Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Obama hits on the Swedish Prime Minister. She’s got that ofay blonde hair and legs that go on forever. They’re not longer than Michelle’s, but Big O’s gotten caught up in the celebration of Mandela’s death. He’s slid into his African self, as if he’d taken a few good draughts of nitrous oxide or absinthe drinks loaded with wormwood, as if he’d torn pieces of Ethiopian spiced goat meat off a larger hunk with his sharp teeth. All the goat meat in the world, he thinks, is his. He’s the most powerful man in the world. He can eat and drink as much as he likes. He can blow up to be as fat as a deposed dictator.

Big O is looking for a slam dunk. O, this Swede is hot. Michelle is staring daggers. She’d kick the Swede’s ass in a felony fight. She reins in her man before he can scandalize himself. He’s already gone too far. He’s been leaning in, taking selfies of himself and the Swede as a couple, cheek to cheek, here at South Africa’s party to send off their Saviour.

The looks Michelle’s giving him can curdle milk. Everyone in the world sees it and knows she can be a real ball-buster. She’ll show no sweetness tonight. 

Meanwhile the translator for the deaf is hallucinating. He sees angels in the stadium, archangels carrying Mandela home. He’s scared—where are his medications? He’s suffered “anger issues.” He’s next to all these powerful leaders, but are they really leaders, he wonders, or just so-called leaders?

He knows no sign language, but he’s depending on God to carry him through. He’s three feet away from Obama, three feet away from the most powerful man on Earth. He grimaces as Obama brushes by him.

The Swedish Prime Minister knows there’s little chance for a hook-up, but maybe after they’re both out of office…

None of this shit is supposed to be happening, but there’s a warp in the fabric of the Universe caused by Mandela’s death. He was filled with spiritual power. Now unleashed, that power is having wacky effects on people, even presidents and prime ministers. That warp needs to be closed, muy pronto, before all hell breaks loose.

Inky Interview: Poet & Theatre Director Gary Beck, from New York

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

I had a difficult childhood and led an isolated life. I read fiction and drama early, but didn’t really delve into poetry until my early teens. I wrote terrible imitations of the English Romantics, Byron, Keats, Shelley, discarded them and started the search for my own voice.

Can you tell us about your poetry collection Rude Awakenings?

Rude Awakenings, unlike much of my recent work, which is often issue oriented, has diverse explorations of intimate themes, as well as broader areas of expression.

Tell us about your time as a theatre director.

It would take a long, long, long time to describe my work as a theatre director. I translated and directed the classics, as well as issue plays. I ran my own theatre from 1976 to 1996 until it was devastated by AIDS. It was the only job I ever loved. I’m currently directing one of my own one act plays and really enjoying it.

What kind of art did you deal in?

I worked for a number of galleries, then became a private dealer specializing in art of the sixties.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I write. I send out material to be published, with which I’ve had growing success. I play speed chess several times a week, and I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, novels, poetry collections, essays, plays.

Who inspires you and why?

Intelligent people trying to understand our disturbed society, for they’re the only hope for the future.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I try to never second guess myself.

Tell us a story in five words.

I build hope for tomorrow.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I once went to Baudelaire’s tomb, more of a visit than a pilgrimage.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry can touch the mind and spirit more directly than any other creative form and hopefully lead to illumination.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If it’s important enough, persevere.

What are you reading at the moment?

Herodatus and T.S. Eliot.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

More novels, essays, poetry, plays, hopefully more directing.

Gary’s website

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Poetry Drawer: Who She is Not by Karen Wolf

Like drool down a teething
baby’s chin, pleasantries roll
off her tongue. Her flattery soothes
the broken-hearted, encourages
the frustrated, comforts
the lonely—
part of who she is or who
she’s taught herself to be, not always
truthful, but expected.

She longs to strip
away her façade, level
the playing field with cruelties,
lies, baiting comments
drenched in satisfaction. Her
rebirth—
only moments away.

Pantry Prose: Company D by Steve Carr

We stand at attention as the hot wind stirs up the dirt and blows it in our faces. Out of some vague notion of self-discipline, we will ourselves not to cough or sneeze as our mouth and noses are filled with grit. The sounds that enter our ears are muffled; the drill sergeant’s voice seems to come from a distance. In this heat sweat runs down our spines and from under our arms in rivulets. Our shirts are darkened with sweat and stick to our skin. Our helmets are weights that add to the tension in our necks caused by keeping our heads up, facing forward.

I stand behind Adams. He has a first name, but I never call him by that, and I don’t call him Private Adams. We’re all privates. He was an amateur boxer before he enlisted. He stands as if he’s about to pounce on someone, like a coil ready to spring. The skin on the back of his neck is sunburnt. Its pinkness stands out amidst the colours of drab olive green and mud brown that surround it, surround all of us. I always stand behind Adams when we’re in formation. I know the shape of his back and the shade of colour of his blond hair so well I see them in my dreams, as attributes of a human figure always seen from behind.

Through the haze of heat and dust, my eyes sting and water as I try to keep them open and facing front. “Eyes front,” the drill sergeant yells enough times to make me always wonder who among us dared to glance away, and how did the drill sergeant notice something so small as an eye movement?

Peripherally, I see Bodey at my left. He grew up on a farm and enlisted to make something of himself. Sweat is pouring down his rotund face. He sways back and forth very slightly as if being gently rocked by the wind. Among the stillness of the rest of us, his almost imperceptible movement is hard to miss. I imagine reaching out my left arm and placing my hand on his shoulder to steady him, but it’s only an imagining.

A sudden gust of wind, stronger than the other, sweeps across the field and blankets Company D in a new layer of dirt. We remain steadfast against this new assault except for someone in the front of the formation who breaks into a hacking cough.

The drill sergeant’s bellowing voice suddenly echoes through the swirling dust. “What’s wrong with you, Porter? There’s no coughing while you’re standing at attention. Drop and give me twenty.”

Porter is from Norfolk where he waited tables before enlisting. There’s a hairline purple scar across his right cheek. Not that he has to, but he mostly keeps it a secret that he’s gay.

There’s a reprieve from the blowing dirt but the late afternoon sun beats down on Company D.

“At ease,” the drill sergeant calls out.

Dirt falls from my shoulders as I relax them. My boots that had been so polished before the day began have lost their sheen. Everyone is looking around, at those standing around them, as if to make sure everyone has survived. We spit out the dirt, clear it from our ears and noses, and brush it from our faces and clothes.

In that moment I look around at the rocky hills that surround us. We’re in a geological bowl.

At times even our whispers are echoed.

“Get cleaned up before chow,” the drill sergeant yells. “Dismissed.”

*

The barracks is built of wood with practically no insulation, and the accumulated noise of the forty recruits inside is a cacophony of echoes. We’re called recruits unless the drill sergeants have more unsavory names for us. The two-tiered bunk beds are lined up along the walls. A broad aisle down the middle separates the two rows. The aisle is a busy highway of recruits going to and from the bathroom or shower at the end of the barracks. This is the second time in the day that showers have been taken and the barracks is scented with steam and soap. The boisterous voices of the recruits in the shower echoes out. Because of our close proximity more than anything else, Adams, Bodey, Porter and I became friends. Our bunks are next to each other. Bodey and Porter have the bottom bunks and Adams and I have the top ones. By the tenth week of boot camp, Adams especially has become like a brother to me. Sitting on the bottom bunks facing each other we shine our boots and polish our brass belt buckles.

“I thought I was going to throw up,” Bodey says about the day in the sun.

“I’m just glad we weren’t in full gear,” Porter says as he unconsciously runs his fingertips along his scar.

“Only two more days and we graduate,” I say.

The drill sergeant enters the barracks and stands at the head of the aisle with his feet planted on the bare wood floor as if staking that part of the floor as his. All of the recruits stand at attention, arms at their sides, chests out, chins up.

“Adams,” he yells.

“Yes, drill sergeant,” Adams says as he runs into the aisle.

“Move it, recruit. On the double,” the drill sergeant says as he turns and goes out the door, followed by Adams who runs barefoot down the length of the barracks, his feet slapping on the wood.

It’s the middle of the night when I hear Adams climb into his bunk.

*

“Ain’t no sense in going home,” Company D sings in cadence. The stomping of our boots on the path between the corrugated tin supply huts generates a resounding metallic echo.

The drill sergeant sings out melodically, “Jody’s got your girl and gone.”

“Jody’s got your girl and gone,” we repeat.

“Your left, your right, now pick up your step,” the drill sergeant sings.

At the open door of a hut, we stop and stand at attention as two corporals flip sheets of paper attached to clipboards. One by one the recruits hand their helmets, pistol belts and canteens to one of the corporals, who makes a check mark by the recruit’s name and then puts the items in the hut.

I lean forward and whisper to Adams. “What did the drill sergeant want last night?”

He turns his head slightly and whispers back. “Some money was stolen. They thought I did it.”

“You didn’t do it, did you?” I say.

“Of course not.”

“Shut it back there,” the drill sergeant yells. “You haven’t graduated yet.”

*

In green dress uniforms the men of Company D enter the barracks, no longer recruits following the graduation ceremony, but soldiers. After handshakes and back slaps, with their wallets stuffed with the last pay as a recruit, most pick up their duffel bags and depart the barracks to go home for a brief leave and then onto their assignments.

At my bunk with my duffel bag open, the last things yet to be packed into it lying on my bunk, Bodey and Porter are standing nearby. Adams is sitting on his bunk fiddling with his cell phone.

“Keep in touch,” Bodey says. “Maybe we can all get together at my folks’ farm sometime for leave.”

“Sure,” the rest of us say with the same earnestness we said to our high school classmates who we’ll most likely never see again.

He and Porter turn to go.

“Porter, will you finally tell us how you got that scar?” I say.

He smiles and says, “It was really no big secret. I fell on a rake while I was playing army when I was a kid. The scar gives me an air of mystery.”

They leave the barracks, their laughter trailing behind.

Adams looks down at me, a somber expression on his face. “I’m going to miss you,” he says. “While you’re home on leave, give that kid of yours you always talk about a good tickle for me.”

There’s a sincerity in his voice that surprises me. “I will. I’ll miss you too.”

I shove the last shirt into the duffel bag and close the clasp. My hat, wallet and bus ticket are all that are left on my bunk.

“I’ll be right back,” I say. “I need to take a piss.”

The bathroom is sparkling clean and smells of floor cleaner.

When I return to my bunk, Adams is gone. I look at my bunk. My wallet is gone also.

Check out Steve’s Inky Interview

Poetry Drawer: The Drowned City by Robert Beveridge

When the water began
to fill the coalfields
I, the last inhabitant
of this city
had tied myself
to the basement post
looking for—what?—
a revelation?

Possible.

The water, coated
with coal dust,
swirled around my feet.
The rope tightened
around my neck.
The darkness
in my basement was pure.
I had to feel
the water
the coal dust

and I could feel
the great manuscripts of Florence

covered with coal
illuminated
with potential combustion
even as the water
permeated pages so thick
to be almost cloth.

As we drown
we have the potential
to burn.

What?
A revelation?
Possible.

Water around my waist now
cold as coal
cold as the mine in winter

and still the rope grows tighter
around my neck.

Water mains broke
in a thousand earthquakes
around the world last year
and flooded the streets.
Now certain third world countries
find it suitable
to sacrifice whatever
first comes to hand
on the anniversary of the flood

chickens, cows, in one
case a firstborn.

Water sustains us
but at times is our adversary.

A revelation?
Possible.

The rope soaked
and dusted.
I taste coal on my lips.
The last inhabitant
of this city,
I give myself
to whatever powers guide
these waters.

A revelation?

I wake up,
afloat,
clean.

Poetry Drawer: Lowering The Lights by Stephen Mead

Grey eyes, wolf’s, cold steel
in the glint with fire behind, steel
of a new street grid, a warmth
in that whiteness
glowing gold through the black
of its own holocaust….

Tender yet, it is animal fragrant,
mortal through the mist where
in absence, presence, absence,
we, hunted, touch through
tenements, the graffiti of city woods.

I draw close my curtains
as though inside the vestments
of your flesh robes, the fur & grey
gazes you pierce the lowered lamp
lights with,

& also my beating heart.

Check out Stephen Mead’s Inky Interview

Elf Corner: Deborah Edgeley, with Kev Milsom

Hello Deborah, and thank you for agreeing to this interview, to share some thoughts with our readers. Can I start by asking you about your literary roots? As a young one, what types of writing and books enthralled and captured your imagination?

As a child I was always passionate about books, even before I was old enough to read the ones in my parents’ library, like The Moon’s A Balloon by David Niven, and Valley of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. I used to pretend that I was a librarian, and mark their books in pencil with an imaginary name and ‘date due’.

I guess the first author that I serial-read, apart from the Ladybird books (aw, Rumpelstiltskin ) was Dennis Wheatley. The book that I remember the most is The Haunting Of Toby Jugg, a tale of satanic possession and madness of a fighter pilot, confined to his bed. It was the imagery that was vivid and believable, the character of Toby, and how easy it was to empathise with him, and, of course, the suspense of an occult thriller.

Thinking about it, I was always interested in characters and different accents. Even though I was shy at school, I jumped at the chance of reading the main characters, like Will Mossop in Hobson’s Choice and Eliza in Pygmallion, then fell back into being an introvert. My Dad used to call me Mike Yarwood.

In my twenties, my colleague Sally suggested Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. She raved about it. It looked boring to me, but I gave it a try and ended up setting my alarm for 5am, every day, so that I could read it before work. It was the character of farmer William Boldwood that fascinated me, with his obsessive pursuit of Bathsheba, buying her fancy clothes and labelling them with a ‘B’, in preparation for their phantom marriage. It was both heartbreaking and exciting at the same time. Passionate. How could an author affect you so much, with words? There began my literature obsession.

When did you first embark on the literary journey of not just admiring the works of others, but take those fascinating first steps into creative expression within poetry and writing?

I’ve always read a lot, and had/have a big collection of books. Every book I read, I make notes in the back, of ideas, favourite quotes, quirky words or concepts, or snippets of history that I am unfamiliar with. It wasn’t until I began studying with the Open University that I realised why I made these notes. I wanted to be a writer. It was only by chance that I signed up to do a Creative Writing course to fill 30 points for my English Literature degree, and I got a taste for words. Also, as an introvert, it was an excellent way for me to express myself, which I don’t really manage in speech, unless I’ve had alcohol, or no sleep. I also found that I was making sense of things as I was going along, in my notebooks, as therapy, understanding the world, feelings and people, and getting perspective, really.

Your book Testing the Delicates covers various aspects of the social stigmas relating to the breakdown of mental health. How personally challenging was this task to initially plan and create? Also, did the creative expression of these thoughts uncover any surprising emotions, with the benefit of time & hindsight?

Emotionally, it was difficult to write. Not only did I re-live painful events that some of the poems were based on, I went through a stage of worrying if this was the right thing to do, to write about such a personal subject of my mother’s mental health, and share it with the world. Would she have been ok with this? As a loving mother, I’m convinced that if the book helped somebody, if someone could identify with it, then she would think it was worth it. There was, and still is, a lot of prejudice, with regard to mental health, and it is something I detest. I wanted to give my mother, myself, and others, a voice.

You’ve recently created a deeper layer for your expressive talents via public performances of your poetry, alongside the artist/musician Mark Sheeky as duo Fall In Green. Could you share some thoughts on how this added to your initial inspirations and goals for Testing the Delicates? Do you foresee further public performances in the future?

When Testing The Delicates was first published last year, there was a local event, raising money for North Staffs & UK Mind, with a call out for performers. I thought of performing some of the poems from my collection, and Mark Sheeky suggested a piano accompaniment. The organiser, musician Glyn Sutton, asked if we had a stage name, which was something we didn’t think of, so we decided on Fall In Green, taken from Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights (we roll and fall in green…). Since then, we have done several gigs in Acton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel, Nantwich, Sandbach, Warrington and Whitchurch.

It was fun listening to the style that accompanied each poem. It seemed to bring the writing alive, in a theatrical way. For example, ‘Walking Tears’ has a sinister, funereal undertone, ‘Whose Apple Thou Art’ has a theatrical, posh, Shakespearean voice, with bits of bumpkin, and a harpsicord accompaniment, and ‘Quick Get your Lows Before they Run Out’ is spoken in an American drawl, resembling a TV advert for happiness. We also perform a canon called ‘Gauging A Life’, creating the effect of identity confusion through layering voices.

Another layer of expression and understanding was created by Mark Sheeky, who illustrated Testing The Delicates with pen and ink.

With regard to further public performances, it would be great to take our act to festivals. Performance and theatre is something I have always loved.

Aside from writing, what other forms of creative expression appeal and build inspiration for you, Deborah?

Reading. I’ve always got a book on the go. I’m reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (go and buy it) and have just finished Douglas Coupland’s Hey! Nostradamus, topical, based on the Columbine massacre. Oh, and a couple of Jeanette Winterson’s, in particular, Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Absolutely wow!

I’ve had a few guitar lessons, so would like to accompany some new poetry with strings, but it might take forever as takes such a lot of motivation for me to learn (and it hurts my fingers!).

My personal enjoyment from working at Ink Pantry focuses strongly upon the element of learning and discovering what makes other creative writers ‘tick’ and what inspires them. In this vein Deborah, what was the initial inspiration behind the creation of ‘Ink Pantry’ and what factors continue to inspire you for the future?

Aw Ink Pantry 🙂 The initial inspiration behind Ink Pantry was to find a platform to promote our work, and inspire and support other writers, ‘our’ being my comrades from the Open University: Berenice Smith, Jennie Campbell and Alyson Duncan. We had lots of other students involved. During our degrees, we managed to publish two anthologies and maintain the website. Recently, Ink Pantry we have been added to Duotrope, which has sparked international interest. We’ve connected with many authors from America, China, Italy and India. There have been rumours of a third anthology…

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Finally, the big question! What is coming next from the pen of Deborah Edgeley? New genres? Different challenges? Further creative collaborations? Do tell!

As Fall in Green, our poetry and piano duo with Mark Sheeky, we will be releasing an album of Testing The Delicates. We have been filming the videos to accompany both of our single releases. Our first single will be ‘Who is Afraid…She Floats’. It is based on Virginia Woolf and Ophelia from Hamlet. Can we take poetry into the charts? 🙂 We’re going to give it a go!

I am also working on my father’s memoirs of his army days. The working title is Charlie Stockton. One of his stories called ‘The Bridge’ was published in War Memories by Ian Billingsley, with a foreword by Norman Wisdom. He would have loved to have published his own book.

I would like to work on another poetry collection, and perhaps a short story collection. Potential themes of grief, introversion, and more mental illness. You know, the hell yeah happy stuff 😉

Elf Corner: The Awesome Kate Foster

Kate Foster is an editor, both by day and at heart. She loves nothing better than getting stuck into a manuscript and then, constructively of course, ripping it to pieces! Structural or developmental editing is her forte, particularly bringing characters to life, and she is an eternal student taking regular courses and reading blogs, articles, and books about the craft – there is always something new to learn! She works with authors preparing to self-publish, as well as those who’ve been traditionally published, but she definitely has a soft spot for teaming up with brand new writers unsure of how to move forward.

Mentoring new writers is another passion, and Kate was a middle grade mentor from 2015-2017 in the annual Pitch Wars writing contest, which is renowned for launching many authors’ careers. She has also mentored writers and judged writing in other contests such as TeenPit. She’s forever buying new books, both physical and digital – because both can and should be able to exist happily side by side – and her TBR pile is perpetually growing. As editorial director at Lakewater Press, Kate is able to make authors dreams come true by publishing their books, several of these having won awards and attracted the attention of film production companies.

Also a writer since her early years, Kate now writes mainly middle grade fiction (8-12 year olds), particularly for the upper end as she leans toward writing horror with dark content. Scaring kids is a great pastime! With three sons who like to read, she is lucky to be able to run ideas past them to gauge just how scary her works-in-progress are – middle grade is a lot about balance. After a bumpy start after taking her writing from laptop and notebook to sharing it with the big wide world, Kate finally self-published a middle-grade sci-fi called WINELL ROAD, which won an award in 2015, with two more books planned in the series. Now represented by the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, Kate is preparing to go out on submission to editors with her latest novel, a spooky children’s horror with paranormal elements.

A mum, a wife, a dog-owner, and football lover, Kate is an Englishwoman living on the stunning Gold Coast in Australia. It’s quite nice there!

Elf Corner: The Delightful Claire Faulkner

Benjamin Zephaniah, Thankyou.

I’ve confessed many times that I love poetry. I love reading it. I love writing about it. I love it when I find a poet I’ve never heard of before and can climb into their world through their writing. I love having poets and poems recommended to me, and I’m starting to re-discover spoken word and performance poetry all over again.

Recently whilst chatting with friends I was asked where my enthusiasm came from. To be honest, I’m wasn’t sure. I was always encouraged to read and be creative, but none of my immediate family had any interest in the arts when I was growing up. The question left me quietly curious, and I began to wonder where did my enthusiasm come from?

I have vague memories of learning about alliteration at primary school. I remember writing a poem about a witch’s cat when I was 8 or 9, and then nothing until my GCSE’s. No, I’m wrong. There was something just before my GCSE’s. There was a Saturday TV show and it was called ‘A Beetle Called Derek’.

It was the first show to teach me about the environment, about animal rights and about ethical consumerism. Three issues which I’m still passionate about. The show also had a poet. Benjamin Zephaniah, who appeared in each episode performing a poem relating to that week’s topic. One of those poems was ‘Eco Warrior A Beetle Called Derek’.

The poem is about a new kind of beetle discovered in the forest which is then destroyed by humans. I remember being totally captivated by the words, by the rhythm and the topic. This was the first poem which seemed to speak to me directly about issues I cared about. I had no idea poetry could be so powerful and personal at the same time. From then on, I was hooked on poetry. I read as much as I could find in the school library. Some of it I didn’t understand, but that didn’t seem to matter. If I kept reading, I might find another poem that spoke to me in the same way ‘Derek’ had. I’ve been reading poetry ever since.

It was 1990. I was too young to have a bank account, I asked Mum to write a cheque, so I could send off for the information pack which was advertised on the show. When it arrived, I was delighted to see that it had copies of all the poems from the series. I copied ‘Derek’ out by hand for friends, and even sent it to my American pen pal. I still have that information pack. I keep it on the bookshelf with all the other poetry anthologies and chapbooks I’ve collected over the years.

In 2018 the poem still inspires me just as much as it did in 1990. I knew that it sparked my interest in animal welfare, but I didn’t realise that it started my love affair with poetry.

Benjamin Zephaniah, Thankyou.

Inky Interview: Shannon Donaghy from Montclair State University, New Jersey

You are a junior majoring in English at Montclair State University. What texts are you studying?

Nothing currently. I just finished a semester abroad with Semester at Sea, so my English classes on the ship mostly focused on literature from all of the different countries we visited. At my home university, however, it depends on the class, but I mostly study poetry. This coming semester I will be studying YA Lit in one of my classes, which is exciting. My favorite book I’ve studied so far, I think, is Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. It was very cool to read and fall in love with a book I was studying, then have an opportunity, by some twist of fate, to visit the country it was written about. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity, as a student of a major that primarily works on paper, to experience the physicality of my studies; witnessing the things one reads and dreams about is a rare and beautiful thing.

What is it you love about poetry?

I think I value poetry over other kinds of literature because there are no rules unless you want there to be. Poetry is literally open-ended, it can be anything, it is anything! I think I like setting my own limits, being able to break them on my own terms, and following behind the narratives I write as they manifest in front of me, no matter where they take me. The possibilities are endless, and I think being able to create something out of nothing with any kind of comprehensive narrative, not to mention a good something, is a skill I find invaluable, and I wish others saw the merits of it that I do.

Another thing I love about poetry is how diverse it is. The term “poetry” encompasses a lot, and like everything else in the world, it’s not for everyone, but only in the broad sense. It’s not for everyone in that not everyone is going to love everything. There are so many different kinds of poetry and poets out there; odds are if you don’t love one thing, you’ll find something else that speaks to you. The most frustrating thing is the misconceptions people hold about poetry that keep them from exploring the genre.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I mostly write about nature and the relationships in my life, though after this most recent chapter, having circumnavigated the world on a ship, I find myself writing a lot about travelling, the ocean, and my perspective as it’s changed while I was voyaging. I care about my place in the world, that of other people, and the unfathomable diversity of the world. I’m in this transitional period where I’m slowly but surely becoming an adult, and so all the angst has been taken out of my literary sails; I’m much more grounded and aware, I think, with my ponderings nowadays, and I consider each poem a pondering, a grasp at the answers to questions unknown. I care about a lot of things, and it’s hard to condense that into a more tangible passion, so that it becomes something that manifests in my art, but I think the core of it might just be humanity and all of the nuances of being a person.

How do you think technology is affecting humans in today’s society?

I think technology is having both a positive and negative impact on society. If we look at social media, for example, on the one hand it promotes interconnectedness and communication, and for some speaking through social media can give them a voice they might not otherwise have. I also think there’s something to be said about the ability to communicate with someone on the complete opposite side of the globe with a tiny little rectangle you can fit in your pocket. It is becoming extremely special to me to be able to communicate readily with the people I have met in my travels, as well as my old friends, each of us scattered to different corners of the country after graduating high school and going off to college. Social media is also an incredible way to spread information; I don’t recommend using something like Twitter as a news source, but there have been times where I wouldn’t have known that something was happening (and then gone on to research it on my own) if I hadn’t opened my social media. Inversely, social media does, at surface level, appear to be an abyss of nonsense, and the more trivial things are obviously a negative contribution. This goes for all kinds of technology, I think. For every advance it provides there’s potential negatives. I think it comes down to the manner in which we use technology, which ultimately is up to you, and the very least we can do is keep our feet on the ground while our heads are in the clouds.

Describe a typical day in your life.

As of right now, my life has recently taken a startling, brakes-screeching halt. About two weeks ago, I was still riding the tail end of a 112-day-long voyage around the world, to 12 different countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe, barely even stopping to breathe. So, I think it’s safe to say the “typical day” is ever-changing for me. The contrast between the full-throttle of non-stop travel and my sedentary home life has been a culture shock in itself, but a welcome change. Right now, my typical day consists of me meandering awake at my leisure, nowhere special to be, drinking at least one cup of coffee before getting myself ready, and the rest of the day is a product of my to-do list. Lately, I’ve been grabbing meals with friends as they return home for the summer, though when I have no plans, I find myself either reading or writing. My house is on two acres of woods, so I spend a lot of time doing so outside while my dog, Angel, romps around the yard. The end of the day is normally spent either out with friends or facetiming the friends who live too far away to visit. I wouldn’t say this is normal for me, but I am in a particularly transitional time, and it’s looking like this is what the summer will be for me.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I think this question would have been easier for me to answer four months ago. That being said, I don’t know that I have an answer to this question. It’s hard to think of one singular thing that wouldn’t cause literally every other aspect of existence to change along with it. In the interested of keeping things simple, I think I would change the way language barriers affect communication. I’m not sure how to go about this – it hasn’t happened for a reason, right? – but assuming my answer doesn’t need to make full sense, I would want the differences in language  between people to be less politically and socially charged. The root of any kind of negative interaction, I’ve found, is misunderstanding, so if we could somehow minimize the misunderstanding in interlanguage communication, I think the world would be a much better place.

Who inspires you and why?

I think the people who inspire me the most are my friends, to be honest. It’s really important to me to have a support system of people who raise each other up and cheer each other on. Knowing that at least one person loves and appreciates the effort I put into my work keeps me going. My mother also inspires me, but in slightly different ways. My mom stayed at home with my sister and I until we were maybe 12 and 14, simply because she wanted to watch us grow up. Before that, she was a full-time accountant, then became a lunch lady at our school so that she could still be home for us if we needed her. Once we were mostly self-sufficient young adults, she decided to go back to work as a bookkeeper, and she now has her own company. My mom taught me that there’s no right or wrong time to do something big and milestone-esque in your life. Watching her professional journey showed me that I can do everything I want to do in my life, that I have plenty of time to accomplish everything I’d like to accomplish, and that there’s no shame in doing what you feel is right for yourself, even if it goes against the vision of the path everyone else might have in mind for you. Ultimately, she taught me that it’s my life, and I should do with it as I see fit.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I think so, yes, in two different ways. The first has been about me moving away from YA as I get older and learning what kind of stories I want to not only read, but write as well. This particular pilgrimage has been forcing me to look at things from all different perspectives, and I think the more literature I consume, the more I shape my own perspective. The other pilgrimage I’ve been on is immersing myself into the world of poetry in general. It’s so hard to get into something like poetry, and for me, it took roughly three years to find where I fit into the fabric of it. Poetry is such a big, daunting world, there’s so many different kinds of poetry, and if you have no idea where to start it’s hard to guess and hope you find something that speaks to you. All of this, especially because poetry books are so expensive. I am still very much growing into poetry and trying new things, trying to find more things that speak to me, but for the most part it feels more like a fun adventure now that I mostly know what to look for, as opposed to an intimidating task I really had to push myself to work at before.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I am currently writing two different books at the moment, both of which I hope to have published eventually. Both are inspired by, and a product of, my Semester at Sea voyage. The first is a collection of poetry I wrote while on my voyage. I somehow happened to start a notebook on the first day of my voyage and end it on the very last, which is the happiest accident I’ve enacted, I think. So I have been attempting to edit a full notebook’s worth of poems into a comprehensive collection. I have also been working on a short story collection about different kinds of stray animals I noticed in some of the countries I visited on my voyage. I’m planning on writing it from the perspective of each different stray – each chapter will be a different animal from a different country, and I’m going to attempt to thread myself and sometimes my friends into the background of each story, almost like a cameo, so that you can follow my path as I progress along my journey. Other than that, I’ve been writing like the wind and trying my best to get some stand-alone pieces out there.