Beatrice Szymkowiak – French-American writer – IAIA – MFA-Poetry and  Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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 CarbonThe 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 CreaturesPreliminary 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?
https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/red-zone-by-beatrice-szymkowiak/
https://www.amazon.com/RED-ZONE-Beatrice-Szymkowiak/dp/1635347505

 

3 Comments

  1. ana

    George, thank you for this introduction. I’m off to buy Red Zone now. Keep the interviews coming! Especially with the poets.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Poets are never fully appreciated, especially in today’s market. I’ve always found poetry a great way to enhance one’s writing ability, especially as far as developing imagery. It sounds like you have a very good grasp on the craft of writing. Good luck for your new book.

    Reply

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Crisosto Apache – Poet – Educator – Leader

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/

Twitter: @Crisosto_Apache

Instagram: @crisosto_apache

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Eric Davis

    A really great piece George.

    Reply
  2. Ruby Hansen Murray

    Love the concept of “a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer,” separated for creative work. Thanks for this interview, Crisosto &George.

    Reply

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