Poet Interview #43 – Caseyrenee Lopez

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 live in west central Georgia, right next to Ft. Benning and the Chattahoochee River. There isn’t really much of a literary scene in my town, so I have sought out the company of others online. Being a queer atheist in the Bible Belt doesn’t make things any easier either. It can be really alienating. I started writing poetry a few years ago, around the summer of 2013, but more regularly in 2014—so admittedly, I haven’t been doing this that long. I was initially a fiction writer, but after many terrible episodes in writing workshops, my confidence was killed and I stopped writing prose. I dabble in non-fiction every here and again, but mostly I focus on poetry. I like being able to write my truth in a way that makes sense and isn’t bound by the rules and structure of prose writing. When I first started writing poetry I did like most people, and wrote because I was emotional and needed an outlet to channel those emotions—and honestly, not much has changed. I write emotional poetry still, but it tends to have more of a purpose. I write for an audience now; I write with the intent to submit my work to various literary venues.

When it comes to inspiration, I take it from everywhere. I can’t tack down just one or two places or ideas that give me the ammo to write. The poetry inside of me comes from my experience, reading, learning, other people, the news, movies, music—literally everywhere is an inspiration in some way. I also read a lot of different poets; some of my favorites are Fatimah Asghar, Lisa Marie Basile, Lora Mathis, Alain Ginsberg, and Stacey Waite.

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?

When I write it tends to come in creative bursts. Though recently, I’ve tried to make a habit of writing. I use the “Notes” app on my phone every day to write down poem fragments, ideas, or thoughts, and I’ve started to write my poetry on there as well, almost exclusively. I often get inspiration at the weirdest times, and so rather than wait to get my ass in the chair at my desk, I write on my phone. I’ve noticed that by doing this the quantity of my work has increased. When I wrote my first chapbook, QueerSexWords (Yellow Chair Press, 2016), it took me 2 years to get it down! But this past April, for poetry month, I wrote a complete chapbook, my body is a false god, which then snowballed into a full-length collection titled i was born dead, and was accepted by ELJ Publications this past August (scheduled for release in early 2018). It’s funny how these things work—how fast things can come when you have a habit of writing—this whole writing on the spot thing helped me start and finish my full length collection in only a matter of a couple months.

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

Yes! I’m on both Facebook and Twitter regularly. I really love both platforms because they are so different, but offer so much community, exposure, and good reading links. Social media is a big part of my writing life because, like I mentioned before, I don’t have a real literary community in my town, so being able to talk to like-minded people and make connections is huge for me. Over the last year I’ve started building relationships with folks all over the world, and it has helped me become more confident and willing to share my work and life with others.

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

Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to engage with writers off-line, but I do have the privilege of having an amazing husband, Paul, and good roommate, Willy; both help me edit Crab Fat Magazine and run Damaged Goods Press, and they also read my work whenever I write something new and offer feedback or insights. I do have hopes of organizing and starting a monthly reading series in my town though. I really have my eyes and heart set on working with the director of the Carson McCullers house because it often houses literary events, like the Columbus leg of the Southern Literary Festival, and also provides space for an annual writing fellowship.

As far as reading goes, I’m in-between books right now, but I plan to read several biographies/memoirs over the next month or so, but I’m most excited to read Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, and several poetry collections I recently scored at the used book store.

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

Write and submit. When you get rejected from one place shrug it off and submit to three more places. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s honest. There are thousands of literary venues out there (Duotrope alone lists over 5,400 active journals/presses!), and just because one or even one hundred of those places reject you doesn’t mean your work isn’t valuable. It is. You just have to put in the time and effort to find the venues that are into your aesthetic. Read an editor’s work before submitting, review the mastheads of publications, really try to get a feel for the places you’re submitting to. I know without a doubt that I could be published in more places than I am, but I don’t just submit to any place—I have to be really into the work the journal/press is publishing and know that my work will be appreciated as something more than just content to fill a website. When I’m reading/editing for Crab Fat Magazine I always take into the account the feel of the work before looking at the writer’s name, publication credits, and other information—I can’t count how many times I’ve rejected someone who says they’ve been published 1,500 times and have 8 books, and moments later accept work from someone who’s never been published. So, in the literary landscape, its quality and voice that matter, not literary pedigree.

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Published by

17numa

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2015), and Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016). Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience; he also serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

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