An Interview with Catherine Zickgraf

    

 

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

 

I was homeschooled from elementary to middle school, so my first writing teacher was my sharply-intelligent and creative mother. I knew from childhood I’m living a poem and I’m the poet. By age 14, I learned from the traumatic stress of placing my first son for adoption that writing is healing, and I have the right to heal. I was meant to be a mother. Now my husband and I have two more sons, and my firstborn is in our lives—my four men and I are truly family. I homeschool my autistic youngest, reading poetry with him, watching his creativity grow. I see a benevolent cycle. My favorite poets are Alysia Harris, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Eminem.  

 

 

 

2. How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

 

My poetry is idea, diction, and musicality. I start with a piece of these things and build the castle over time. I save organized ideas. “Hum” is from my second chapbook, Soul Full of Eye—almost submittable as a manuscript. The concept came from a Myspace friend’s 2007 message to me describing her schizophrenic hallucinations. I found the file last year, and the book happened.  

 

My idea of what poetry is has certainly changed. Any poem can exist for a tremendous number of reasons. I use words concisely to meditate and grow, to stir others’ emotions and connect with them, to give voice to the voiceless, to prophesy, encourage, and educate, to make art from sadness, to celebrate the mind’s complexity.

 

 

3. Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

 

Social media has connected me to three dozen cities where I’ve performed my work, including Madrid, Spain, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I read and critique some social media poetry when asked to do so. Also, you can find me easily by the handle czickgraf.

 

 

 

4. Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

 

Every Thursday for two years, I’ve shared my week’s writing with an audience at Augusta, Georgia’s MAD Open Mic. I host, giving and getting encouragement.

And I have a group of Myspace poet friends who critique me skillfully, unafraid to hurt my feelings. I have learned much from them. I learn something from everything.  

 

 

5. What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

 

Watch performance poetry on Youtube. Check me out at Youtube.com/czickgraf.

 

Read to grow. Check out what the small presses are publishing by going to DUOTROPE.com, the database of thousands of literary magazines, journal, anthologies, and contests. (Google my published writing!)

 

Research and submit. Your best shot at acceptance is to submit the right poem to the right press.

 

Use strong verbs! I have craft and submission lessons in my notes at FB.com/czickgraf. Feel free to stop by.

 

The Brush of What Was

Girl With a Hairbrush
by Elaine Walton

Walking down the hallway,
I pass by your room and see
a mark on the wall
that damn mark on the wall
where you threw a hairbrush
in a fit of anger.
my hand reaches out
for it for you
and i close my eyes as if
blocking out everything
but this right now
will turn back time
and you will be here again
poised and ready to throw it again
if only it would make me hear you.
As I touch the wall, tears try to tell the truth
and i open my eyes to see
who you are who you were
who you will always be
in the dirty clothes on the bed
shoes on the floor
books stacked on the desk
pocket change on the night stand
windows unlatched but curtains drawn
i know what your room used to hold
sadness tears disrespect anger resentment
and thoughts of you
race through my mind
just like you do every waking moment.
i think of all the things you won’t do ever again
laugh cry graduate run drive sneeze smile breathe
my knees give way
the floodgates burst open
tears flow in silent testimony
to all that you were
and all that you’ll never be
and now that you’re gone
i vowed to keep my eyes full
of everything we had the chance to do
and not on things we’ll never do
so i embrace everything you are
dirty clothes on the bed
shoes on the floor
books stacked on the desk
pocket change on night stand
windows unlatched but curtains drawn
because the mark on the wall
that eternal mark on the wall
is proof that you were and always will be
my sweet angry loving spiteful beautiful child
with a hairbrush.

—–

Elaine D. Walton was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970. She writes poetry about about all aspects of the human condition. Elaine graduated magna cum laude from The University of Texas at Arlington in 2002 with a B.F.A. in Painting and lives in New Jersey with her dog, Majik.

Poet Interview #1: Elaine Walton

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

My name is Elaine Walton. I started writing poetry when I was in elementary school thanks my teacher, Mrs. Gleason, who introduced our class to Shel Silverstein’s book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” His work, along with those of Dr. Seuss, ee cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Emily Dickinson instilled in me a life-long appreciation of poetry and reading in general. I’ve been in love with story-telling in all of its forms—be it written, spoken, visual—ever since.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come?

Inspiration for a poem comes from a germ of an idea, event, concept, or experience I encounter, which then percolates in my brain. When I have it completely worked out then I just sit down and write it out. I test every poem by reading it aloud then tweak it according to how it sounds to my ear, then days or weeks later I’ll go back and read it “fresh” to make sure I’m happy with it.

Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

My concept of poetry has remained the same over time. I still think of poetry as a means of expression using words arranged in a way that’s unusual. The only thing that’s changed over time is me and my expanding repertoire of life experiences. I write to express an emotion, observation, and/or idea from a unique perspective based on my personal experiences so from that perspective my work has universal appeal, while the poetic form changes based on the subject matter/concept of the poem.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

The Internet and social media has certainly changed the way I work and present ideas. I have several Facebook pages, one Twitter account, and I’m on LinkedIn, but I’m not ‘on’ every day. I view these things as tools to be used to share, promote, and market myself as a brand—and not as a way of living or a lifestyle.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they?

Since moving from Alabama to New Jersey over 2 years ago, I’ve enjoyed being part of both on-line and in-person writer’s groups. I subscribe to a bunch of newsletters, journals and feeds, but I especially like 92Y, Writer’s Digest, and Poetry Society of America. I attend the Somerset Poetry Group at the library in Bridgewater, NJ and other local events as often as possible. While the Internet and social media gives everyone a voice and provides an audience willing to listen, I still believe the best way to establish and nurture a relationship is through physical and social interaction. Yes, I can enjoy the experience of hearing an author read their work on-line, but I can’t look them in the eye and shake their hand afterward as I say, “thank you.”

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading 3 books: “Techno Matter: The Materials Behind the Marvels” by Fred Bortz; “Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade” by Joan Tapper; and “Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Advice I’d give to any aspiring poet/writer: Educate yourself; Read the classics to learn style, technique, and craft; Write about what you know and are passionate about; and be fearless and persistent in pursuit of your goals.

These Deigning Burns

Leave off the Slave’s Soft Cruelty
by dGabe Evau

Leave off the slave’s soft cruelty
The worms that eat your mind
Beware of friendly sympathy
To feelings not your kind

Ours a wretched lot, to bear
the joys of Spring, + bury them
Some would deign to take our
rotting corpses + marry them

Truth is splashing in the stream
Follow footsteps into dreams
Winding paths, terrible wrath
Nothing’s what it seems

Fire burns to carbon dust
Sturdy stones in which we trust
Precious metals, clothed in rust
fail to shine, yet beckon us

                    on into the Nightmare,
                    Midnight’s vanity
                    Dawn discovers right where
                    we left our sanity

*****

dGabe Evau is the last bohemian and poet-magistrate of Cambridge, MA.