In Tongues (Salt Publishing, 2014)
included in Effigies II
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
The only one that really comes to my mind is Chromosomory (Q Ave Press, 2010) by Layli Long Soldier.
What’s your chapbook about?
It is about different dimensions of home and place.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
I would have to say my Caligula poem. I remember sitting in a classroom listening to my instructor read aloud a poem by Ai, and it completely unhinged everything I thought poetry is or was. It restored in me a kind of light I thought wasn’t there before. Ai’s poem reversed roles, and I found myself drawn to Caligula partly due to the paranoia surrounding his “fits” which might have been epileptic seizures. I wanted to find out what shaped him to become what he was and have the reader show some empathy towards this person.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual poems in the chapbook?
My mentor and friend Jon Davis helped me arrange the title In Tongues, which I thought fit the content perfectly.
What are you working on now?
I want to focus on another series concerning the femicide against Indigenous women in Canada and the United States. I have been slowly stewing some ideas the past few months.
What is your writing practice or process?
I research. I love finding out the history behind people or places and centering a narrative around it. If I find myself particularly drawn to something, I will look up as much as I can about it until a poem starts to settle or the beginnings of one.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
The process is like gutting a deer, it’s messy and frustrating because if you don’t snip off the the parts that’ll stink up the meat, it’ll spoil the taste. If you do it right, the end result will satisfy you.
What question would you like to ask the next chapbook author featured at Speaking of Marvels?
What movies inspire you to write poetry?
What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates? What, or who, inhabits that world?
My world is that of myth and brutality. I have been described by my best friend as someone who writes very cerebrally, and I think this applies to my world. This world of broken chariots and men.
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?
The final piece was from a different series I created based on legends and myths from around the world. I felt it bridged these worlds accurately because it gave the chapbook a kind of vulnerability that I thought needed to be present.
What kinds of writing (comics, dictionaries, magazines, novels, etc.) that aren’t poetry help you to write poetry?
I love X-Men, Deadpool, Batman, Fables, Tank Girl, and Snowpiercer; they tackle various issues in the guise of comics and have tremendously influenced my writing–particularly Snowpiercer, as it deals with classism.
I have a very cinematic approach to poetry, so I will name a few movies: A Bittersweet Life. Oldboy. Delicatessen. Caterpillar. Labyrinth. Legend. The Company of Wolves. The Man Who Laughs. Either with camera angles, acting, or storyline, these movies deeply impacted me as a child and adult and influenced my poetry.
Habibi by Craig Thompson is an amazing graphic novel. The artwork and story is lush and compelling. I read it in a day. Perfume: Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind is a wonderful novel. I remember one part (spoiler ahead) where the character spoke about what different parts of a baby smell like, and I fell in love with language all over again.
I have a natural tendency to be attracted to various topics (whatever keeps the rabbits in my head continuing their jamboree) for a short amount of time before I become infatuated with something else. I love myths and legends about Scandinavian trolls (the artwork by John Bauer is beautiful), as well as pre-1940s historical texts and photos of sideshows, and dictionaries of Ojibway language. One book I keep going back to is The Falcon by John Tanner. It is an amazing autobiographical account, and I learn something new every time I read it.
Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook? Does your chapbook follow a clear arc?
I did not. I just wrote Caesar poems because I loved the history surrounding that era. I did try to create a linear sense of motivation behind each poem.
Does your family read your chapbook?
I don’t think it’s my family’s cup of tea due to the graphic nature, but they are very supportive and have always encouraged my writing.
Do you have experience with winning over new readers to poetry with either your own or others’ poems?
I saw a poem of mine featured on someone’s tumblr page, and that felt very humbling to know that someone out there identified with it.
Kateri Menominee is a member of the Bay Mills Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. She was the first recipient of the N. Scott Momaday Award and a recipient of the 2012 Truman Capote Scholarship. Her work has been published in the IAIA anthologies, Drunken Boat, and As Us. She is focusing on obtaining her master’s degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts.