to get obsessed with our work. If you can take a deep breath, close your eyes, and feel calm after editing your work a few times, let it go.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~My website is www.iamkaybell.com. There are published and unpublished poems there, as well as a tab that will connect you to a list of places where I am published. You can also find me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Sin É / An interview with poet Jayne Stanton

Sin É

by Jayne Stanton

We steam on barstools
read between slogans on a plastered ceiling
tune to the cuts and grace notes in banter
binge on ambience, high on E minor.

Coburg Street, past midnight, soaks
in sodium light.  Rain beats time
on bodhran umbrellas, my spine
a river of running quavers that stick
to the soles of my sensible shoes
so I high-step the home stretch.

Framed in doorways on Wellington Road
crinoline ghosts wear mirrored skirts
that flirt with moonlight.
Guest house stairs are in rising fifths.
My top floor room’s a tall ship, exploring
the lilt in the Lee’s liquid fingers.

First appeared in Southword 2013. (Highly Commended in the 2013 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition.)

Jayne Stanton

Jayne Stanton lives in Leicestershire, UK.  Her poems have appeared in various print and online magazines and anthologies including Best British & Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear Publishing).  She has written commissions for a county museum, University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing and a city residency.  A pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, is published by Soundswrite Press (2014).

“Lyrical free verse best describes my style,” Jayne says. “ I’m also a musician, so I’m continually striving for musicality in my writing.  It’s what I instinctively tune into at poetry readings; my default, when reading silently, is to sub-vocalise.  I tend to favour brevity over narrative; my work often has a dark under-layer.”

Jayne and Bekah connected via The 2018 Poet Bloggers Revival Tour. We wanted to know more about her and her writing, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little aboutSin É.”  Is there a back story you want to share?

A~The inspiration for the poem was a traditional music session in a bar in Cork, Ireland (I was on a poetry exchange as part of O’Bheal’s Twin Cities project, at the time).  As a fiddle player in a ceilidh band I’m more accustomed to performing than being on the receiving end, so the experience was a change to my usual perspective.

Q~Did it come easily to you or was it hard to write?

 A~The first draft of this poem was written around five months later.  I think the time lapse was beneficial in that it allowed the experience to percolate until the rain, the city streets, and my accommodation overlooking the river also took on a musicality of their own.  There were fewer re-drafts than usual so, although the poem didn’t write itself, it wasn’t an arduous process. The poem was Highly Commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, 2013, and published online in Southword issue 23A.  The poem, together with the judge’s comment and my report on O’Bheal’s Twin Cities project can be found here.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share on writing?

A~Writing is a solitary act, but it’s equally important to actively seek, and maintain, an outward focus in order to inspire and inform one’s writing.  Connect with other writers, both face-to-face and online (it’s never been easier); be an active participant in your local writing scene; attend writing workshops, poetry readings, literary events, festivals; support the work of others (it’s not a one-way street); live life (it’s the richest writing material I know).  And, read far more poetry than you can ever write.

Q~You mentioned on your blog having signed up for some writing workshops recently.  Why do you value this?

A~I look on writing workshops as part of my ongoing poetry education.  I value the learning to be gained from more experienced poets in order to explore, for example, the use of writing constraints, set forms and routes into writing that I tend to shy away from, ordinarily.  Writing outside of one’s comfort zone often produces surprising results.  For me, it’s the main benefit of joining a NaPoWriMo group, too; I’m prompted into writing what I’d never otherwise have written, in terms of subject, form, choice of language etc.  April becomes a break-out from my writing rut.

Q~Are you involved with your local poetry scene?  What’s it like?

A~There’s a lot happening on the poetry front in my local area.  Many local writing communities overlap and there are a growing number of regular open mic poetry and spoken word events, so there’s something for everyone, whatever their style or preference.  Leicester’s two universities also organise literary and independent small press events. I’m involved in running  a women’s poetry group, Soundswrite, which meets twice monthly to read and discuss published poetry by others and to workshop each others’ poem drafts.  I also attend the South Leicestershire Stanza, which is affiliated to The Poetry Society.  And I regularly read at poetry open mics across the UK Midlands as I think it’s healthy to step outside of one’s poetry locality.

Q~How does having a women’s only space like Soundswrite enable creativity for you and the group?

A~Soundswrite was set up in 2005, by Karin Coller and Pat Corina, as an open group for women in the UK East Midlands enthusiastic about all aspects of poetry.  In my experience there exists a difference in group dynamics between the women-only and mixed gender poetry groups I attend.  I think it’s fair to say that, while most of the active members of Soundswrite also attend other (mixed) groups, Soundswrite’s longevity is due, in part, to the need for a women-only space within the wider poetry community.  I continue to value our robust discuss of all forms of poetry, and insightful and impartial feedback on work-in-progress.  Soundswrite Press provides a showcase for our writing, having published, to date, several anthologies, and single-author pamphlets and short collections of poetry.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to themes or subjects in your work?  What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Many of my poems are slants on memories (or misrememberings), grains of truth or pure fiction.  In writing about the people who made me, I explore love in its various forms and guises, including the darker side; ageing and longevity are offshoots from the theme.  I’ve recently begun to explore superstition, old wives’ tales and folklore for a new writing project.

Q~Which poet first made you fall in love with poetry?

A~After years of studying the Classics and the English Romantic poets, it was Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poetry that leapt off the page and introduced me to a very different world: shocking images and vivid detail wrought from first-hand experience; poetry as protest and honest reportage.

Q~Who are you reading now?

A~I’ve been reading Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds; it was an honour to hear his T S Eliot prize reading in London in January.  Helen Dunmore’s final (and Costa prize-winning) collection, Inside the Wave also had a profound effect on me, especially its end-of-life poems.  Next on my TBR pile is Wislawa Szymborska’s Here, translated from the Polish by Clare Kavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak.

Q~There are lots of publications out there.  What is a literary gem you feel deserves more attention?  Why will we love them?

A~I consider Magma Poetry to be one of the best windows on the breadth of contemporary poetry; it publishes work by new or little-known writers to the more established, accepting international submissions.  With reviews of current publications and thought-provoking articles, it is as informative as it is inspirational.  With three themed issues annually and a rolling editorship, Magma maintains a fresh approach to the publishing of poetry and comment.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~More of my work can be found in London Grip New Poetry, Ink, Sweat & TearsAntiphon, and The Lampeter ReviewYou can also check out my blog and follow me on Twitter.