A mom, a PR writer, an editor, a blogger--and you still find time to submit and publish poetry. Are you a writer on the go?--the jot down idea when it comes type? Or do you have a specific time set aside for writing?
I’m not sure I even have time for this interview. I’ve learned the hard way not to put off an idea, because I will forget it. A lot of my work is on cocktail napkins and bill envelopes. As you’d expect, it gets a little chaotic.
I’m trying to be more disciplined. Sometimes “having” to write makes me feel a bit constipated. Submitting has a way of making me feel accountable. If I don’t have anything to send out, then that’s a problem I’ve got to attend to.
What has the time you've spent writing taught you?
That the more I experience the process, the less I understand it. I really feel as much conduit as creator. I don’t mean I’ve got dental fillings that receive cosmic messages. It’s just a unique mental mix of organization, impulse and hard-headedness.
Who has influenced and/or shaped your writing?
My favorite professor took me to task for everything I put on paper and forced me to articulate thoughts I didn’t believe could be articulated. My dad insisted on precision in speaking (and that’s probably why I write instead). They both instilled a deeply mechanical appreciation of language. Then there are too many outrageously good writers to name that keep me reaching.
Who is your ideal reader?
One who doesn’t have to parse out every detail of what I wrote, who doesn’t get bogged down in the why of it all--someone who brings their own experience, who can play with it and make it dance in a way I couldn’t have even imagined.
How long have you been editing Orion headless? I think leaving readers the option to respond to works published is a good editorial move--it definitely promotes dialogue among readers and writers.
Orion headless started in April 2010. It just had a birthday!
It’s different from putting a bound journal into someone’s hands, never knowing after if it affected them somehow. I don’t get a huge amount of comments yet, but there are so many journals out there with so much awesome writing to consume. I fully understand the literary chew and screw. But with time, maybe there will be more of a community around Orion headless. Who knows? I know I’ve been overwhelmed by most of what I’ve been able to publish so far.
Sara Fitzpatrick Comito is a poet living in Fort Myers, Florida. Her work has appeared in places like nthposition, Leveler, Right Hand Pointing and Hip Mama. She edits the online journal Orion headless.
How have online literary journals affected the way you read poetry?
They haven’t, really. I don’t really read much poetry but when I do read poetry online, I cannot say I read it any differently than when I read poetry in print, save that I probably read it more carefully in that the kind of poetry I tend to enjoy tends to be published online more than in print.
What shocks you about writers?
Everything. Writers are curious, curious, endlessly fascinating people in terms of the worlds they can create through their writing, in terms of their insecurities and arrogance and passion and ennui.
What should matter most to a writer?
What does or will defeat the writer?
Weakness, worrying about what other writers are doing, too much self-doubt and insecurity, trying to be something you’re not.
What five books do you recommend most often?
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Brutal Language of Love by Alicia Erian
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Is there a particular type of writing you would like to see more of in literary journals?
Writing with heart, real bloody, beating heart.
Roxane Gay lives in the Midwest.
How have online literary journals affected the way you read poetry?
I don’t think they’ve affected the “way” I read poetry, in that, I have always read poetry by sitting down and looking at the letters/symbols comprising a poem and then perceiving the letters as words and then perceiving the words as some sort of narrative or allegory or sonic thing, which I simultaneously, or sometimes after minutes, or even days, later recognize as a sort of experience, ultimately becoming an “I like this” or “I don’t like this” or “I am indifferent to this” response.
What online literary journals have done, for me, is allow me to read poetry and prose that I may not have had a chance to read otherwise. For instance, I cannot go to St. Marks Bookshop and pick up Ellen Kennedy’s yesterday i was talking to myself and i told myself that i was going to write a book and give it to you so i put paper in my bag and put a pen in my bag and rode my bike to the river bank and then sat on the ground and thought 'i will never write a book' and watched ducks swim away from me, but because of Bear Parade, an online literary journal, I have the option and opportunity to read this collection as much as I want as long as it exists on the Internet.
What are “bad" poems?
There are no, in my opinion, “good” or “bad” poems. Objective statements regarding literature confuse me, and can make me uncomfortable. Saying something is “good” or “bad” implies a certain unalienable truth, which I would never apply to something as subjective, personal, and interpretable as art.
There are poems that I enjoy reading and poems that I don’t enjoy reading, and then there are poems that I neither enjoy nor don’t enjoy reading, but rather feel personally indifferent to, but will read from a cultural or societal context. For instance, I feel indifferent toward most poems I’ve read by Emily Dickinson, but I continue to read them, often several times each, sometimes to understand their importance in the history of poetry and the development of American literature, sometimes, simply, because they’re assigned to me. I neither like nor dislike Emily Dickinson. A poet I like to read a lot is Matthew Rohrer. A poet I don’t like to read is Phillis Wheatley, but I don’t consider her poems “bad.”
What are five books you recommend most often?
That’s hard to say because usually I am recommending different types of things to different types of people. I recommend Bed by Tao Lin to a lot of people. I recommend Anagrams by Lorrie Moore to a lot of people, especially my mom, who really liked it. I know I’ve recommended Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German to many people. Honored Guest by Joy Williams I’ve recommended but sometimes I forget the name of that one in social situations. I think I used to recommend Rose by Li-Young Lee a lot, but that has been replaced by recommending poetry books like Rise Up by Matthew Rohrer or Yes, Master by Michael Earl Craig. I have recommended Glory Hole/The Hot Tub by Dan Hoy and Jon Leon. I usually recommend things that have first been recommended to me because that makes sense. Also, I will just say Google Andrew James Weatherhead if I am talking to someone who I know likes poetry but isn’t familiar with him because I like his poetry a lot.
What was your most-played album of your high school years?
Again, hard to say. I mean, it was four years so a lot of things happened. Referring to a blog post about this subject, I think, it seems Funeral by Arcade Fire, Highway 61 Revisted by Bob Dylan, Illinois by Sufjan Stevens, Easy Beat by Dr. Dog, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, Person Pitch by Panda Bear, OK Computer by Radiohead, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, Rubber Soul by The Beatles, and The Libertines by The Libertines were all listened to many times. Many times.
Why do you write?
I write because I feel depressed often and when I write I am able to look at the funny things about the idea of “life,” or “existence,” and I’m often able to have fun and think things are funny. I am also able to think about events, those that have happened in my past, or present, or simply, and entirely, a product of my imagination, closer and with greater sensitivity to detail than when merely thinking about them in my head.
What about the future?
My immediate future is finish this semester of college, write papers, take exams. Then I will move back in with my parents and work on a farm for three months in my hometown in Massachusetts. Then I will go to Berlin for a semester. Then I will turn 21. Seems pretty all right. I am always working on writing. I have many short stories that I hope to publish together as some sort of collection. I have many poems, which I would like to keep working on. I have ideas for chapbooks and collaborations specifically regarding my poetry and the poetry of people I know. I will continue to do performance art in the style of 5 Days in the Upper West Side. I don't have any details about the direction or documentation of these performance art pieces. I have a Flip camera, so I will be filming things and possibly putting them on Vimeo. I will drink. I will read books. I will post on my blog infrequently. At some point, I'll probably go swimming.
David Fishkind is a twenty-year-old student of English and Creative Writing at NYU. He has been published throughout the internet, in some literary journals, and by himself. Check out his blog [here]