Jennifer Sperry Steinorth on the Alchemy in Graphic Poetry
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
In this episode, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth joins Mitzi to discuss Her Read, out now from Texas Review Press.
From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: Her Read is a graphic poetry collection where you use erasure and art and embroidery to change the book The Meaning of Art by Herbert Read to Her Read. There must be some alchemy going on because when you picked up this book, I think you originally found it for one dollar at a thrift store, it was 2016 and you were enraged by all these things, you were having writer’s block, but you had a narrative in your mind. Clearly, you were thinking about pain and art and violence and gaslighting, and what was going on politically as well. And so, I just wonder if you felt some element of alchemy or magic as you were going through to root this out?
Jennifer Sperry Steinorth: Yeah, it did feel like magic. It felt like as writers, we can have this vision that seems wildly preposterous, but we can see it, right? And then you have to kind of surrender to it, to this idea that the thing you want to make, you can kind of sort of see it out on the horizon as this ethereal thing, but you have to bring it into the world. And that’s terrifying. It can be terrifying. So, you know, there’s very much an active surrender with any form of making and getting out of your own way, and just looking at the thing you’re making and responding to the materials and responding to the other stories that are out in the air.
Every story is in a conversation with so many other stories, and paintings are in conversation. Like, it’s all this continuum. So, you know, not everybody is working with physical material, words already on a page, but everybody is working with this language that we all share and the different things that it means depending on the time and context. It also seems a little like Tarot, right? You know you have random distribution of cards and then you see what you see. Or Adrian Rich says, “we see what we see and seeing is changing”. Like something happens when you kind of let go and look. I think I think the story can arise that way.
Jennifer Sperry Steinorth’s books include Her Read, a graphic poem and A Wake with Nine Shades, a finalist for Foreword Reviews Best of the Indie Press Award. A poet, educator, interdisciplinary artist and licensed builder, she has received grants from Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers Conference, Community of Writers and the MFA for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her poems appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, The Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Plume, Rhino, and TriQuarterly. She teaches at Northwestern Michigan College and elsewhere.