“Do what’s fun. Ditch projects that suck.”
Poems for Ivan (Porkbelly Press, 2016)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
I love Tiny House by Melanie Faith, which is also from Porkbelly Press.
What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?
I like chapbooks that are united around a concept or world. I like narrative poetry with concrete images, poetry that is accessible enough not to alienate the majority of readers, but proves to be complex if you spend a bit more time with it.
If you have written more than one chapbook or novella, could you describe each of them in chronological order?
Think Like a B (Stale Objects dePress). This is a collection of erasure poems using Donald Trump’s book, Think Like a Billionaire, as source material. This was an incredibly fun project. It’s available for free online here.
Poems for Ivan (Porkbelly Press).
Western Diseases (dancing girl press; forthcoming in Summer 2016). This is a collection of experimental/found/constraint poems using sources such as a survey posted on Craigslist, a Hardy Boys book, and a book about content analysis.
I’m also working on / looking to place:
- A chapbook of erasure poems from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
- A chapbook of erasure poems from Stephen King’s It
What’s your chapbook about?
My chapbook is about mausoleums and trainyards, beer bottles and Chernobyl aftermath.
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?
I revised the trainyard poem so so so so so many times. I think it’s a pivotal point in the collection. The poem went through several drafts, each of which took the whole collection in a different direction (no pun intended). Making decisions about this poem meant making decisions for the collection as a whole.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
My favorite revision strategy, honestly, is to sit on something for several years, then go through my gmail account and look for as many old drafts as I can find, compare what can be taken from each and what can be chopped, and start a new completely new version of the poem/story/etc. It’s such a luxurious process. I could never work on a deadline.
What has the editorial and production experience with the press who picked up your chapbook been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Porkbelly Press is run by the amazing Nicci Mechler. She was open to my ideas from the start, and worked with me to find an image and aesthetic that we both loved. We came up with imagery ideas, she did several paintings, and we decided on a final look together.
What are you working on now?
Erasure poems from a consumer cosmetics manual from the 90s! I keep wondering when erasure poetry won’t be interesting anymore to me, but it never seems to happen.
What is your favorite piece you’ve written? Why?
I think one of my fave pieces is “Two Poems about Outdoor Dining” which is published in Shampoo Poetry. When I read it, I sometimes feel like I didn’t write it.
If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?
It would be cool to do something where you get instantaneous feedback, such as theater. I was an extra in my middle school students’ play this year, a ghost in a fight scene. I received many compliments for my ghost howl, and it was pretty sweet. Poems are released less ceremoniously (than my ghost howl) and don’t usually come back with stories about the people, if any, they’ve touched.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
These are a few things that have worked to support a satisfying writing life for me:
Do what’s fun. Ditch projects that suck.
Have an engaging, exhausting job. Not sure why this works for me, but it does. I’ve been the most productive with both writing and publishing under these conditions.
Have a cat. He will love you no matter how many words you can put together.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?
Read chapbooks! Personally, I would advise against most contests that charge money, unless a copy of a chapbook or something you actually want is included in the submission fee. It’s painful to realize that you spend hundreds of hours a year on a side job that actually costs money. I know it costs money to run stuff, but damn, dude, sometimes it’s just too much to pay to do work.
What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?
Great question! Here are some: What is your writing process like? (Bonus points for a chart or diagram.) What non-writing activities support your writing process? Do you have writer/artist friends, and how does that affect you as a writer?
Sara Adams is the author of three chapbooks: Think Like a B (Stale Objects dePress), Poems for Ivan (Porkbelly Press), and Western Diseases (dancing girl press). Her experimental/found poems and fiction appear in publications such as DIAGRAM, tNY Press, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. Sara is a Montessori teacher in Portland, Oregon.
It is Ivan’s idea to take the bus
that seems to be going in the right direction
It’s late, but Ivan always has time
which is good because
we get on the bus
and it promptly pulls a U-turn
crossing a bridge
I have never even seen before
Ivan smiles for the first time
since he forced me to down two liters of beer
during the opening credits of Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade
We must get off the bus, he says.