Finally, I’m getting around to these. Our first interview is with Natalie Byers, who contributed “The Discovery of Oz, The Terrible” to our third and latest issue. It’s also our best selling issue (largely due to one author and her supportive friends, but still), and if you haven’t bought one yet, find out what you’re missing by clicking the “Buy” tab above.
Now, here’s Natalie’s interview. Let me just say I totally agree with her views on narrative structure and on supporting your local literary magazine.
Describe your poetry in 25 words or less.
Straight forward narrative, mostly autobiographical and/or confessional. Alliteration and specific cadences are nice, but I’m not big on lyric.
Tell me about your poem “The Discovery of Oz, The Terrible.”
My brother, Chris, was one of the victims of the 1993 West Memphis child murders. Since that tragedy, my biological father, Mark Byers, has made himself a white trash reality celeb. I liken him to the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Anyway, I don’t communicate with him, but sometimes I torture myself by pretending I’m Sherlock Holmes and searching the interwebs trying to solve the murders, as if that’s ever going to happen. Also, it’s an unfortunate trend I have noticed with many people: finding their estranged parents through social media sites in a rather sad state. It really deletes any false hope kids may have about parents they don’t have a relationship with.
How much writing do you do, considering you’re a mother and a grad student?
I actually write quite a bit. I don’t, however, have a social life. Any moment of free time or mind space I find, I’m writing. I’m either thinking about something I’m working on, editing in my head, or making little notes when and where I can. We have a storage shed out back that I pretend is my studio/office and I often freeze my ass off out there at night after my kids are asleep. I also don’t really watch television or have any idea what’s going on in the “real” world. Like most writers, I tend to live inside my head, which is great for writing, but terrible for relationships of any kind.
What or who inspires you to write?
I know it’s cliche, but anything and everything. Mostly the dark beauties in life.
What authors have influenced you as a writer?
Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Andrew Hudgins, Sara Burge, Marcus Cafanga, Sandra Cisneros, Lynda Hull. The list is pretty extensive, those are a few.
What are you working on right now?
My thesis. I’m trying to expand on the straight narrative a little. I think a straight narrative is enough, but there are a lot of hoighty-toighty editors who say, “Nay, there must be more!” So, I’ve been bringing in pop culture and trying to fuse it with my narratives. I think a lot of beginning writers have serious anxiety about being fresh and creating something new, but frankly, it’s all been done. Instead of trying to sneak in my references or skirt the fact that my poems are influenced by someone or something else, I’m just putting the reference right on the page. If my audience catches the reference immediately, great, if not, I’m hoping the poem is compelling enough to cause my reader to do a little research.
Do you have a blog or a website?
Nope and I probably won’t be creating one any time soon.
Any advice for other writers?
Read three times as much as you write. Write, edit, write, edit, write, edit until you absolutely hate your work. Read the journal/magazine you want to be published in BEFORE you submit. Subscribe to them if possible, if not, ask your library to order an issue. No one else is going to support this crap if you’re not even willing to. If you don’t, you’re the asshole who plays a show, but doesn’t bother sticking around for the other bands. Don’t be that guy. Don’t write to be cool, hip, or make money, but because there’s something inside that won’t stop thumping until it comes out.