“writing and reading was my way of interacting with the world around me.”
Bad Anatomy (Glass Poetry Press, 2018)
Could you tell us a bit about your growing up and your path to becoming a writer?
I’ve been writing since before I could talk (literally). I was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) as a child and was in speech therapy for years – writing and reading was my way of interacting with the world around me. As a teen, I used to be involved in online roleplaying forums and wrote fanfiction. Funny enough, that community was instrumental in how I receive criticism and feedback as a writer now.
Could you share with us a poem from your chapbook?
Sad Girl’s Drinking Ghazal
This shitty cocktail is more insightful than I am.
Unfilled, I count all the secret valleys in my rib cage.
Even the universe lets me down. I’m drunk, awake.
Is this how to feel? Next morning’s sunk in my rib cage.
There’s something romantic about a building condemned.
All that space. All the never-smashed ribs in my rib cage.
Call it a tendency to forget. I like things false
and true. Can’t pray for what isn’t there in my rib cage.
I keep returning from the dead. What a masochist.
Don’t, don’t, don’t—that self-defeating heart in my rib cage.
Inhabiting a body is easy. But living
in one? Can I be more than the bones in my rib cage?
Just fuck me up. I love how pure bourbon is. I’m not
Hannah tonight. She’s only the crow in my rib cage.
Why did you choose this poem?
I am not very good at writing formal poems with rules and meter, so the fact I was able to stick to a set number of syllables (13) and repetition is impressive. Combined with its autobiographical content, I think it makes for a pretty cool poem.
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced you?
Kaveh Akbar’s Portrait of the Alcoholic holds a special place in my heart, and it’s one I keep returning to over and again. I am currently reading Anita Olivia Koester’s Apples or Pomegranates and my mentor Laura-Gray Street’s Shift Work. I also admire fellow Glass poet Ariel Francisco’s Before Snowfall, After Rain – I think his was actually the first poetry chapbook I ever bought.
What’s your chapbook about?
I’m not sure if it’s “about” anything as in a concrete narrative, but there are threads of anxiety, depression, loneliness, internal change, and stuff like that.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
“Saturnism” was written in early 2014 and was part of my undergraduate senior thesis – thankfully that version will never see the light of day.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
To tell the truth, I settled on Bad Anatomy because it sounded cool. Also, there are several poems about the body, so it works. As for organizing poems, I like seeing what words echo/reflect other poems, whether side-by-side on the page or scattered throughout the manuscript.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
Probably “Saturnism” because it’s the oldest poem and it’s mostly about Vincent Van Gogh. But you know, he struggled with a lot of internal shit, so maybe it fits after all.
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?
[“and the deer flash guernica”] was the last poem I wrote, and serves as a sort of coda. It echoes the words “love” and “moon” that are found in the chapbook’s opening poem “Aubade Inverse.”
What has the editorial and production experience with your press been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Anthony Frame is a real gem, and I appreciate how open the communication was during the entire process. I got to choose my own cover art, and if I had a question or concern, he’d get back to me right away. The advantage of working with a small press is that you really get to exercise creative control while also giving the publisher some space. I couldn’t be happier with how Bad Anatomy turned out.
What are you working on now?
I’m still promoting my chapbook, and I’d like to look into doing more readings. I’ve written/am writing a second chapbook that was originally part of my MFA thesis, but I don’t know whether it’ll stay a chapbook or a collection. A handful of weird nonfiction/lyric essays. I’m also writing some new poems that haven’t quite found a home yet.
Hannah Cohen lives in Virginia and received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She co-edits Cotton Xenomorph and is a contributing editor for Platypus Press. She is the author of Bad Anatomy (Glass Poetry Press, 2018). Recent and forthcoming publications include Noble/Gas Qtrly, Glass, Calamus Journal, Cease, Cows, Yes Poetry, Gravel, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Longleaf Review, and elsewhere.