Featured Poet Cindy Emch Interviewed


So hopefully you’ve already checked out Cindy’s poems in my previous posts, and her site. Now you can find out a bit more about her creative process… and she has some great advice for those of you who are just starting out, too.

Tell us about your poems.
My poetry tends to be about capturing a moment in the visceral. Words that bring up the smell, touch or the deep in the gut feeling of something. We all walk in the world in such different ways, poetry gives me a window into someone else’s experience I love to lose myself in that. I tend to write a lot about intersections. Where urban meets rural, sacred meets profane, how these things that seem to be such extremes actually hold so much of the same passions in them. Bringing together the commonality of our unique human experiences and those magical moments out in the world that are so perfectly different and universal all at once.

How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first poem when I was seven years old. I found a book of poetry and fell in love with the words and so started trying to writemyself. From that point forward I used words and the poetic form
specifically to get my experience across.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve been featured in Outsider Writers, Lodestar Quarterly, Cherry Bleeds, and a few other places. Mainly I get invited to feature as a performance poet around the Bay Area with folks like Sister Spit and a variety of regular lit events. The next stage? I am still writing and have just started two bands, Rhubarb Whiskey & Vagabondage, so a lot of my creative energy is going there right now. I’ve got an offer on the table for a publisher to put out a collection of my work so we’re moving forward with that too, but you know, sometimes these things move slowly.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Reading with Sister Spit and then being featured at the Radar Reading Series at the SF Public Library were both huge honors and put me in some poet company that I found very humbling.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
Best thing about poetry is that moment when a piece is finished and you do (what some friends of mine call) the underwear dance. You know you nailed it. You got the moment just like you wanted and it’s the best high ever. Only slightly less is when you read a piece to a room and you can feel the audience in your hand and you finish and you just know, everyone there Got It.
Worst thing? people assuming that because you’re a poet you rhyme a lot. Or folks always needing to remind you that poets don’t make any money. Yea pal, me and ramen are well aquainted. I am very aware of how much poetry pays. That isn’t really the point. Art. Art is always the point.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Don’t be afraid to perform. You aren’t as good or as bad as you think and you’re bringing something new to the mic so just try it. And if you feel like there is no reading that fits you, no place where you
fit in, start an open mic. Really - just talk to a cafe and start one. You’ll get a crash course in both who your local writers are, and what the challenges of both running a performance and what common pitfalls people hit when they’re performing. It’s more information than any class could ever give you plus it helps build a writing community around you.

Who/what influences your poetry?
Hayden Carruth, Sharon Olds, Li Young Lee, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mark Growden, Daphne Gottlieb, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha, Charles Mingus, Ali Liebgott, Audre Lorde, Garrison Keiller, Langston Hughes, John Zorn, Michelle Tea. I am hugely influenced by music as well as other poets and storytellers. I can write for hours if the right Charles Mingus album is on. It’s unreal actually. I feel like the words just come together with the right music. Lately as I have been improvising more with my own instrument I find the way I think about words and their lyrical nature within poetry changing and getting very very exciting.

A Flower’s Grave
For Mel

You died two months after
you stopped being my best friend

I helped you sneak tobacco
while we ditched church and watched bowling
in a room that smelled old with wood paneling
in a two year old trailer
we set our cokes
on flowered and rickety TV trays

I wasn’t supposed to know
why you moved here
to be closer
to family

I didn’t know
the doctors had already told you
everything
it was 1979
and there wasn’t a lot they could do

So you came to the rural subdivision trailer park
all you could afford
in those golden days
of fall leaves and hot cider

I sat on your lap
strong and safe
i sneak your cologne
and wear it on the really bad days
to remind me of you

Two months before you died
you went into that hospital
where six year olds were not allowed
i never said goodbye
i don’t know how
i still wonder if they’re hiding you
in that old brick monolith
with white coat walls

I hold onto you
a tight knot I hide
under my right lung
held like a secret
fed you with tobacco
the family gift of addiction

i mostly want your pipe
so i can kiss you goodnight
and never let go.

Get featured: drop me a line and a few poems to claire@onenightstanzas.com. Give me a while to respond, and your poems could be here!

(Photo by Kayleesea)

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