Bryan R. Monte – An Interview with Kim Addonizio

Bryan R. Monte
Now We’re Getting Somewhere
An Interview with Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio is the author of eight poetry books, her most recent being Now We’re Getting Somewhere (2021), four fiction books, two books on prosody and writing, and one memoir. Her poetry book Tell Me (2000) was nominated for a National Book Award. Mortal Trash (2016) won the 2017 Paterson Poetry Prize. Addonizio’s other distinctions include Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also a flautist and harmonica player, who occasionally performs her poetry accompanied by her own music. Her poetry is known for its street sensibility, sexuality, and her love of the blues. Addonizio graciously accepted Amsterdam Quarterly’s request for an interview about her most recent book, Now We’re Getting Somewhere.

Bryan R. Monte: Kim, I’d like to begin with some questions about the first pages of your new book, Now We’re Getting Somewhere. First, I’d like to enquire about your selection of the book’s title, its dedication, and its two epigraphs. How did you choose its title, which you’ve taken from the terminal line of a poem entitled ‘Small Talk’ in the book’s second section? What does this title refer to?

KA: It started out as an ironic title; now, maybe, as we emerge from 2020, it’s slightly more hopeful. Or maybe not. This past year has been one, in general, where no one has gotten anywhere. I had a different title for a long time, but as 2020 progressed, I changed it.

BRM: Who are ‘The Makers’ to whom you’ve dedicated this book? Are they past and/or present writers or artists? Or is the reference more obscure like T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland dedication to Ezra Pound as il miglior fabbro (the better craftsman) from Canto 26 of Dante’s Purgatorio?

KA: As many poets know, poiesis comes from ancient Greek and means ‘to make’. The makers are poets, and by extension, more generally, those who create rather than those who seek to destroy.

BRM: Lastly, why did you choose the two epigraphs, the first from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ about an a lying leader and a world populated by liars and cheats, and the second by Elizabeth Taylor about alcohol, beauty, and keeping it together?

KA: The Cohen song, ‘Everybody Knows’, famously describes an unjust world. The lying leader is self-evident. And yeah, ‘keeping it together’ is pretty much the advice. Those represent what I think of as the two poles of the book, the social/political and the self.

BRM: Now let’s talk about the book itself. It’s divided into four sections entitled ‘Night in the Castle’, ‘Songs for Sad Girls’, ‘Confessional Poetry’, and ‘Archive of Recent Uncomfortable Emotions’. It contains poems about writing, sex, alcohol, ageing, hookups in bars, ex-lovers, politics, climate change, legacy, among others. These are quite varied themes. How did you manage to blend them together into one book and how long did that take?

KA: The subjects just reflect what it’s like to live in the world; I don’t see them as disparate. Human life is multi-layered and I think the poems reflect that. There are drafts of a couple of poems starting around 2015; the latest were finished in 2020.

BRM: This book really starts off with a bang with ‘Night in the Castle’ about a poet on a writing grant in an Umbrian castle, with a scorpion twitching on the wall and ending with the speaker’s fantasy sweeping the centuries of what she would do if she were a duchess. Why did you decide to begin your book with this poem?

KA:—Castles and empire, privilege and entitlement, violence and power—seemed like a good place to open a collection. Not sure what you mean by “sweeping the centuries.” The poem actually ends with these lines:

Meanwhile the scorpion is still there twitching slightly
reciting something about violence & the prison of ego

& I can hear the clashing armies on the wide lawn outside
sinking down into history & then standing up again

—which is my (probably somewhat oblique) reference to the last stanza of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’. I found it in a novel as a teenager, and it has always affected me; later, in high school, I memorized the whole poem. It was, I think, my first encounter with real poetry, outside of some charming nursery rhymes and Robert Louis Stevenson verses.

BRM: In addition, I noticed that in this book, your poems, in the last section especially, have longer lines, which sometimes spill over to the line below. Is it because your thoughts were so big that you couldn’t fit them into one line? Did you consciously embrace this new style or did it just happen spontaneously?

KA: Long lines, alas, hardly guarantee big thoughts. But, yes, I did find that I liked the long, unspooling lines as a way of thinking things through. I first used long lines over twenty years ago, in Tell Me. I’m drawn to them, but I’m equally drawn to the kind of compression shorter lines and poems ask for.

BRM: Furthermore, there don’t seem to be as many formalist poems—sonnets, such as ‘High Desert’, New Mexico’ (Section 2), and ‘The Truth’, and ‘The Miraculous’ (Section 4), or villanelle, palindromes, etc. in this book as in some of your previous books. Are you moving away somewhat from formalist poetry?

KA: I’d love to be writing more sonnets, or at least sonnet-like fourteen-liners. But it has just seemed that lately the energy of the voice has manifested itself in those longer lines.

BRM: Your love affair with John Keats, however, lives on in your poems ‘Still Time’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You John Keats’, the latter in which you imagine yourself ‘falling through a wormhole….with medicines sewn in my pantaloons’. Why, of all your loves, do you think this one seems the most enduring?

KA: I wouldn’t say the most enduring, but I do love Keats. I think almost every poet is in love with Keats. I can’t say why. A Romantic poet who died young and had a startling ability to capture sensual experience—all that is part of it, I guess. Early brilliance, a life cut short. And when you can actually go visit the room he lay dying in, and look out the window by the Spanish Steps in Rome and see what he must have seen, and look at the same ceiling he looked at—it’s a powerful experience.

BRM: One of the most popular poems in this collection is ‘To the Woman Crying in the Next Stall’. Was this an actual event you witnessed and reported, was it taken from various experiences, or was it created almost entirely from your imagination?

KA: I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been in this situation, listening to someone sob one stall over. I think it struck whatever chord it did on social media because every woman has been there, and because it’s a poem of solace and hope, which are sorely needed.

BRM: How did you begin to write this poem? Did it come in pieces, a few lines here or there, or in one big block? How long did it take to write?

KA: Honestly, I don’t remember the writing process for that particular piece.

BRM: One the most striking aspects of this book is the ‘Confessional Poetry’ which I think is its most experimental section. Some of these poems are no more than one line. How did you start to write this section? Was there a specific event that triggered it, or did you just collect many confessional, short poems or thoughts?

KA: It’s one poem, spread over about twelve pages with very few lines per page. I can’t imagine these being read separately, though I guess some lines could stand alone. There’s an argument being examined, a line of thinking to follow from the first lines to the last: ‘It’s this. No, it’s this’. The decision to break it out from a page or so to spreading lines over several pages was a late decision, one of those flashes you get: Hey, what would this be like? I wanted to give each thought a little space, to slow down the pace, so each could be considered before you moved on. By the way, I don’t think the poem is ‘confessional’. I think it’s an essay about what we mean by ‘confessional’, and it’s an interrogation of what that label means. It’s performative, a role to inhabit. I expect it to be widely misunderstood.

BRM: My favourite line in the ‘Confessional Poetry’ section is ‘Not wearing waterproof mascara while you’re being tasered’. What is your favourite?

KA: That’s probably my favourite, too. Like: Here you are destroying me and asking me to conform to some standard of beauty; why don’t you fuck off?

BRM: Why do you think there are so many poems about desire, decay, disease and death in this book, especially in the last section entitled ‘Archive of Recent Uncomfortable Emotions’?

KA: As the Buddha pointed out, the terms of life are the inevitability of suffering, illness/old age, and death. The next question is, how does one respond to that, knowing this is what constitutes mortal life? You can give up; or you can make, create, find love, be kind, and especially have a sense of the absurd and some good laughs along the way.

BRM: Many of the poems in this book are related to the speaker’s legacy as a writer. For example in the second section in ‘Ghosted’ the speaker laments “Nothing is being named after me’. In ‘Confessional Poetry’, a male critic is ‘indexing my sins’ and ‘Supergluing my clitoris to the pillar of historical irrelevance’ or in ‘Art of Poetry’ in the final section, the speaker imagines her work discovered ‘sometime before the death of the sun’. Do you feel ‘Time’s winged chariot hurrying near’?

KA: Oh, sure. Who doesn’t? ‘Let us sport us while we may’, as Marvell’s seducer says.

BRM: What do you think your writer’s legacy will be?

KA: I don’t really think about my legacy. I’m just trying to write good poems, to make them as well as I can, and hope they find the people who need them.

BRM: Two lines which especially caught my attention in this book are ‘I really like feeling something when I stagger into a poem / & having a place to lie down’ (from ‘Confessional Poems’) and ‘Eventually you have to go out and walk around in the world like you belong / there (from ‘The Art of Poetry’). Do you feel that poetry is your home?

KA: Yeah, I do feel it’s my home. I’ve published novels and books of stories, but poetry is where my heart is.

BRM: Have you got any future projects or books in the works which you would like to share with AQ’s readers at this time?

KA: I’m slowly working on a handful of essays and some new poems. I’m pretty tapped out right now, though, so it’s going to be a while before anything coalesces into another book. In the meantime, some friends just gave me a banjo and I’m having a great time learning to play it. I’m figuring out this beautiful old Stephen Foster tune, ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’, written in 1854. Mavis Staples does a soulful rendition. I’m also looking forward to doing a bunch of virtual readings for the new book, and, someday being able to get back out into the larger world.

BRM: Kim Addonizio, thank you very much for your time and your responses.

KA: My pleasure.           AQ

Ian C. Smith – One Hundred Years Ago

Ian C. Smith
One Hundred Years Ago

When the Wright Brothers flew
one hundred odd haphazard yards, today’s
skyscrapers were only imagined silhouettes
piercing an innocence of cloud-scudded sky,
like the pyramids and the Eiffel Tower.

Going through the musty belongings
of my adventurous landlord, another old pilot,
newspapers, magazines, ghosts
crying out from bundled archives,
I found a thin red book, clothbound,
Exerpta Therapuetica in gold lettering
published back then by a drug company.
Bubonic plague spreads from Adelaide to Sydney.
The Black Death. Rats. Buboes bursting.
The book advises on home treatment,
ventilation, rest, medicines of the day.
My mind, skittering from the horror,
admires the onionskin pages.
Their fraught sickbeds offered some consolation,
brandy, beer, and stout are all prescribed.
Imbecilic with dread, I would need the brandy.

It has grown late while I inhabit the past,
So few sounds of tyres on a wet road
during lockdown, so deathly quiet.
I raise this exquisite book, sniff its cryptic odour.

Meryl Stratford – Night’s Candles

Meryl Stratford
Night’s Candles

I went to the movies
wept over Tom Hanks
dying of AIDS in Philadelphia
thought of Key West
Cayo Hueso, Isle of Bones,
thought of Charles, David, Oscar, Larry,
thought of Michael in Steambath
Larry, one of The Boys in the Band
Oscar, storming through night after night of Extremities
David, the wild boy in Orphans.
Thought of Michael Bennett
before he was Michael Bennett
just an incredibly talented kid
growing up in Buffalo
everybody could see
he was going to be somebody
he had a long Italian name
said he was going to change it
call himself Bennett for Bennett High School.
Thought of Charles, Charles of the burning blue eyes
everyone lusted for Charles, the girls, the guys,
even straight guys when they’d had a few drinks would say
if I were gay, I would love Charles.
Charles playing word games, mind games
a game of Essence
Charles getting stoned
Charles sunbathing on the wooden pier, queer pier,
Charles who came to my first poetry reading.
Charles teaching jazz class in a tank top and tight pants
all muscle and sweat on the edge of the music
improvising funky arms, a crazy turn
and a thrust of the pelvis
he’d smile and say just get the first eight counts
the class kept moving, punctuated by jokes
the class kept moving, punctuated by laughter
in a dark theatre you’d always know
Charles in the audience, his raucous laughter.
Ah, Charles.
Charles in As Is, he played the healthy one
Charles in denial, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get sick,
Charles in anger,
he said I work off emotion
what he felt was anger.
Charles gone on a trip to the Holy Land
Charles back in town, I met him at the deli
he was pale, wearing a blue wool cap,
was that the last time I kissed him
soft, on his cheek.
He said he was tired of teaching beginners
he was teaching meditation now
at the sanctuary.
Charles in his last play, El Grande,
the sombrero and the fake moustache
they say he collapsed after every scene
pulled himself together and went back on
Charles giving away autographed pictures
me frantically waving
and he brought me one
all the way in the last row.

Bob Ward – Shards

Bob Ward
Shards from a Lockdown Diary

At the start of the first lockdown, the author, who was living in rural England,
began to write a diary in verse form, adopting the five-line Japanese tanka.
He kept this going for ten weeks compiling over 180 verses, which built up
into a patchwork of experiences, where the mundane and the threatening
constantly overlapped. This excerpt is intended to give a flavour of the entire work.

                                                                                                      June 2020
 
                                        Like an ink splash creeps
                                             widely through blotting paper
                                             contagion reaches
                                             into our social fibres—
                                             we become untouchable.

                                        Confined to our house
                                             we wonder how soon we’ll hear
                                             an ambulance blare
                                             through the streets of our grim town
                                             on its way to the first case.

                                        Our home’s an island
                                             now like one of those cartoons—
                                             a couple sitting
                                             on a beach who stare across
                                             vast seas of uncertainty.

                                        Fetching medicine
                                             I drive along the High Street
                                             past the silent shops
                                             slammed shut, cross-barred and bolted
                                             against all trade in disease.

                                        Three and a half hours
                                             listening to ’line engaged’
                                             to order foodstuff.
                                             But while we fret, shop heroes
                                             must scurry, scurry, scurry . . .

                                        No Bank Holiday
                                             for all those where the Front Line
                                             remains reality
                                             as they shield themselves in gowns
                                             blue like skies beyond their reach.

                                        Gorse powers the Heath
                                             with Disney colour, topped by
                                             whiffs of coconut.
                                        Rules relaxed just a little
                                             bring us back to the good Earth.

                                        The harsh winds have dropped.
                                        Hush as if a reborn world
                                             considers ‘What next?’,
                                             then a dove coos on the roof,
                                             giving the signal to start.

Joan Dark – Welcome to the Masquerade

Joan Dark
Welcome to the Masquerade

Here, where I am, everyone wears a mask. The doctors are masked, the nurses, the staff, and the patients, the non-intubated ones, that is. This one, the one I am tending to now, is on a ventilator; he has tape around his mouth to keep the tube in and his tongue out of the way.
      To care for him, I have to don an isolation gown and gloves and bunny shoes and put a personal air-purification respirator over my head, a big white dome with a respirator hose going to a machine that’s strapped around my waist. It makes me feel like an astronaut treading on the surface of the moon.
      I keep my mask on underneath the helmet. I wear a surgical mask over an N95 mask that fits my face so tightly it leaves lines and creases on my skin. My fellow nurses and I call them ‘mask wrinkles’ and wonder if they will be permanent. We’re afraid we’ll look old before our time.
 
‘You’re no beauty rose, either,’ I tell my patient. He’s exhibiting signs of macroglossia, meaning his tongue is pretty swollen. It protrudes out of his mouth, lolling off to one side of his breathing tube. It looks like he’s sticking out his fat tongue at me. ‘Read my lips, buddy,’ I tell him in response, which, of course, is impossible because I am masked. Seriously, though, I am alarmed by Dan’s appearance. I am concerned that his swollen tongue may compromise his airway.
 
Covid-19 brought him to my hospital. Dan was transferred to the ICU after his pulse oxy declined precipitously and he became hypoxic, meaning his brain cells were beginning to die. We had to get him on a ventilator right away. He was given a sedative before we threaded the breathing tube down his throat and past the vocal cords into his chest. Now, he’s poised somewhere between delirium and unconsciousness.
      Sometimes Covid patients build up a tolerance to the sedatives we give them, causing them to go in and out of consciousness. When this happens, when they enter this twilight zone, they grow agitated and anxious. Some may even need to be restrained to keep them from pulling out the breathing tube. They place a constant strain on nurses like me who are dealing with an overflow of patients during this pandemic and can’t always be at their bedside to boost their medication.
 
Agitation is in the air. You can feel it. I feel it. Dan is its poster child. His arms chafe against his bed restraints. His body shudders with every breath he takes.
      ‘Takes’ is the operative word. The ventilator pushes air into his lungs and it pushes air out. The diaphragm and the intercostals don’t play the same role that they do in normal breathing.
 
I murmur some words of encouragement to my patient. He just keeps sticking out his tongue at me.
      I understand where he’s coming from, but it’s not like Dan and I are pals. We haven’t had a chance to talk, to really get to know one another, and his blinks don’t correspond to any code I know. I wasn’t born yet when that American POW used Morse to blink out ‘T-O-R-T-U-R-E’ during a North Vietnamese propaganda video, but I’ve read about it, and that guy could teach old Dan a thing or two.
      In lieu of that kind of nonverbal communication, or a heartfelt chat, what I’ve come to learn about Dan, I’ve gathered from his chart.
      His chart says he’s 36, a year older than me, but still quite young for a coronavirus patient.
      The first one, the very first Covid patient they brought here, was 84. He and his wife contracted the disease in a nursing home. The wife survived; the husband didn’t. She was still in quarantine when he passed; consequently, he died alone.
      I infer that Dan is single: his chart lists his sister as his emergency contact. Because of Covid, she isn’t allowed to see him.
      I pat Dan on the arm with a gloved hand just to let him know someone is here.
 
Unless he’s especially intuitive, which I rather doubt, Dan knows even less about me than I do about him. All he sees of me are my eyes. The eyes are supposed to be the windows to the soul, but I’m not sure Dan thinks I have one.
      I’m the warder who keeps him imprisoned here. I’m the evil bitch who shoved a plastic hose down his throat and put him in bed restraints.
      Dan doesn’t know my name because he can’t see my badge. It’s pinned to the scrubs I’m wearing underneath my isolation gown. He can gauge my height and my weight, I guess.
      I’m not as fat as I look in all of this PPE.
 
I used to care about my appearance. I used to really care. I used to look forward to changing out of my scrubs and putting on something chic and sassy once my shift was over. I looked forward to letting down my hair. I used to like to go out with friends after work, have a couple of drinks, and flirt with guys at some bar.
      Not anymore. The bars are closed, and all of us are afraid of catching Covid.
 
When I was new to nursing, I used to worry about needlesticks. They can give you hepatitis, HIV, and a bunch of other diseases. Over time, I learned to relax and didn’t worry so much about getting pricked. Now, patients like Dan have given me something brand new to worry about.
 
Now, after my shift is over, I go straight home. I don’t even shop at the grocery anymore. I have the store deliver or I do kerbside pickup. Most of the people I come in contact with wear masks, thank God, but there’s still plenty of risk. Sometimes, the masks slip, revealing the dorsum of the nose, the columella and the philtrum. Sometimes, people just don’t know how to wear them, forgetting to cover their noses or letting the masks dangle below their chins.
      Then, too, there’s always the danger of bumping into an anti-masker, one of those real fun-loving types who think personal freedom is a licence to spread disease.
 
I don’t know how Dan caught Covid. He probably doesn’t either. Maybe he got it at some super-spreader event. Maybe he caught it from a colleague. Maybe he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
I hope and pray he doesn’t pass it on to me.
 
I’m starting to think Dan and I are a lot alike: We’re both living inside each other’s nightmares.

I live alone. I live in my own separate solitude. I was married once, but it didn’t work out. Fortunately or not, my ex and I didn’t have children. I used to think I’d like to have kids, but now I’m not so sure: the pandemic has heightened my fears for the future.
      Meanwhile, my biological clock is ticking. I would like to meet someone, to be in a new relationship, but it doesn’t seem likely now that Covid is rampant and I’m working 12-hour shifts.
 
In my free time, when I have some, I am learning to speak Italian. I had planned to visit Italy before the pandemic started. Now, of course, that’s on hold. In March, I was listening to News in Slow Italian when I heard about a nurse who killed herself after she developed symptoms of the virus. A fisherman found her body in some reeds in the Piave River. The nurse worked in an infectious disease unit at a hospital near Venice, which is one of the places I had planned to visit – the city, not the hospital.
      I wonder how she killed herself. I know she drowned, but I wonder how she did it. I wonder if she put stones in her pocket to weigh herself down like Virginia Woolf did when she walked into the Ouse or if she threw herself off a bridge like the poet Paul Celan did when he jumped into the Seine.
      I don’t wonder why she did it. I don’t wonder about that at all. Burnout is at an all-time high in my profession. We’ve all sunk down, as Paul Celan said, into the bitter well of the heart.
 
When I’m not studying Italian or brooding over fate, I read. My tastes, as you might guess, are eclectic. I’m drawn to Gothic novels and hysterical, I mean historical, period dramas. I’m currently reading The Betrothed, an English translation of a famous Italian novel. It’s a love story set in Milan against the backdrop of the 1630 plague.
      Go figure.
      I don’t think I will find romance during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
‘Hey, buddy boy,’ I say to Dan, ‘Covid has brought you and me together.’
 
When I first became a nurse, I worked bedside on a trauma unit. Later, I did a stint in the ER. I also spent some time in a telemetry unit before coming to the ICU and getting certified as a critical care registered nurse. Surveying my career, it occurs to me that I’m a bit like Prince Prospero in that Edgar Allan Poe story, the one about a fancy masquerade ball. In Poe’s story Prince Prospero walks through a series of rooms in his castellated abbey, each room packed to the gills with costumed guests, until he arrives at the last one, where the avatar of Death, robed and masked, is waiting. For me, the ICU is like the last room in Prospero’s abbey: I hope to finish my career here, but for some of my patients, it’s the last place they’ll ever see. Death stalks the room, waiting to take its mask off and reveal itself.
      Just not today.      AQ

Laura Grace Weldon – Randomized Trial

Laura Grace Weldon
Randomized Trial

by virus is not so random.
We hide our faces, count
one Mississippi, two Mississippi.

Sickness spreads in corners where no one
wants to hunker, sinks into bodies
history has long held down

gasping ignored on wider tree-lined streets
where death stats are weighed
against stock market trends.

There’s no placebo effect in this trial.
Peer review isn’t the woman who tweets,
Do you even know someone who has it?

We’re still counting
three Mississippi, four Mississippi,
five million Mississippi…

Kim Whysall-Hammond – Ground-glass opacity

Kim Whysall-Hammond
Ground-glass opacity

Soft as a blown rose, a tiny killer
seeps into your everything, even white bone.
Sharp receptors grip like crampons as it
climbs down the chimney of your throat
to the soft hinterland of your lungs
ripe meadows about to be trashed.
Once base camp is set up
it storms your defences
you die hard and slow
fighting for every breath.

Laurel Feigenbaum – All I Wanted

Laurel Feigenbaum
All I Wanted

All I wanted to do this morning
was get out of bed.
Pick up my old life.

Do my ablutions.
Dress. Make a protein shake.
That’s all I wanted.

Jump in the car. Green light my way.
Join yoga classmates.
Pick up my old life.

Grab mat, bolster, blocks, blanket.
Sit cross-legged.
Breathe.

After, order coffee or tea at the bakery.
Share a scone or cinnamon twist.
That’s all I wanted.

Instead I’m home, alone
in a room with Zoom.
A make-shift imitation of my old life.

A flat screen and thumbnail images.
Om, Namaste in virtual yoga.
Not at all how I expected to spend
these last single-digit years of my life.

Jami Fairleigh – Baking with Meryl Streep

Jami Fairleigh
Baking with Meryl Streep

Whenever I forget to feed Meryl Streep, she starts to stink. You could even say she goes a little boozy. A boozy floozy. I never imagined I’d have a relationship with Meryl or a relationship of any kind with something I keep in my refrigerator, but that’s the magic of these crazy times.
      Long before the rebirth of sourdough, before our Instagram feeds choked with images of glorious home-baked loaves, I’d ordered my copy of Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast. I’d poured over the descriptions, I’d read about the merits of home-ground flour, and I’d confidently begun a starter. And then another, and another. Each ended in disaster and the loaves of bread I tried to craft were bricks of doom: flat, lifeless, dead. I put away my fantasy loaves and did the sensible thing; I bought bread from the store.
      My foray into the world of baking was mirrored by my attempts at writing. Yearning to translate the stories my imagination conjured into real books, I bought a few books about creating fiction and got ready to write. That fresh document, that unsullied notebook with all those blank pages—they provided a sense of promise. Here soon, a story would be born, crafted of imagination and dreams.
      Like my baking, I soon learned that stories didn’t just happen; one could not write a novel armed with a wisp of an idea and the desire to have written a book. Sadly, I concluded that the magic of writing, that alchemy of creating something from nothing, was just not for me. I was a person who would buy my bread and buy my books.
      Then a tiny-tiny virus put the great big world on pause and suddenly, I had time. Time to worry, time to eat, and time to clean out our closets and my bookshelves. Time to reexamine my life, time to dust off old manuscripts, and time to revive story ideas that had been languishing in the recesses of my mind. I started again. I pulled out the draft of the novel I’d been working on, I revived my neglected blog, and I began a new sourdough starter and named her Meryl Streep.
      This time it worked. This time I had the secret ingredient, the magical component that had eluded me before; Time. Time to focus, time to experiment, time to dream. Now, I’ve picked the launch date for that novel, I’ve rediscovered how writing feeds creativity, and I’ve learned that when you make time for it, you can actually create something from nothing. I’ve also learned that a little of Meryl goes a long way. AQ

Emma Lee – She Never Thought About Sleep Before

Emma Lee
She Never Thought About Sleep Before

It was just something that happened
after a long shift, serving with a smile,
dash back to a studio apartment,
a rushed microwave dinner, wash off
make-up and the difficult customer,
and fall into bed. Blank until morning.
Repeat. Until commuters were no
longer customers, her job went,
the landlord suggested an alternative
way to pay her rent so she packed
her life into a rucksack and left.
Closed businesses meant no waste
cardboard to make a base to sleep on,
no leftovers for people like her.
Sleep was dozing, jerking awake,
dozing. One eye open for danger.
Deserted streets left her invisible.
Until a charity worker found her.
Wary but defenceless, she followed
him to a hostel, a shower, a bed
and fifteen hours straight sleep.