Please enjoy a preview of the featured interview in the Spring 2014 issue with ROAR contributor and Idaho Writer-in-Residence Diane Raptosh. Own a copy of the entire issue by visiting our Subscribe Page!
The following interview was conducted over email by Sheila McMullin.
Author of four books of poetry and a graduate of the University of Michigan MFA Program, Diane Raptosh serves as the Idaho Writer-in- Residence (2013-2016) and the Boise Poet Laureate (2013). Her most recent book of poems, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press), was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award. The recipient of three fellowships in literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she holds the Eyck-Berringer Endowed Chair in English at The College of Idaho, where she teaches literature and creative writing as well as directs the program in criminal justice/prison studies. An active ambassador for poetry, she conducts writing workshops, gives readings, and lectures on poetry in a variety of locations ranging from university auditoriums to maximum security prisons, school buses to riverbanks.
One of the many reasons I come to poetry (and I’m sure for others as well) is for a lyric moment that breaks my heart to encourage a putting together again, just this time with more reinforcement. These moments contribute to what I’ve been calling “bravery training,” sometimes “empathy training.” These revelatory moments within the poem provide opportunities for the reader to inherit language that could serve them during a difficult period in their life. The language becomes a resource to inspire decency between human beings. I found many moments like this in your writing, but the one that shined the brightest I found in your newest collection American Amnesiac. American Amnesiac takes a hard look at American corporate corporeality through a male perspective. In the midst of our speaker John Doe “stripped of his memory” reviewing his life from when he was Cal Reinhart– the corporate mogul–you write: “the kinder you are the stronger/ your immune system.”
So simple, so memorizable, these lines hold the physical and the spiritual tightly together. Speaking to a material intelligence as well as an emotional intelligence, I was hoping you could expand on what a line like that means for you. Could you speak to your efforts of balancing this dichotomy in your book-length poem?
This question is so beautifully framed—so layered and soulful and so very like a poem itself that I hesitate even to try to put an answer to it. I love your notions of poetry’s part in “bravery and empathy training.” I, too, think these to be among the highest aims of poetry, and I return to the poets and writers who offer these gifts in abundance: Adrienne Rich, James Baldwin, Eduardo Galeano, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Elizabeth Bishop, and many others. Calvin Rinehart, the speaker of American Amnesiac, himself sets out to locate “the spine of a possible decency.” In the process of so doing, he realizes he must cast off much of what formerly defined him, namely, preoccupations with wealth and status. During this journey he takes on the “Everyman” moniker John Doe, and, within the process of taking stock of self in its thousand localities, he “falls in omnidirectional love” with everything and everyone from James Brown to the bowl of pluots his nurse brings him. But he is not content to stop at reinvention of self; he next begins to reconceive and refigure America itself and in the end renames it Anamika, the Hindi term for Nameless One. In the end, then, the “anonymous” John Doe and nameless nation-state merge; the one entails the other. Or, to put it in terms of the line you quote in your question, the kindness of the “you” must in the long run come to characterize—and become indistinguishable from—that of the larger system: call it the immune system, the socioeconomic system, the largest possible regulatory organ of which we are all a part.
All of this is by way of saying I believe a poet’s job is to . . . reinvent the language—yes, and this idea is not new. I believe with even more fervency that a poet’s job is to continue reconceiving what it might mean simply to be—more specifically, to be a self in a community as large as a nation or world. And so why not reinvent America (in this book, anyway) while we’re at it? The emotional world is necessarily entailed in the material world, the spiritual realm within the physical one. I guess I wouldn’t have known how to meditate through poetry on one half of this presumed dichotomy without its other side. Poetry is the ideal field for “thinking in feeling,” as the book suggests; it is the field in which all apparent binaries might at last be reunited like twins too long estranged. In the end language seems to insist that all such emanations are one. I am merely language’s tagalong, helping to pull certain specifics through in its service. This may sound cheesy but feels very true.
To continue reading the interview in full visit www.moonspitpoetry.com.
A Clean Garage by Diane Raptosh
featured in ROAR 2011
The sheen of its floor she finds garish. And doesn’t the
room preserve certain rage, so many objects aging in
there? That pair of rags flung forward and back-the
noun and verb bunched up in garage: In that word is
almost garbage itself. Gobs of popped balloon and
chicken legs cleave in the bin behind the overhead
door and wait to be trucked to the dump, shoehorned
into crypts. Refuse preserved into perpetuity. A village
can mature for years in history’s cask; Garage sounded
too much to her like the town Gorazde, safe area in
the Bosnian war, until tanks and bullets blurred it to
a grave. Sometimes a sole American house will take
a back seat to four garage doors aimed at the street
like linked, discrete front lines. Maybe a clean garage
helps people feel saved, every extra roof tile in its
place, cat box liners lying piously besides the season’s
anti-freeze. Almost any American garage is car lodge.
Perhaps behind one of those doors lies an hygenic fix-
it shop in which someone wears an oil-stained monkey
suit and goggles at a lathe. And doesn’t a clean garage
finally mean too much time on the hands? Let such a
someone lean on in to start a sop landfill ooze finding
its blind way to groundwater. Rag, rag, rag, she thinks
to herself. Better a keen barrage of kindness, an idea’s
clear lingering, a quick bite of ling cod at the first chink
The Slow Unraveling of Sadie Clark
Dalton’s leaving looks like this: It is a Tuesday night in winter. There has been an argument about his inability to load the dishwasher. Sadie, unprepared. Sadie, unable to stand still. She paces the small kitchen and flings her skinny arms. She is dramatic, prone to hyperbole, sometimes short fused. But no one can say Dalton didn’t know this. Irrelevant. Please, he’d say to his friends. That body. God Damn. Sadie yells loudly enough that people in other apartments can hear. “You can’t take care of anything. You never. Take Care. Of Anything.”
To read the rest of Kirsten Clodfelter story visit our Subscribe page to purchase your Spring 2014 Issue.
ROAR Magazine is now closed for submissions for our 2014 issue. Thanks to everyone who submitted and keep an eye out for the print issue, which will include an interview with National Book Award Nominee and Boise, Idaho’s Poet Laureate for 2013, Diane Raptosh.
ROAR Magazine is a print literary journal dedicated to providing a space to showcase women’s fiction, creative nonfiction, visual art, and poetry. We accept work that represents a wide spectrum of form, language, and meaning. In other words, don’t worry if your work isn’t specific to feminist issues. If you’re a gal, we just want your point of view…
We are offering our Spring 2012 issue at a discounted price ($4.00). Order your copy to read ROAR’s interview with acclaimed author, Jill McCorkle and find out how she balances work, life, and writing.
Jill McCorkle is a professor in the MFA in Creative Writing program at NC State. She has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tufts University and Brandeis, where she was the Fannie Hurst Visiting Writer. She was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Creative Writing at Harvard for five years where she also served as chair of the creative writing program. She was one of the original core faculty members of the Bennington College MFA program and is a frequent instructor at the Sewanee Summer Writers Program.
A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, McCorkle has the distinction of having published her first two novels on the same day in 1984. Since then, she has published three other novels and four collections of short stories. Five of her eight books have been named New York Times notable books. Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Oxford American, Southern Review and Bomb Magazine, among others. Four of her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories and several have been collected in New Stories from the South. Her story, “Intervention,” is in the most recent edition of the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction.
ROAR: As you know, ROAR is a journal focused on supporting creativity in women, specifically new and emerging artists. As an established female writer, can you talk about how you balance your writing life with all of your other responsibilities: mother, wife, professor, writing colleague?
McCorkle: The balancing act has been a constant and ever changing thing. Juggling this and that. The rule I have always had in my mind though is that kids trump all. If things aren’t right at that end, I have trouble writing so it’s best for me to get busy and straighten my nest first and then work. Obviously, sometimes are easier than others but I have not regretted the system of priorities. I spend a lot of time getting ready to write: taking notes, thinking, all things I could do while also driving carpools and sitting at Little League games or ballet classes. I find the time I spend “getting ready” is maybe what is most valuable to my process. A lot happens and grows before I ever actually sit down and put pen to paper. Now, my kids are in their 20s so I find myself with whole days to write. Because I never really had this before, I find that I am able to get a lot done and do not take such time for granted. But, I am still somewhat chore driven and so it helps that I keep myself on a schedule of schoolwork here/ housework there, etc.
ROAR: Do you believe each writer needs a “room of one’s own”?
McCorkle: Every writer needs a room of one’s own, even if it is the “room” of your own mind where you can’t be interrupted. I have always been very portable as a writer but also have the need for what is consistent and solitary. I have had work space the size of a closet and I have had a whole room which I have now and love. But, I also have felt this sense of space with the journal of the month when on vacation or sitting on a plane. For me the key word is solitude and out of that comes the sense of space. Of course, the physical space is most appreciated when you want to create piles of scraps of paper and then leave them that way undisturbed.
ROAR: In the story “Crash Diet,” Sandra’s husband leaves her for a woman who is thinner and younger, yet the story ends with Sandra single for the first time in five years and happier than ever. Many of your stories are told from the female point of view. Do you think the theme of this story, and others from your collections over the years, represent a feminist perspective?
Purchas this issue for only $4.00 to read the rest of the interview to find out how Jill balances writing, work and life.
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Poetry by 2012 Contributor, Michele Reale
She decided to explain the pluot thus: not a peach, not a plum. Not your mother’s jam. Like your favorite uncle wearing your aunt’s polka dot dress. Because he said he grown used to it, she would clarify the taste of brine, but none would be found in the vicinity. Instead she’d go on and on about the velvety consistency it had when spread on a fresh loaf. Convince him that the reddish sweetness was something he could not live without, this man who she just slept with on crimson sheets, in a room she’d fashioned after what she envisioned Versailles to be. The imagination can only take one so far. Now she would have to rip it all apart and start from scratch. He lay curled onto himself in the bed and she felt a great shame in waking someone from such a deep sleep. She’d phone a discreet friend instead and collect on a favor that had been gathering moss. So much depends on the ability to begin again. She’d lay the breakfast table with precision and toast the bread. Lick the sweetness from her fingers. Leave the back door open. Gallup into the yard and set those fruit bearing trees on fire.
Welcome to ROAR Magazine, a print literary journal dedicated to supporting female artists! The genesis of ROAR stemmed from a personal desire to contribute to the literary world in a way that might meld my background in women’s studies with my work as an MFA fiction candidate.
In the early twentieth century, Virginia Woolf wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She wrote this in the tumultuous years of women’s suffrage, educational barriers, social, cultural, and political inequalities. She wrote this at a time when women’s voices were strong, but often silenced. She wrote this at a time when women were rarely afforded the luxury of financial independence or the freedom to create.
Eighty-two years have passed since Ms. Woolf’s dictum and the world has witnessed enormous changes for women. But in the spirit of nurturing creativity in women, ROAR listens to the echo of voices of pioneering women such as Virginia Woolf, and hopes to promote a place for the female voices of today and the future. ROAR cannot provide a room for our women, and it may take several years for us to provide adequate monetary compensation to these talented gals, but we can provide a space, just for them.
We hope you support us in this endeavor.