We asked the poets and nonfiction authors from our latest issue what questions they would want to ask their fellow Volume 7 contributors. A few then answered those questions, delving into their craft, their inspirations, and their approach to creating. Read on to learn more about poets Elizabeth Galoozis, author of "Leap Year," Joseph Byrd, author of "It Is Not True," and Rebecca Faulkner, author of "Detour," as well as nonfiction writers Christina Rosso, author of "Menses, Desire, and the Monstrous Female," Bradley David, author of "Norman Rockwell Steps on a Lego," and Renee Gilmore, author of "Birdsong." And make sure to check out their work in Vol 7: WILD!
Joseph Byrd: What are you reading, right now, poetry or otherwise?
Elizabeth Galoozis: As part of Frontier Poetry’s Poetry Lab, I’m reading The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, and I’m not sure how I lived without it! I just finished The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, and just started Vievee Francis’s poetry collection Forest Primeval.
JB: How do you know when a poem is finished?
EG: That’s a hard question. I don’t know that any of my poems ever feel totally finished. But a poem feels mostly finished to me when everything in it has a place and a purpose – there’s nothing extraneous and there’s nothing missing.
JB: "Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature... The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them." (Quoting Brian Eno, and stealing from Kaveh Akbar, who uses this quote when he facilitates.) What do you see/hear that's weird, ugly, uncomfortable and in art and/or literature right now? In your own work?
EG: It’s interesting to me to see how artists have been dealing with the pandemic. Louise Erdrich puts it front and center in The Sentence, not as the novel’s subject, but as the historical reality of the characters’ lives. It was jarring and exhausting to remember the early days and still be living in the later days. Other artists approach it obliquely or leave it out entirely; I’ve seen some calls for submissions that explicitly say “please no pandemic poems.” While I have written some pandemic poems, what came to mind about my own work when I read this question was uncomfortable family dynamics. They have been surfacing from the past in a lot of poems I’ve written recently; there’s not really a present-day trigger for it, so I can’t explain it, but they’ve been on my mind.
JB: Favorite writing instrument? Why?
EG: I always have a supply of black Pilot G-2 pens (fine point) on hand. (#notanad). I just like the way the ink flows.
JB: Where/how do you take notes when the lightning of a poem strikes?
EG: I used to carry a little notebook around – and still do – but I’m much more likely to have my phone on me, so I also have a running note in my Notes app with lots of semi-intelligible fragments.
Rebecca Faulkner: Why do you write poetry?
Joseph Byrd: I basically grew up onstage, in utero with a ballerina mother, and then did my own work treading the boards. It was a great way to get started, to have the regular discipline of getting art done, and it culminated for me in being a Facilitator with Shakespeare Behind Bars for five years. But poetry has all the stuffs of the stage compacted into, and onto, the page. And it’s an art that can happen anywhere, with no need for costumes or makeup or rehearsals.
RF: Do you have a daily writing routine?
JB: This is a groovy segue from question #1 – my routine is my whole life, what I would call the rehearsal. More and more, life feels like a practice exercise, and writing is part of what helps me keep that practice in place. It takes work to pay attention to what one is saying, and how that lines up (or doesn’t!) with how one lives. In no way am I telling you that my writing is congruent with my life — but my hope is that, in my daily routine of clarifying what gets written on that page, I can also get clearer with who I am, and how I’m living.
RF: Which poets are you reading right now?
JB: I open anything by Kaveh Akbar and I want to write! It’s not an overstatement to say it changed my life, working with him at StoryBoard Chicago. Jeff Alessandrelli’s book Fur Not Light is a go-to for me. And Kurt Mikhael (@partyteeth on Instagram) has a new zine, Manic Mechanical, that has knocked me sideways. I’m a Dostoevsky fan, and it feels like Kurt has channeled an updated version of Notes from the Underground, full of the ardent and enlightened suffering that comes from what it means to be self-aware. As well, he’s been leaving copies of Manic Mechanical in Chicago, Philly, Kansas City, LA — and that’s what I love most about poetry; how it can show up anywhere and everywhere.
RF: What are you working on at the moment?
JB: I’m trying to set all the incidental songs/lyrics in Shakespeare’s plays to music, and I’m having fun doing that. Also working on a book of poems called “Widenesses” which I hope offers what the title suggests. There’s a lot of fear in the world as we start to see the diversity of who we are here on this planet. And if Origen is right (and I think he is) that “You yourself are even another little world, and have within you the sun and the moon and also the stars,” we have some work to do in learning to give each other space, and in seeing that same spaciousness within each other.
Elizabeth Galoozis: What idea/word/form are you obsessed with right now?
Rebecca Faulkner: I’ve been working on a lot of erasure poems recently, and am slightly obsessed with it as a style and form. I am specifically using the short stories of British surrealist Leonora Carrington - I love being able to pay tribute to her remarkable inventiveness by creating something pared down, juxtaposed and entirely new from her abstract narratives. I am also part of a poetry+collage residency, and have been loving thinking about the word collage. For me, collage is like an enormous tree with all these disparate branches, ready for me to climb in.
EG: What inspired the poem(s) you have in this issue of Fatal Flaw?
RF: My poem 'Detour' was inspired in part by poems in Ada Limón’s newest collection, The Hurting Kind. She writes so evocatively about the desert, and about loss and change. I also had a very dreamlike experience waking up to a group of bagpipers practising in a hotel in rural South Africa some years back that I knew I needed to write about! My poetry often explores what I consider to be the wild, liminal space between two places, northern and southern hemispheres, for example - and what it means to live between places. As a London born, Brooklyn based poet, I think about inbetweenness a lot.
EG: Tell me about something you're working on currently.
RF: I’m working on a new collection of poetry that is both a meditation on female identity and celebration of artistic greatness. In these poems, I position my own narrative adjacent to the life and work of five remarkable, overlooked female artists of the last century, so a dialogue between author and subject is forged. The poems tackle themes of visibility, artistry, emigration, nationality, belonging, motherhood, sex, gender, ageing and mental illness. I’m really excited about it!
EG: What question do you wish I'd asked, and how would you answer?
RF: If you’d asked me which poem I wish I'd written, I’d direct you toward Ada Limón’s final poem ‘The End of Poetry,’ from her new collection. I think it’s truly remarkable. It traverses such a devastating landscape in just twenty-one lines. For me, this poem is about what it means to be human; to accept the world for its vastness and limitations. And what a killer last line.
Bradley David: Describe your writing space. Where and when do you do your best work? Are there any quirks, talismans, sensory needs, or wishlist items associated with that time and place?
Christina Rosso: My writing space changes. Sometimes it’s at a desk or my kitchen island or on the subway. I’ve been living in a construction site for the past year so I’ve adapted my writing space to fit my surroundings! That being said, I do my best work at a desk facing a window in the morning. There’s something about the magic of a new day and all its possibilities. And I like being able to look outside at the birds and plants! In terms of writing rituals, I am a witch, and often use candle magic to help me set intentions and writing goals. I pretty much always have a candle burning while I’m writing, whether it’s been dressed to manifest a publication goal or deadline or just a naked candle for an in-the-moment intention.
BD: Are there unexpected times and places when writing ideas come to you? If so, where do they tend to arrive and how do you capture them?
CR: I often find ideas come to me when I’m in transit. On the subway, in the car, walking my dogs. If I have my phone with me, I furiously type or record notes. Sometimes I repeat phrases that come to me over and over again until I can sit down to write them down.
BD: Many authors pen a "writers on writing" book of craft. MFA programs and Twitter are rife with writing discourse. Do you find debate and advice from outside sources helpful — bettering your craft? Or do you tend to insulate yourself in order to generate work that hasn't been influenced/stifled?
CR: Like many writers, I am very sensitive! I value insight and feedback from trusted friends and writers I admire, but I also trust myself first and foremost. So, for me, it’s all about straddling that line of the right time to share a piece and get feedback. If it’s too early in the process and the story is still forming in my mind, I’ve found outside feedback can be detrimental. I usually draft quickly and then put a story or manuscript away for a while to get clarity. Once I come back and look at it with fresh eyes, I’m usually ready for folks to provide their thoughts!
BD: When people ask, "What do you do?" Do you say you're a writer? Please speak to your relationship to writing as an identity or how your writing identity has evolved.
CR: I have always identified as a writer, so when people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer (and a bookstore owner and a teacher and dog mom). I love writing and I’m really proud of my body of work, but also writing is such a large part of my life that it feels impossible to not categorize myself as a writer. Since my first book was published in 2020 I feel more legitimacy in saying I’m a writer because people can Google me and buy my books (which is still a wild concept to me). Sometimes I find myself saying I am a “professional writer” because I have two books, have been paid for my writing (very little, but it still counts!), and have a literary agent. But when it comes down to it, I write because it’s who I am. And I wear this badge with pride.
BD: I cannot listen to music while I write, but outside of my writing time music is essential and influential. Have you noticed a correlation between music and writing? If so, would you mind sharing some playlist highlights? No shame! Let's hear that yacht rock, that torch & twang.
CR: I too am someone who can’t really listen to music when writing. If I do listen to music, it’s usually one song or one album on repeat for the entire project. My partner can attest to how annoying this is when I’m working on something longterm like a novel. I tend to listen to music more when I’m editing; I feel like I’m using a different part of my brain and music can help me tune out everything but the words on the page. I pretty much only listen to instrumental or indie folk/pop. Right now I’ve been listening to Cannons’ albums Shadows and Fever Dream. Purity Ring is another go-to, as are instrumental songs like “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter.
Renee Gilmore: Was there a pivot point in your life when you realized that you are a writer, and you must write?
Bradley David: I've always been a career grazer and serial pivoter. Each experience slingshotting me into the next phase. I remember teachers pulling me aside in high school to encourage my writing. Those encouragements were stashed away as I explored other life paths, but I'd always come back to them. I earned a BA in English, but again veered away to earn a Master's in social work. That led me to write nonfiction online articles and edit medical journal submissions. It wasn't until my partner and I moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles in 2015 that the most significant pivot occurred. Something about this city inspired me to begin writing a novel. Then poetry began showing up in my sleep. I have no formal poetry education, yet it was arriving night after night. I'd jot down the fragments and work on them in the morning. Through trial and error (and too many submission fees), I finally began seeing acceptances. More of those little encouragements that nourish our confidence, tone down the exhausting self-talk.
RG: How have your life experiences shaped your perspective?
BD: You're giving big questions to a verbose writer! I recently published a craft essay in Allium about how life experience shapes narrative voice. More specifically, how queerness, madness, and trauma inform writing. Every single day life gives us something to collect and haul out when we need it. Many writers make the shift to "curious witness," where the constant details of life become writing material. Once in our possession, we're empowered to decide which life experiences we'll keep handy and which we'll let fade into the background. I'm less inclined to ruminate about the past in unhealthy ways if I keep busy collecting.
If you saw my house, you'd see boxes full of natural specimens and curiosities I've collected. They are my meditative practice of examining the world. And if you saw my laptop, you'd see documents full of fragments. I love fragmentation. Collect, combine, and watch weirdness unfold. Therein, the sense of accomplishment I'm craving. Failing that, I'm back to being a closeted queer kid bullied in high school. I'm learning to let it go or put it to use. I don't have a great imagination, I'm just a collector.
RG: What is your take on how the media portrays writers? How do you think this shapes public perception?
BD: I find the very idea of media portrayal and perception disturbing. Our individual psychic expenditure on inventing, cultivating, clarifying, and repairing identity and reputation is a global mental health pandemic. Media harvests us like a free and infinite resource, and that is a powerful depleting force. As long as we feed into it, we will never find a healthy equilibrium. This will seem left field, but I believe we need an intense and urgent focus on preserving open land. Giving occupied land back to its rightful caretakers. More and more we will need these places to escape. The more time we enjoy the outdoors, the less time we'll be occupied by media's inane bullshit. We should each make acquaintance with a good crying tree — at some point we'll need to sit under it for all the shade.
RG: Public libraries are struggling in myriad ways. Do you have an experience with a library you’d like to share?
BD: An hour north of where I began my grad school pivot in western Michigan is the Patmos library. This brave little library-that-could is, as we speak, being victimized by its very own community of radical right and religious zealots. The torch-wielding villagers convinced the town to defund their library because it possessed a copy of "Gender Queer," accused of grooming young people into sexual deviance. And, according to the American Library Association, the most "challenged" (i.e. banned) book of 2021. Many donors have stepped in to keep the lights on at Patmos, including a major donation by author Nora Roberts.
Fortunately, back in my conservative little Michigan hometown, where the library has remained open for over a century, LGBTQ+ titles are still on the shelves. It's a gorgeous stone building where I devoured books to earn Pizza Hut certificates. Where story time was animated by a puppet show. I returned to that library to research high school papers. Then in undergrad sat hours in the blue-gray dim of the microfiche, researching local history. Sometimes our local histories are only contained in our libraries. In our librarians. Sometimes libraries are the only safe space for young people to discover themselves. We must fight to keep their lights on. Oh, and they smell good.
Christina Rosso: What does wild mean to you?
Renee Gilmore: Wild to me represents an unpredictable or untamed space where things are not always what they seem. I personally have a very complicated relationship with the outdoors. My husband and I have traveled to all seven continents, and seen some of the most incredible things our planet has to offer. But in the outdoors, I have also experienced some horrific life events. I don’t know if there is a way to reconcile those extremes, and I have come to believe that it’s a fool’s errand to try.
CR: What is your writing process like?
RG: As I think of topics or phrases or words I like, I record them on my phone. Then, when I have uninterrupted time, I write very fast - first in a notebook and then on my laptop. I may write drafts of 2 or 3 essays and several poems in a single weekend. I also do the thing you aren’t supposed to do — edit as I write, but it works for me. I also have several of the quirks that make non-writers (like my husband) roll their eyes — only one kind of pen (Pentel Energel in blue), one type of notebook (Moleskine XL in black), and my “ninja poet” coffee mug my son gave me.
CR: What are you currently reading?
RG: I am very much a serial reader. And I’m stubborn, so even if the book is not great, I will stick with it until the bitter end. Recently I read Prairie Fires, which is an exhaustive 600+ page biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Last night I finished Finding Me, Viola Davis’s memoir. On my nightstand I have Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picault, and Buddhism for Dummies. I also read a lot of poetry, and I’m re-reading Worldly Things, by Michael Kleber-Diggs. It is a masterpiece.
CR: What is your favorite fall treat?
RG: I’m likely the only person in the country who does not like a pumpkin spice latte! I have the recipe boxes from both of my grandmothers and my mother, so I will work my way through some of the cakes and bars this season. This weekend I am going to make an applesauce spice cake with browned butter frosting.
Elizabeth Galoozis’s poems have appeared in Air/Light, Sundog Lit, RHINO Poetry, Call Me [Brackets], Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She serves as a reader for The Maine Review and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She works as a librarian and lives in southern California. Elizabeth can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @thisamericanliz.
Joseph Byrd’s work has appeared in The Plentitudes, DIAGRAM, Aji, Long River Review, The Ravens Perch, and forthcoming work in Resurrection magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal, and PROEM. He was in the 2021 StoryBoard Chicago cohort with Kaveh Akbar, was an Associate Artist in Poetry under Joy Harjo at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and is on the Reading Board for The Plentitudes.
Rebecca Faulkner is a London-born poet and arts educator based in Brooklyn. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals including New York Quarterly, Solstice Magazine, SWWIM, The Maine Review, CALYX Press, CV2 Magazine, On the Seawall, and Into the Void. She is the 2022 winner of Sand Hills Literary Magazine’s National Poetry Contest and the 2021 Prometheus Unbound Poetry Competition. She holds a BA in English Literature & Theatre Studies from the University of Leeds, and a Ph.D. from the University of London. Her debut collection is forthcoming in the US and the UK from Write Bloody Press in spring 2023.
Christina Rosso (she/her) is a writer, educator, and bookstore owner living outside of Philadelphia with her bearded husband and rescue pups. She is the author of CREOLE CONJURE (Maudlin House, 2021) and SHE IS A BEAST (APEP Publications, 2020). Her writing has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. For more information, visit http://christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.
Bradley David's poetry, fiction, essays, and hybrid works appear in Terrain, Plainsongs, Bureau of Complaint, Exacting Clam, Stone of Madness, Anti-Heroin Chic, and others. New work is forthcoming in Allium, Always Crashing, the museum of americana, and more. His work can be found at linktr.ee/bradleydavid.
Renee Gilmore writes about her experiences growing up poor, and fearlessly explores the illusion of happiness. Her work has appeared in Of Rust and Glass; Eastern Iowa Review; The Raven Review; Peauxdunque Review and others. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s degree from Hamline University. She identifies as a person with a disability. Renee lives in suburban Minneapolis, and grew up in Southeastern Minnesota, where many of her poems are set.
Learn more about fiction authors Christiane Williams-Vigil, Darryl Lauster, Lauren Kardos, Brett Salsbury, Max Asher Miller, and Joanna Clapps Herman, as well as visual artists Luciana Abait and Karen Fitzgerald. And make sure to check out their work in Vol 7: WILD!