We have Beatrice Szymkowiak here to tell us about poetry.
Beatrice and I are alumni of the Institue of America Arts. We graduated with MFAs in 2017. Hers in poetry, mine in fiction writing.
My research includes environmental literature, Indigenous contemporary poetry, and translingual literature. I am also particularly interested in Caribbean literature.
I am currently working on my creative dissertation, entitled B/RDS, a poetry collection that questions the Western heuristic approach to nature, and that has for a starting point, the iconic Birds of America by John James Audubon.
Book title and blurb and any comments about any other of your books:
Red Zone (Finishing Line Press, 2018) explores the WWI environmentally ravaged landscapes of my childhood.
Praise for Red Zone;
“Before the shrapnel, before the night in hell on the way to hell, and after that night, too, we were: ‘naming the woods.’ RED ZONE does a lot of things, but it also draws our eyes to the risk of our own departure. Description, sure. Timing, of course. But cognition and argument also? Szymkowiak makes me want to read more.” Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of several poetry collections: Milk Black Carbon, The Straits, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Hyperboreal, Milk Black Carbon, and forthcoming Dark Traffic. She is the recipient of multiple awards, fellowships, and prizes, including a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and an American Book Award.
“In a complex meditation on the destructiveness of war and the persistence of nature, poet Beatrice Szymkowiak explores France’s Zone Rouge, the area so devastated by war that people are still forbidden to enter, where things still blossom and explode. Where “crows burst” above the land of “unexploded explosives.” Where “slow soil & / shrapnel” yield to “a murmuration of starlings.” In the long poem “Fleury-Devant-Douaumont,” the page itself becomes the zone, mined & grenaded & shrapnelled by words, words that begin to merge, becoming neologisms of compost—”betweenroots,” “shrapnelspades,” “inboots.” In the end, despite human interventions, “yellow-bellied toads frogs salamanders / crested newts thrive” and “corpses tuber / into russets.” Szymkowiak has written a crucial book, especially critical as the entire globe quickly becomes a Red Zone.” Jon Davis
Jon Davis is the author of several poetry collections, including Improbable Creatures, Preliminary Report, Scrimmage of Appetite, and Dangerous Amusements. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry and the Peter I.B. Lavan Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
Do you write in more than one genre? I do write poetry and non-fiction
Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies following the projects. However, I often start a poem with a list of words, images, and an idea or a conceptual arch. Once I have a first draft, I revise until I feel that the poem does or evokes what I wanted it to do. Then I let it aside for a while and go back to it for additional revisions. This pause between two revision processes is necessary, as it creates a new perspective on the poem.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The very first word of a poem!
What kind of research do you do? As my poetry work often incorporates non-fiction, I do extensive research: reading essays, articles, historical documents, watching documentary films, etc.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I am interested in writing more non-fiction, and I have recently developed an interest in epic poems. But you never know what might come up!
How do our readers contact you?
My website: https://szymkow9.wixsite.com/bszymkowiak
Twitter account: @OhOldOcean
Buy your book?
This week, I revisited a few posts from bygone years. The oldest post was February 28, 2013. Here is what I wrote way back then:
Yesterday I glanced at the cover of a recent issue of AARP’s magazine. There on the cover was the “Hook.” Find the Work You Love!
Today is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, I was laid off from a great job. I have found work I love, writing, however so far sans pay. It would be nice to find a paying job.
I had to look at the article. Maybe this can help me find something that pays?
The article presents several senior citizens’ stories but is primarily about two women, Maz Rauber and Amy Reingold. The two write “juicy novels for young adults” under the pseudonym Ella Monroe.
They have an exciting and inspiring tale about the job they love. If you visit this URL, you can read the article and watch a video interview of the duo.
In the eight ensuing years, a lot of water has passed under the bridge (cliché alert). I accepted the reality of age discrimination and gave up looking for a new job, earned an MFA, and published my debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters.
The URL for the article no longer works. I did find a URL (https://us.macmillan.com/author/ellamonroe/) for Ella Monroe but did not locate the interview.
There were two comments left, one by my best friend Jim Kennemore, who passed away last year. I miss him every day.
The other by my youngest daughter, Katie Cramer Rosevear, who has been an inspiration to me. She is a successful businesswoman, give her a visit at http://www.lolaandivy.com
Watched the video…Interesting. So you want to collaborate on a book? Just kidding. You know I think if you are serious (and I believe you are), I think you ought to write and submit some short stories to different publications. The pay might be small, maybe nonexistent, but if you can get published, you begin a resume. I thought about submitting that D.C. story of mine to HOG magazine a few years ago, but it was way too long…anyway, good luck with it all…JAK
Katie Cramer Rosevear:
Happy one year of writing, Dad! Thank you for inspiring me every day! Xo
Terese Marie Mailhot – A New York Times bestseller
Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
A PBS Newshour/New York Times Now Read This Book Club Pick
A New York Times Editor’s Choice
Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English–Language Nonfiction
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
An NPR Best Book of the Year
“There are so many sentences I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It’s a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love.” —Cheryl Strayed, The New York Times Book Review.
“A sledgehammer . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition, and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir . . . If Heart Berries is any indication, the work to come will not just surface suppressed stories; it might give birth to new forms.” —The New York Times.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! I have a novel coming out soon! It’s untitled.
What brought you to writing? I loved my mother’s writing very much. She was the first person who really taught me about writing. I would watch her work nightly on poetry or essay, and I always thought it was honorable work.
Where do you write and do allow any distractions? I write in my bedroom, because it’s the only room in the house I could set up an office. I invite distractions. I’m very lucky in my life. This pandemic has taught me to value family time and I’ve also learned how to enjoy being sidetracked. Those moments of distraction can be inspiring and energizing.
Tell us about your writing process: I write every day until I make my wordcount goal. Then I take a few months off and revise. If it’s for something more urgent, I work relentlessly, nonstop, until it’s as good as it gets for that deadline.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Time. Work life getting in the way.
What are you currently working on? The novel. I’m giving it time. I finished the first draft, so it’s about time to revise.
Who’s currently your favorite author? Kiese Laymon or Jesmyn Ward or James Baldwin … it’s too hard to choose!
How long did it take you to write your first book and published? It about 6 years to write. It sold two weeks from the time I sent it out and was published a year after.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I like the outsiders. I like writing from the perspective of black sheep types, because their interiority is electric and perceptive, willful, and neglected.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Yes.
Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? I think flawed characters are my favorite. I like people written off or disregarded, or people who are misunderstood.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I think there are underpinned themes in all the work I do. I think, in my current novel, there’s an underpinned theme of joy and collectivity, and I think of it like taste. Like, there should be many dimensions to a good dish. There should be a lot to savor or value in good food. Maybe I’m hungry. It shouldn’t be overbearing the main course.
Do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I like work with little plot. I just throw wrenches at my characters until something strikes me.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both.
What kind of research do you do? A lot. As much as humanly possible from all kinds of sources.
What is the best book you ever read? Giovanni’s Room.
Do you have any advice for new writers? You can do it. It’s harder for some, but nothing is impossible.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I write for the women I love. I write for my mother.
How do our readers contact you? Teresemailhot.com
POSOH is a partnership between UW Madison researchers, The College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute
Posoh, Justin “Jud” Gauthier here, currently serving an indeterminate sentence chained to an accursed desk where I try to not write bad screenplays. Not to write bad screenplays? I don’t know. Great start, Jud. Wording aside, I discovered my love of screenwriting at the tail end of my dirty thirties. I’m a lifelong cinefile, and I used to believe my first movie memory was seeing Bladerunner in a theatre with my parents. I turned six in ’82, and it’s an indelible memory, the spinner flying through that futuristic, cyber-punk downtown L.A., the Geisha, forty-stories tall, demurs on the side of a skyscraper. That moment broke reality for me. I wanted to crawl into that screen. To be a part of whatever that world was. I’ve been trying to break reality ever since.
It turns out I have an earlier movie memory that places my first theatre-going experience somewhere in January ’81. At four years old, I remember it was cold, and we’d parked far away from the little Crescent Theater in downtown Shawano, Wisconsin. There was a bit of a crowd, mostly native, to see the premiere of Windwalker. I remember the heavy, his face smudged with black and white paint, stalking through the snow. I remember mom and dad on the drive home talking about the film in a way only indigenous activists who grew up through the turbulence of the sixties and seventies could. “Why can’t they get it right?” “It’s something anyways.” I fell asleep and probably had a nightmare about the Fish Head Song video from Saturday Night Live. It really upset me at the time, not to mention how sorry I felt for Mr. Bill. I had a lot going on at four.
Since we’re all the way back in January 1981 and I’ve shared a sliver of the influence pop culture has had on my screenwriting style, let me offer a more expanded view as we travel through the 80’s, the ’90s, and into the early aughts, hang on:
Live from New York! It’s Saturday Night! I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too? Tron. Speak & Spell. Mikey likes it! Atari. Friday Night Videos. Hulkamania. Don’t squeeze the Charmin. The Goonies. Iran-Contra. UHF/VHF. Just say no. Make a run for the border. Colors. Nintendo. It’s morning in America. MTV. Who ya gonna call? Mr. Yuck stickers. Mortimer Ichabod. The Breakfast Club. Live Aid. Where’s the Beef? *Gasp The Hamburglar. Challenger explosion. Know what I mean, Vern? My Adidas. The death of Optimus Prime. The Mc DLT. Hands Across America. Spuds McKenzie. Robocop. Avoid the Noid! Max Headroom. Bart Simpson. Stonewashed Jeans. Not the Momma! Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. I have sinned! It’s gotta be the shoes! Screech Powers. Cassette singles. In West Philadelphia born and raised. Akira. Ripped Jeans. Minute Maid Orange Soda. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Swatches. Boyz n’ the Hood. Super Nintendo. Lollapalooza. Johnny Carson retires. Read my lips, no new taxes. Crystal-clear Pepsi. Cross Colours. Compact Discs. Desert Storm. Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Starter jackets. Sega! Wu-Tang. Li’l Penny. Bigmouth bottles. L.A. riots. The Fab Five. A sphincter says what? A Bronx Tale. O.J. 1-800-COLLECT. Clerks. Oklahoma City bombing. Brett Favre > Vicodin. Nintendo64. Tupac. Biggie. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Dance Dance Revolution. Gotta catch ‘em all. DVD. JNCO Jeans. South Park. Smell what the Rock is cooking. Giga Pets. PlayStation. Yo Quiero Taco Bell? Half Baked. Fossil watches. Amazon. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 9-11. Grand Theft Auto III. Right about here’s good.
October-ish 2001: A couple of friends and I decided to write a feature-length comedy about our experiences attending the Flandreau Indian School together in the early nineties. We worked hard for the first few months, then it took close to two years to finish. We ended up with a 100+ page script spread across several interesting media choices: 3.5” floppy disk, Mead notebook (no cover), yellow legal pad, various napkins, and loose papers. It was a comedy, I guess. We laughed. Looking back, it was too rough-hewn. We weren’t screenwriters though we each had flashes. I enjoyed the process, especially working with friends. Of course, that old script is lost now, spread to the winds of time. And for the best, I think, considering our title, “Tipi Creepin’.”
Fast-forward again: NBA Street Vol. 2. Johnny Cash died. Katrina. Dick Cheney shoots that guy. MP3 Players. Yahoo! Chat. Limewire. You are not the father. YouTube. Obama Phones. MySpace. iPhone. Facebook. Sandy. PlayStation 4. Flight 370 disappears. David Bowie and Prince die. Cubs win! Cubs win! Yeah, somewhere in here, I think.
2015-16 to present: After being accepted as a soil science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011, I graduated in 2015 with a BA in Creative Writing, go figure. Soon thereafter, I heard about the Lo-Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and applied as soon as possible. I was in a real creative lull, as evidenced by my YouTube channel featuring a “life” hack video on preparing Mac and Cheese using a beurre manié technique for the cheese powder. It’s incredible.
IAIA is an amazing wellspring of creativity and was a great course correction for me. I found screenwriting through camaraderie with the screenwriting students. I changed majors from short fiction to screenwriting on my first day at the program. In the intervening years, I’ve been developing my skills by tackling as many varied genres and forms of screenwriting projects as possible. I also stay in touch with my screenwriting cohort and instructors, a real Murderer’s Row if I ever saw one.
In 2019, I was honored to land the role of Larry in the 1491’s play, “Between Two Knees” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’d always aspired to acting but never thought I’d have the opportunity. It’s easily the most rewarding creative endeavor I’ve been involved with to date. It was a lot of hard work in memorization, timing, and choreography, but man, oh man, what an amazing script, cast, and crew. I’m optimistic for the future of theatre in a post-vaccine world, so keep an eye out for Between Two Knees coming to a theater near you!
Early 2020, I sold a romantic comedy short named “Adelina” to Meet Cute for their audio podcast series. It was amazing to hear the pages I’d worked on for weeks performed by talented voice actors and foley artists. Currently, I’m partnering with a fellow writer on developing a drama series.
You can reach me at:
Mescalero / Chiricahua Apache and Diné Navajo from New Mexico.
Crisosto Apache is an alumnus from Insitute of American Indian Arts (AFA 1992 / MFA 2015) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (BA, 2013) for English and Creative Writing. His work also includes Native LGBTQI / ‘two spirit’ advocacy & public awareness.
“Entirely new, experimental, and worth the effort of reading. Passionate in places, contemplative in others, he travels from that ancient past toward the distant universe.”—Linda Hogan
“These poems record not only the nine months of history occurring while the poet formed in gestation… it attempts to make sense of the whirling world of chromosomes, of snow across body-laden battlefields, the whirl of strobe lights in a sex club, and the spiral which meets in the center where isdzán and haastiń (woman and man) become indistinguishable. Apache’s collection challenges our footing on things we thought we knew.”—James Thomas Stevens
Do you write in more than one genre? Though most of my writing falls under the poetry genre, more specifically the Native American Literary genre, I am trying to develop my narrative elements by writing a memoir. The emphasis for the memoir is my experience growing up on my Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico as a gay male, as well as my experience off the reservation in urban areas as a marginalized Native American.
What brought you to writing? I originally started my education wanting to be an artist, a painter. During my adolescent years, I did a lot of illustration in my spare time and read a lot of poetry-the classics. I was mostly drawn to the fantasy style of artwork. My illustration got me a scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the fall of 1989. I studied two-dimensional design my first two semesters when I was approached by Arthur Sze, the head of the Creative Writing department at the time. He convinced me to change my major, and that was my introduction to writing. I can say I have always acknowledged myself as a lifetime student of Arthur Sze because of the influence taught through his courses and the materials offered. My second manuscript, titled “Ghostword,” is highly influenced by a modern Japanese writer introduced to me by Arthur. The writer is Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, and the book “A Fool’s Life” (Eridanos Press). I have carried carbon copy excerpts from the book distributed in his class until I finally found the book in a reprinted collection of Akutagawa’s work. Until I located a copy, “A Fool’s Life” had been out of print. So, my second manuscript is a kind of conversation or life response.
Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies from time to time. First, I must say it is important for me to distinguish myself as an artist first before identifying myself as a writer. My identity as an artist is what fuels my creative aspiration for writing. Most of my creative bursts come during the night. I am sometimes awakened by jolting moments to write. When this occurs, I do get up and go directly to my computer and begin typing. It is during these moments many of the fundamental ideas come through for my poetry. The writing is almost automatic, and it feels closer to being on “automatic pilot.” Many of the poems in my book GENESIS have come from these waking moments. Some of the approaches for my writing focus on the juxtaposition of my indigenous language and the English language. Through translation, I found this technique interesting how the language interacts as meaning and description. It is fascinating to me to examine the interaction of language and the mapped direction the language interaction takes me, which resembles the action of “unfolding” or “uncovering.” I always look forward to reading other writers’ work because I draw influence and encouragement from what is written. I often think and wonder if the “jolting wake” in the night comes from the influence of reading, where my mind finally assembles ideas for my writing.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part of my writing process is finding time to focus on the writing and revision process. Because my time is mostly dedicated to my teaching job as an English professor (and all the facets of faculty responsibilities) and my volunteer position as the Associate Editor of Poetry for The Offing online magazine, it can sometimes be challenging to find dedicated time to focus on my writing. I have a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer. I sometimes have closed the door and try to focus on my writing. I keep the door closed when I am not in my office so I can separate the concept of the room as not part of the house. When I am in my office, I am usually in the headspace of work. It is especially important now in these current times of the pandemic. I do take my time seriously when I am in my office and focusing on my creative written work.
Do you have any advice for new writers? About writing, my only encouragement is to just write. The act of writing is the most important part of the writing process, even though it may be bad writing. I save all my scribblings and voice recorded entries to various folders on my computer. I learned to carry with me a voice recorder to voice my ideas. I used to carry a small notebook but often misplaced them. My voice recorder fits into my pocket and works simply fine. It is important to find or reserve time to focus on writing. It is simply not enough to assemble and collect ideas. Much of the writing process is composing ideas into the structure and revising. Working on a manuscript also takes a lot of time and care. Deciding how much material should go into a working manuscript and to what order also is part of the process that deserves much consideration. If you are a beginning writer and have made it to the point of assembling a manuscript, then you deserve recognition and congratulations. It is a huge accomplishment to assemble a manuscript. Publishing your work is also important. Finding places to publish your writing can be challenging. Rejection is part of the writing process. Do not criticize yourself for rejection. Sometimes it is all about timing. Most of my publishing opportunities come from my network of friends who write. Establish a network. To summarize, make time to read, submit & publish, and most importantly, keep writing.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want posted?
GENESIS book order Link: http://amzn.to/2FzG409
My website: http://crisostoapache.com/books-2/
Lost Alphabet’s website: http://www.lostalphabet.com/genesis/