Helen Vitoria is a poet and founder of a brand spanking new poetry journal, Thrush. In an effort to soften her up so she'll publish me (jk) I spoke with her about her new endeavor.
Me: You just started a new journal, Thrush. Can you tell me a little about the aesthetic of the journal?
Helen: Cort, first of all thank you so much for this interview.
THRUSH, features only poetry. It is bimonthly, with a special Inaugural Issue in December 2011. Aesthetically, the design (I love the final product) is simple and elegant, focusing only on the poems and poet. I wanted an uncluttered atmosphere in which to present the poems, thus leaving all focus entirely on the work we present. It will feature no more than ten poems per issue.
As far as the poems themselves, I am looking for work that is emotive, stirring, a unique voice that will leave a lasting impression with the reader, and perhaps have them return and read the poems again and again, print them. It would be great if a reader stumbled upon a poem they love and then sought to find more poems from a particular poet. Open up a whole new relationship between the reader and poetry itself.
Me: What inspired you to start a new journal?
Helen: There are so many journals that I adore. But, very few if any feature poetry alone. Not all poets write fiction. I want THRUSH to be the journal poets turn to, when they have a poem they want presented in a special way. I love poetry and I think part of me always wanted a journal I can submit to that just features poems. The on line journals that feature fiction, interviews, and art are gorgeous, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed on the site itself. I wanted to present something different.
Ultimately, I guess I started THRUSH because it’s a journal where I would want to submit my poems to.
Me: Have you found that editing affects your own writing?
Helen: So many things affect my own writing. Poets I admire, a community workshop I teach each month, and certainly editing my own journal.
Someone asked me once: What is it that your poems are about? My answer to that is the human condition. I write about the things we all experience - love, loss, hurt, sex, death, the ways people fail one another, etc. As personal as my work is to me, there is no greater compliment than when someone outside the writing community reads a poem I wrote and takes the time to find me and email me telling me how my work affected them. Surprising to me, at times that happens and it always validates something about my poems and leaves me feeling as if I have accomplished the greatest thing a poet can do.
Me: Can you tell me a little about your writing routine?
Helen: My routine varies, I write in my head all day long, no matter what I am doing. I write in my car while driving and record notes into the voice recorder on my phone. I try to make time each day to sit and write, or draft at least one poem, either on my laptop, or on paper. Usually, early in the morning or late at night. I write in complete silence and hope the phone does not ring, and I do not get interrupted. Almost immediately, even with a draft, I read the poem out loud, my dogs are the listening audience. For me, reading my poems out loud helps me with editing, tweaking. It somehow gives life to the poem, almost instantly, and then it helps me to find the direction I want it to go in.
Me: Tell me a little about Corn Exchange, your forthcoming collection?
Helen: Corn Exchange should be out in late November of this year. It’s my first full length collection. Many poems in it are scattered in different journals, the book brings them all together. It’s divided into three sections of poems. Each section represents work from a different period of my personal life.
Me: What has your experience been like working with Scrambler Books?
Helen: I love Scrambler. Jeremy Spencer has made this process so easy for me. I was not sure what to expect, but he makes it all so relaxed. Scrambler approached me back in late 2009, I had a poem that came out in [PANK], the poem was “we were horses”, in my bio I mentioned I was working on a full length collection. A few weeks later, I heard from Jeremy and he asked if I had a publisher. Of course, I did not, and my collection was still in the beginning stages of how I envisioned it. Also, at that point, there was so much more work I wanted to get in journals. I asked if he would wait till I had the collection complete, and he did, it took another year plus. Jeremy is super patient, and I love that he is no pressure. I don’t have a place for pressure when I write. When I finally sent him the completed manuscript, somewhere in my mind I thought well, it will be okay if he no longer is interested. But his notes back to me were wonderful. Since I am a huge believer of fate, I feel Corn Exchange is exactly where it belongs.
Me: Can you tell me a little about your novel(la) in verse, Amsterdam?
Helen: Amsterdam is a book of poems that will tell a story, all the poems are titled Amsterdam as well. It is still in the beginning stages, my hope it to have it completed by Spring 2012, with a total of fifty to sixty short prose poems when complete. Then I hope to find a home for it.
With THRUSH starting up, and other things I am working on, I hope to invest a great deal of time into Amsterdam this coming winter.
Me: Who are your biggest influences?
Helen: I have so many that I love, a few are: TS Eliot, Anne Sexton, Roberto Bolaño, Pablo Neruda, George Seferis, Lucille Clifton, at least another hundred more.
Me: Who’s writing the killer poetry these days?
Helen: Alex Lemon, Kim Addonizio, Carol Frost, Carolyn Forché, Traci Brimhall, Ada Limón, Eleni Sikélianòs, Jeffrey McDaniel, Alison Stine, Kimberly Johnson, John Poch, Nathalie Handal, Anis Mojgani. I could go on for a long time, I feel I am living at a time when some of the best poetry in history is being written.Recently, I have stumbled upon two poets (Tess Patalano, Alexis Orgera) whose work was so outstanding, it instantly left me wanting to read everything they have written and seek out all future work.
Me: Who will history remember?
Helen: All those and many more. History should remember all of us who write poems, we write what we are passionate about, from deep inside us. Poems are our way to sharing who we are. If one is brave enough to share publicly on that level that should not be forgotten easily. For me, the written word is history, it’s timeless.
Me: What are you working on now/next?
Helen: Besides Amsterdam, I just completed and submitted a chapbook titled 1611. I submit to journals I adore, and want to see my work in. I am pouring allot of myself into THRUSH. Some days, I wake up and decide, today I am writing a small chapbook. I try not to plan too much, I sort of go with what I am feeling at the time.