“I am most drawn to the act of looking-out, feeling what I feel, and making sense of this inner/outer tension.”
When is a Burning Tree (Glass Lyre Press, 2017 Lyrebird Award Winner)
Could you share with us a poem from your book? Perhaps one that introduces the work of the book, or that invites the reader into the world of the book?
Why did you choose this poem?
I chose “Colors of Mountains Are Grass and Tears” because it is a poem inspired by the artwork of Eileen Shaloum, the cover artist whose work I discovered during a writing exercise at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. My favorite thing about being a poet is discoveries like this, and the result—different arts informing each other’s modes of meaning-making.
What obsessions led you to write your book?
I am most drawn to the act of looking-out, feeling what I feel, and making sense of this inner/outer tension. Along with this, I am drawn to the ways in which people speak about concepts—love, loss, identity. On many levels, I am just trying to figure myself out. This process can lead to both confusion and clarity, which becomes a way-of-writing, itself.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
The poem, “Pajama Drawer of Adolescence” attempts to capture adolescence, which I don’t often do, and it has a quickness to its story that my shorter poems resist. It also names someone, which I don’t tend to do. For these reasons, I could call it a misfit. Adolescence and pajama drawers can feel very misfit-like, too.
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the book, and how did that affect your sense that the book was complete?
The last poem in the book, “Truth Color,” is sort of a beginning, one of the earliest memories and most fragmented poems in the collection. It is an elliptical response to the first poem’s image of an obsessive Ophelia. It relinquishes literal reporting to intuitive processing, which leads the speaker to a mature objectivity and, again, a poignant moment of connection with a being outside the self. Because of this arrival at clarity from fragmentation, it felt like an ending.
Do you have a favorite revision strategy? What is it?
My favorite way to revise is to read the shaggy lines to myself over and over and ask, “what am I trying to say?” Then, I write it, say it, write it, say it, and choose the wording that has as little trying as possible.
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 book?
Glass Lyre Press does exactly what they say, prioritize the quality and integrity of the work without rushing. They are authentic, patient, careful, and open to my ideas.
Is there a question you wish you would have been asked about your book? How would you answer it?
I like thinking about tone as colors, as a sort of style-diagnosis. I would call this an orange and lavender book. My students have called my teaching style “robin’s egg blue” in the past, so maybe there’s some of that in there. I am interested in what people see.
What are you working on now?
I have always been interested in the fragmented manuscripts of women since my work on Mary Moody Emerson’s almanacks. I am also interested in visual artists’ inclination to destroy or set fire to past work, as a way of reinvention. I am working on engaging those threads, as well as exploring abundance, the self, connection, free thought, and innocence.
How do you contend with saturation? The day’s news, the flagged articles, the flagged books, the poetry tweets, the data the data the data. What’s your strategy to navigate your way home?
I love this question because I think we can become so inundated that we freeze up. I try to listen to music that rings true to me in the moment. I like to be reminded of sensitivity, slowness, and subtlety. I try to read with that intention.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
For students of creative writing, I would say, listen to the whims that brought you here, read the poets that speak to you and challenge you, and get to the work of writing! Also: don’t be afraid of form.
Christina Seymour is the author of When is a Burning Tree (Glass Lyre Press, 2018) and the chapbook Flowers Around Your Soft Throat (Structo, 2016). Her poems also appear in The Moth, North American Review, Cimarron Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Wick Poetry Center’s exhibit, Speak Peace—American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings, and elsewhere. Her work received the Russell MacDonald Creative Writing Award and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and the AWP Intro Award.