“I find comfort and familiarity in books that are uncomfortable, visceral, and honest about the world we live in.”
This is a map of their watching me. (BOAAT Press, 2015)
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
Chelsea Hodson’s Pity the Animal, Szilvia Molnar’s Soft Split, Jennifer Tamayo’s Poems Are the Only Real Bodies, Jenny Zhang’s Hags, and Kate Zambreno’s Apoplexia, Toxic Shock, and Toilet Bowl: Some Notes on Why I Write.
What might these chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?
I’m really only interested in writing that scares me—writing that is raw, revealing, sexual, excessive. I find comfort and familiarity in books that are uncomfortable, visceral, and honest about the world we live in.
What’s your chapbook about?
My chapbook is based on a collaboration I did in 2009 with a painter and sculptor in Baton Rouge. I was his kids’ nanny for the summer. Our collaboration was very generative for both of us—we had two large, black notebooks that we exchanged every week. He drew and I wrote, and in the meantime we were both reading Georges Did-Huberman’s The Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrèire and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet. So I was thinking a lot about sexuality, the performance of desire, the role of the artist and the muse, the male gaze, and the effects of pornography. The poems in my chapbook are all taken directly from these beautiful hard-bound journals we made: poems written to specific people in my life at that point, poems written to mysterious people, poems from my own viewpoint, and poems from imagined viewpoints, like the “hysterical” women in the Salpêtrèire, performing on stage for Charcot’s audience (including Freud) (and how that performance reminds me of Internet pornography, its audience of the male gaze). While putting together the chapbook, I decided to leave out the original drawings (which are beautiful) because I liked the political statement of prioritizing my writing—and thus the female “muse” perspective—over his/ male art.
If you have written more than one chapbook, could you describe each of them in chronological order?
My first chapbook was Orthorexia, published by Dancing Girl Press in 2011. That chapbook has to do with desire and eating disorders and myth—how society historically and still today exerts control over female desire.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
BOAAT Press makes beautiful chapbooks out of handmade paper. So the physical copy of the chapbook has no cover image. meg willing at BOAAT created the PDF of the chapbook, which is available online for free and is just as gorgeous as the hard copy. For the PDF cover, meg used Brad Bourgoyne’s image from an actual journal page, and I love the way it turned out.
What are you working on now?
My first full-length poetry/hybrid book, CUNTRY, will be published by Trembling Pillow Press in 2016, which I’m really excited about. I’m working on a few other writing projects as well.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
My advice would be to buy and read as many small-press poetry books as you possibly can, and to perhaps volunteer at a literary magazine or a reading series or with VIDA.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?
My poetry professor, mentor, and dear friend Laura Mullen helped me cull pieces from my MFA thesis to create my first chapbook. I found it really helpful to find the strongest pieces, the most uncomfortable and gut-wrenching ones, and to say, “These will make up my chapbook.” So that’s the advice I have for students or aspiring chapbook authors: take the individual pieces that scare you the most, and there you go.
What was the last book you read that made you stop reading, just for a moment even, because you didn’t want it to be over?
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series and Oriana Small’s Girlvert.
Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?
Chris Kraus, Dodie Bellamy, Bhanu Kapil, Kate Zambreno, Laura Mullen, Ariana Reines, Claudia Rankine, bell hooks, Pablo Neruda, Clarice Lispector. I know those aren’t all poets. I broke the rules.
Why the chapbook? What made it the right format for your work?
I see the chapbook as a stepping stone. I would love to develop this particular chapbook into a full-length manuscript, maybe even including the artwork that accompanies the text in the original journals.
If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?
Too hard to say: I grew up dancing (tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, and modern) and I also grew up drawing and painting, and I recently tried to become a country music songwriter (which is partly the subject of CUNTRY). But I always come back to writing. Songwriting certainly didn’t stick—it was way too formulaic, way too many rules, and I couldn’t stand that.
What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates? What, or who, inhabits that world?
Ghosts: women who died forever ago, hysterical, who demanded things out of life. And living women: hysterical, who do all the wrong things, who starve themselves, who are crazy, who are too loud, who are (dis)obedient to a society that says you have to be a pretty object. And thus, myself.
Kristin Sanders is the author of two chapbooks This is a map of their watching me (2015), published by BOAAT Press and selected as a finalist by Zachary Schomburg, and Othorexia (2011), published by Dancing Girl Press. Her first full-length book, CUNTRY, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press. She is currently a poetry editor for the New Orleans Review.
Fig. 1: Falling or playing dead or lying there or wrapped up or mummified or making a sign, a symbol.
I was busy being classified. I was busy being looked at. What about all the other bodies, can we examine the other bodies. I wanted to rely on some trauma to explain it all. All of the other women were worse off than me but I kept on being never not enough. What about all the other bodies, where do they go. I was busy making myself look one way for them to look at me in another. When they walked into the room I remembered the color of old wine poured down a silver sink, the smell. When I saw blood I remembered trees. Men brought flowers. I brought what they took and I gave it. I am looking for the other bodies and their traumas. This is so embarrassing. That I cannot remember the color of their eyes.