11/15/2020

It is fitting, that our first interview on our blog is with a poet from our first issue. 

stephanie roberts’ new book rushes from the river disappointment  is available here from the publisher. 

Her poem “set fire to stop fire” was included in our first issue, which is available to be read here. 

GM: What does the title of your collection "rushes from the river disappointment"  mean in context with the book's cover. 

sr: The cover was a 2020 Communications Arts Book Design award winner!
It was designed by David Drummond using a sentence synopsis and very little input from me (no pink and my name in all lowercase). Mr. Drummond talks in detail about the cover here
I was apprehensive and intrigued about subjecting my work to someone else’s artistic interpretation, but I am beyond thrilled by the result. 

GM: What is the significance of lower-case letters for you? 

sr: Thank you for this question. My usage is not whimsical; I grew gradually and firmly in that direction. 

The dominance of all lower-case letters is an aesthetic decision as well as a political one. It feels important to be cognizant of the beige flavours of tradition and delusional stereotypes in quotidian glances as in art. Perhaps we could be a little more curious about the capital “I” in english as a reinforcing agent of the centrality of our ego in society. 

The joking rebuttal to the adage there’s no I in team that there is an “i” in “win” leads me to wonder, what are we winning exactly? Vocabulary has creative force. It is why Black Americans have struggled to embrace an ethnic and cultural designation (having discarded coloured, Negro, Afro-American) that feels like ours and not a white supremacist framing of our existence. An element of rebellion feels vital to my consideration of the inner integrity of particular poems. To use a lowercase i is to begin being deliberate about my vulnerability. When writing a poem it’s not evident before starting if a poem is going to be a lowercase poem. Grammar should be about clarity not a cage. If some fucker is biased against lowercase i and the usage of all-lowercase poetry the mind is agitated because the heart is already corrupted in which case they are correct to eschew my work as there will be no pleasure for them there. Maybe one day I will stop using lowercase letters in my poetics but today is not that day.

GM: One of the poems in your book was published by GM in our first issue, has the poem changed at all? How have you grown as a writer since being published by GM? 

sr: Your question made me pull out your first issue to compare the original to the collection version. They are almost identical except for the addition of a strophe break after line four. I feel grateful for my early publishers like Goat’s Milk Magazine whose editors recognized my work letting “Set Fire to Start Fire” be the leadoff hitter in the inaugural issue. I think my poetry has taken a gut to head journey that reaches for a musical centre of heartfelt truth, funneled through a growing Plinko board of craft.

GM: What do you love about literary magazines? 

sr: Their archival manner. Lit mags are our most fine-boned histories and psychologies written by our most popular, erudite, and weird-ass bards.

GM: Currently, there is a lot going on in the world, what are you doing for self-care? 

sr: What do you mean when you say self-care? I am afraid to assume I know.
   
GM: What is one word that describes your work? 

sr: Irreverent.

GM: What’s next for you? 

sr: I want to travel to Panama when I can. I want to experience the barrio where my father grew up, the hospital where I was born, and the Panamanian rainforest.

GM: Do writers have an obligation to be political? What do you think the writer's role should be during events like the COVID-19 pandemic, and the BLM protests? Should they have a role? 

sr: Barton Smock, the editor of {isacoustic*}, lists contributors as “person” not “poet.” At first, I felt put off because I Am a Poet! Now, I see the imperative of intentionally cutting away exteriors to continually uncover the root of our interdependence. If a writer considers them self within humanity they are obligated to strive to act humanely and have courage to err on the side of greater and greater compassion. It is pathological to fundamentally view one’s particular will as a force outside of and above humanity. Even Picasso that great egoist made Guernica.

If when faced with political and economic questions we sought the most compassionate answers we would eliminate a great deal of pain and our baffling present cruelties that become our historical ones. A major difference between Canada and the United States is that Canada, as inelegantly and imperfectly as it happens, houses cultures and leadership that attempt to move a mixture of origins together toward a more and more just society. There is a sense that compassion is a Canadian ideal beginning with the compassion that First Nations have long held for nature and the environment. Compassion is not a key value in the United States that nation is punctuated at every corner with snarls of cruelty. Let poets be the Sirens who sing those snarls to their drowning.

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