Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Q&A with poet Nanette Rayman Rivera

For today’s Q&A I had the pleasure of interviewing Nanette Rayman Rivera, a poet I met on GoodReads. She is the author of shana linda ~ pretty pretty and Project: Butterflies. Please join me in welcoming Nanette.

In shana linda ~ pretty pretty, you tackle tough social subjects such as homelessness and illness. Did you set out to do the collection as such or did the themes come through gradually in individual poems?
The themes were not gradual; they are a part of me. My wild and painful experiences made me who I am and I will always view the world the way it views me. I write about what has happened to me, what bothers me, what I hate, what I love and who I love and hate. I wrote and wrote and eventually had a collection. Writing can have a calming effect on me, but sometimes because I have so much to write about, I become overwhelmed and have to stop and do something else for a few hours or a day.

What is your process for writing poetry? Do you have any writing habits, good or bad?
My process is all over the place, just like my mind – too many thoughts at once, too many memories; I can’t keep them all in my head at the same time. Sometimes my mind feels like it’s shuffling, like you would shuffle cards and new memories come the next day, but because there are so many, the ones from the day before are almost gone. So I have scraps of paper, napkins and notebooks with things written down before they go away. Often a metaphor comes to mind, and I go further with it, even looking up animals, plants, myths, and other information on the web and before I know it, the poem has taken on more layers. I also care a lot about rhythm. My bad writing habits are smoking too much while I write and losing track of time.

The cover for shana linda ~ pretty pretty is haunting and abstract. What input were you able to give in the cover design?
Scattered Light Publications, run and owned by Cheryl and Janet Snell, allowed me to choose the cover from many of Janet’s paintings and drawings. There were so many gorgeous, creative, raw pieces, I had a hard time choosing, but I was drawn to the haunting quality of the painting and I also thought it was the perfect antithesis to the title. Janet wrote about this piece of art:

"Reflection in a Black Pool" is a drawing of a female head grounded in a sculptural bust of black and surrounded by abstract space. I think in images. My images in general mark me as a neo-German expressionist. For this drawing, I thought about the metaphysics of the image, the nature of its reality. Solving the problem of finding the right space for the figure was the next step; that’s where process comes in. The touch of the brush or pen leads me, in an intuitive way, to develop the space, which is nearly always abstract expressionist.

Image and space are the elements that focus the relationship between the figurative and the abstract. Together, they help the viewer experience the complexities of the subject I'm trying to portray.”

In addition to this book, you have a long record of poems published in periodicals. What are some of your favorite journals to read?
I love Oranges & Sardines, 13 Myna Birds, Ploughshares, blossombones, ditch, Clementine, Blue Fifth Review, Cortland Review and Superstition Review.

What are you working on now?
I am re-editing my memoir which deals in greater depth with the same subjects. I write about how our ideas of what life is supposed to be is false, that there are people—or maybe it’s just me—who for some unknown reason are “halted” and told to turn back at every attempt to overcome the original blow. I believe my book will shatter assumptions about free will. Or maybe it won't. Maybe someone reading it will write to me one day and tell me the secret of what went wrong. It is a devastating book to write and to edit. I have to keep reliving these things and at this point, I am glad I’m almost finished.

How can readers learn more about your work?
I have another poetry collection published by Foothills Publishing.

To read some of my other work, you can go to my website where I have many of the memoir and poetry pieces listed by journal.

Thanks, Nanette!

More author Q&As are coming up on the schedule, so come back for more behind-the-scenes views and news from today’s poets and prose writers.

Friday I’ll be talking about Winter Wheat: The Mid-American Review Festival of Writing, which has a ton of free events and workshops. In the meantime, visit their website here where you can register in advance for the sessions.

Thanks for dropping in today. See you Friday….