Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these fiction writers you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Kari A. Flickinger
was a 2019 nominee for the Rhysling Award, and a finalist in the Iron Horse Literary Review’s 2018 Photo Finish. Her poetry has appeared in Written Here: The Community of Writers Poetry Review, Riddled with Arrows, Door-Is-A-Jar, Dark Marrow, Rhythm and Bones, Moonchild Magazine, Nine Muses, Burning House Press, and Ghost City Review, among others. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley. When not writing, she plays guitar to her unreasonably large Highlander cat.
Find her: kariflickinger.com @kariflickinger legendcitycollective.wordpress.com
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Love and trees, maybe. I spent my childhood wandering aimlessly through the mountains of Northern California. Poetry is love. Lovers inspire me to write. And I don’t mean between the sheets, necessarily. I mean the way we show love in our world. The way I have been cared for, and have been shown how to care. The way I can extend care.
At the same time, my infinitely shit grasp on communicating with others also inspires me to write. Poetry makes all of my worst personality traits beautiful. I’m obsessive, destructive, at times unkind due to my scrutiny of my environment—a bit oblivious. I’m bipolar—I flip a lot, and process slowly. But all of these traits help me build like an ocean on the page. I unfold, align, take up space, and it all swells into a crescendo. Learning to read from all directions has helped me write from all directions.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
As a kid, I stumbled into poetry. I picked up these big fat books that were impossible for a little Kari to understand, and I consumed them. I was a weird kid. I told people I was going to be a poet and write the “Great American novel”. I was like eight years old. I was exposed to poetry at Renaissance festivals as a kid, too. My mom was a seamstress for years, and we would hawk for various shops, or join parades, and it was all very over-the-top Shakespearean. I like to think those years taught me how to read nuance.
But, the first time I was aware of loving poetry was when I read a book about unicorns from a local library. I checked that book out so many times. No other budding child-poets were going to gather inspiration from THAT copy! (I just looked it up, it was The Unicorn Treasury edited by Bruce Coville. I can’t believe I’ve just shared this story. Just ordered a copy online. What a time to be alive.)
I knew poetry would become my life when I read E. E. Cummings’ “[buffalo bill’s]” in high school. The configuration and rhythm fascinated me. My schoolgirl crush: E. E. Cummings. I wrote this poem out in my notebooks the way most girls write their crush’s last name in hearts.
Later, I think I became poetry when I read Marianne Moore’s “The Paper Nautilus” in community college.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I wasn’t until I went to get my formal education after turning thirty. I went to Diablo Valley College and knocked those survey courses out, and every day was a new expansion. I mean, do you know what it’s like to fall in love every day? I started getting migraines from reading and loving. Suddenly, there was Donne, Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Coleridge, Keats and Milton. There was Beowulf, and Chaucer. And it was love everywhere.
And it’s absolutely a problem that these are all old white fellas from one region of the world (some of which were stealing their poetry from their sister’s journals—cough, cough, Wordsworth, cough.) But, how do you abate love when it appears? How do you deal with that?
When I got into UC Berkeley, the reverence for these fellas was almost too much, at times. The boys’ club is still very much alive, but I think that’s changing and being part of that change is brilliant.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I write when I do. I’m very self-motivated, so I can walk away when something isn’t working, and come back to it later with fresh eyes, and it doesn’t hold me up for years. I write most days. Until recently, I had written almost every day for about two years. But it’s not a hard fast rule because I hate rules, and I immediately throw them out when I make them. Writing just happens. I’ve begun to trust my gathering phases or downtime. I’m unreasonably prolific. If I get manic, I clean the house and write into the night.
5. What motivates you to write?
Usually either piecing together observations—sewing together ideas that don’t necessarily belong together, or deconstructing. I love to build and destroy. Poetry is like a Lego set you can take with you everywhere, and work on anytime. Or an inexplicably meaningful blanket-fort. That’s a weird answer. I basically said writing motivates me to write.
6. What is your work ethic?
It’s absurdly strong. I put myself into anything I work on. I’ve held jobs since I was 15 years old. I often walked two miles back and forth between my first job and home, (not necessarily through the snow.) I had extremely strong, nearly obsessive follow-through all my life until recently when I worked through several diagnoses. It’s made me take a step back, and examine what I have time for. Should I write and research for hours, and not eat or go outside? No. No, I should not do that. I’m squishy and I’m 35, and the body can’t take that madness, anymore. But, I admit I love to work on writing. I love to edit. I never stop. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking of how I could be. It’s a compulsion. I have cancelled life obligations to stay home and write.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Music shaped me, first. I was a musician, I played guitar and wrote songs. My family was very musical. I would walk to this old record store with this bearded wizard looking man, and buy records for 25 cents and listen. I listened very loudly, then.
Teens-Kari found: E.E. Cummings, the poemphone poets, the beats, the constellation of sixties rock—The Doors, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles—it was all this absurdist spoken word kaleidoscopic thing really. Eventually, I found how to be brutal and honest by listening to Tori Amos.
Twenties-Kari found: Bukowski, because of-course-she-did. Those were hard years, love-wise.
Thirties-Kari has found: Robert Duncan and Czesław Miłosz. Sharon Olds. Lorine Niedecker. Roethke. Södergran. Rilke. Yeats. Merwin. Glück. Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
The why: I love writers who burst through language to annihilate the expected. It’s extremely difficult to balance complexity of construction with what is real. I love when a piece is a little bit instructive, part knife-to-the-gut with a dash of the order of humanity’s place in the universe, and a sprinkle of science.
The who: I’ll start with my brothers-of-the-word, Nicholas Yingling, and Dylan Heier-Ross—two of the most brilliant beautiful human beings, and most stunning writers a person could possibly hope to encounter. My writing friends Sterling Farrance, Bree Cassells, Tessa Rissacher, Ian Sheerin, and Kim Harvey.
Then my Writing Collective, they are all amazing writers cultivated by the wonderfully talented C. Aloysius Mariotti: legendcitycollective.wordpress.com.
I admire Jessica Barksdale, Brenda Hillman, Bob Hass, Lyn Hejinian, Tess Taylor, Brenda Shaughnessy, Sharon Olds, Jorie Graham, Morgan Parker, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Joy Harjo, Rae Armentrout, Matthew Zapruder, Aaron Poochigian, and K. Weber.
At Berkeley and the Community of Writers, I was so incredibly privileged to work with a few of the above-named folks, and I genuinely felt like an imposter. It’s an insane time to be writing. There are so many working amazing living breathing reading loving poets—it would be impossible to name who inspires me. Chances are, if I’ve encountered you, and your poetry, I admire what you’re doing. I seem smug, but that’s just my face. I secretly love you all.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I would never say anything if I didn’t write it down first.
And I do other things, I walk in botanical gardens, play guitar, work for a financial institution, eat tacos and watch bad television. But, something in me is always forming the next piece. I keep a notepad next to me when I’m driving. I sit at this long stoplight after work everyday, and write.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Write something down—you’re a writer. Labels are a huge myth created by this square little system. Claim your label. Practice. Observe. Love. And, this is especially for young women, you don’t owe anyone your “humbleness”. Buy into yourself. Promote yourself. Time to yourself is self-love. Believe in what you can do because you are capable.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have a handful of poems I really love coming out in the next few months, one is inspired by Molly Bloom’s monologue at the end of Ulysses, and songs by Cake, and Concrete Blonde. Also, a couple poems about my struggles with my mental health; one about Ceres (celestial and myth.) Some about Taco Bell and Sappho. One about sound-bathing at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden for the Summer Solstice last year.
I have several larger projects in some level of construction. A chapbook on liminality that is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses; I’ve started writing shorts in dialogue with various folktales, and a dialogue with Italo Calvino’s Complete Cosmicomics. I also have a chapbook on myth and limerence that explores the ramifications of the idealized poetic object (features poems to an avalanche of exes.) And I’ve been doing a lot of pieces based in sound—partitioned by the movements in specific pieces of music, or samplings of pop-culture.
I think sometimes people read my work and think there’s too much going on. But this is my brain. I have been accused of not showing enough heart in my work before; there is heart there—a lot of it—but like me, you might have to dig to get there.
My latest project (this is an on-going project):