“Roberts writes with wit and attitude …” a laudatory review from NewPages

IMG_20190430_stephanie roberts authorWriting is an opportunity for the pleasure of making, and being published and paid is chocolate in the Mole. What kind of electric is it when above all that goodness someone illuminates the work and publishes praise for it?

I don’t write to hear nice things about my work but it is sparkle and melody when such words are bestowed, especially from one’s peers.

sunset on rain forest

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

My deep thanks and gratitude to Katy Haas and NewPages for their supportive words for my work “Lady Fine Is for Sugar,” from an unpublished manuscript, featured in the March 2020 issue of POETRY Magazine, and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT, Haymarket Books.

2018 a review

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4 minute read

2018 was the fruition of unimagined dreams. What I need is hard to know except by experience and hindsight, as Kierkegaard said, Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – easier to muster one’s courage now in the pursuit of desire.

When I first began writing all I wanted was to approximate a certain clarity of emotion. I’d hoped and continue to hope for verse that taps my peculiar music as shared gift for the deeply reflective and compassionate person. In 2017, it was both joy and surprise when I began to be published widely. 

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Sixty-two times in 2018, I received the happy news that my work had been accepted for publication, resulting in seventy-one of my poems being published, in forty-six print and online periodicals, in five anthologies across Canada, the United States, and the UK. I had work translated, for the first time, into another language—Farsi, and I received four manuscript finalist honours and won the Poem of the Week Contest with Silver Needle Press.

I was beyond thrilled to gain three Pushcart Prize nominations from great weather for MEDIA, Crannóg Magazine, and Priestess & Hierophant Press. I also received two Best of the Net nominations to bring my total nominations for that honour to three.

IMG_20190102_222340Solitary creature that I am happy to be, I still owe thanks to several people who have supported me through a stressful period in my personal life.

I worked this past summer with Ottawa poet David O’Meara, whom I will be sharing the podium with at VERSeFest Ottawa 2019 sponsored by Arc Poetry Magazine. My initial apprehensions about letting a stranger into the solitude of my creative process proved to be unfounded. David guided my amendments using clear illustrations from his poetic ethos to question the choices he perceived as not serving the entirety of the discussed work. This exploration with him was one of last year’s highlights.edf

I thank Christian Sammartino who has now edited me across three different publications. I can’t say enough … or rather it’s impossible to say adequately! how much his encouragement and continual faith in my work has helped me hold a bold vision for my poetic.

Amy Mitchell and Aaron Schneider editors of The /tƐmz/ Review are exceptional literary citizens faithfully promoting current publications from past contributors. They have taken the time to think of me regarding other opportunities not directly related to their review, and I am grateful for this brotherly love and generosity of spirit.

cofThanks to Arc Poetry Magazine for their amazing and ongoing support in providing a mentorship and public reading opportunity—I am humbled! Thanks to the editorial team at Oxidant | Engine who accepted a mini-manuscript for publication this year, and to Alicia Cole’s dependable faith in my work.

Thanks to Lillian and The Doll you know what you’ve meant to me. Gratitude to my Twitter fam Bob Sykora (one of earth’s truly beautiful men), Bola Opaleke (who is going to do great things in poetry), James Rees, and Robert Frederic Kenter.

I had my first public reading in NYC with great weather for MEDIA in support of the terrific anthology, Suitcase of Chrysanthemums, thanks to Jane Ormerod, David Lawton, Thomas Fucaloro, and host George Wallace.

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My deepest affection and gratitude to John “Whit” Schweizer who has been, from the start of this journey, a motherfucking prince as my staunchest advocate, faithful reader, and emotionally present and loving friend.

As I’ve said elsewhere, in the work of creating it can take a breeze to bring you down but it takes a construction team of a hundred and a bucket of your blood to build one sound stanza. I’m thankful for the team in my life. I share the construction of 2018 with you.

 

hunger of a silent voice

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This is the story of the journey of a voice.

The Inflectionist Review states its mission as “publishing stark and distinctive contemporary poetry that fosters dialog between the reader and writer, between words and their meanings, between ambiguity and concept.”

It goes further to state it aims for, “…unique IMG_20171205_123054expression that resonates beyond the author’s world, beyond the page, and speaks to the universality of human language and experience.”

Considering “the universality of human language and experience.” I note that some consider poetry an art that was made to be spoken. I am conflicted by this view.  While I can be shattered by a strong recitation (and I will give you a great example soon), I write from a silent voice, and I anticipate my readers experiencing the text in like manner.

With this aesthetic, I seldom enjoy listening IMG_20171205_123610to poets read their work. It’s almost always a let down. I once felt a kind of horror when a poet reading his work revealed that he spoke with a lisp. He interrupted the inherent magic of his beautifully written verse.

Frank O’Hara is a notable exception. His adorable, insouciant, 1950s New York City, diction suits his work to the letter, but we can’t all be Frank O’Hara.

IMAG0189The poet Rachel McKibbens said in a recent interview, “I come from a school that recognized the orality of the poem as the cherry on top. It better sound good when read aloud, otherwise what’s the goddamn point?” My point is this, when I’m reading a poem the last thing I want to hear is my voice.

Readings and recordings are further complicated for me in that I don’t like to perform at all. The dramatic art is one that I have tremendous admiration for, and I’m spiritually moved by the way an IMG_20171205_122801actor can give another kind of life, to the written word, by the strength of  their interpretation.* But, I’m a writer not an actor; I resent an expectation of poet as performer, or worse entertainer.

If it were proposed, that writers illustrate their own book covers, I think we might quickly judge that, expectation of cross-disciplinary skill, as unreasonable.

IMAG0136I’m disappointed by my own recordings. I struggle to incarnate a dynamic re-interpretation of something that is perfected in the  imagination of the reader.

My recorded voice is also much much higher than I experience it in on my end. I suffer hearing it; I hear something somewhat tremulous about it, whereas, I perceive my natural speech as confident, even authoritative. Imagine thinking you sound like Barak Obama, but instead you sound like Truman Capote.

IMG_20170109_stephanie_robertsThis year, in an ongoing effort, to be attentive to the cultivation of my gifts and preferences, I decided, in spite of personal bias, to respond, in the positive, to persistent feedback that others experience my voice as pleasant.

I started recording my work currently  available only in print. Around the time I was finishing “Connections,” John Sibley Williams, co-editor at Inflectionist Review, approached me to record “Pistol Whip.”

It was easy to say, yes. His request was synchronous with the flow on the river of my journey. I hope you will listen, like it on the Inflectionist’s SoundCloud, and perhaps pass it on.

What’s your perspective on giving poetry readings? Do you love giving them? Thank you for leaving a reply below.

*Andrew Scott reads ‘Fish’ by D. H. Lawrence

photos: s. roberts