For Yellow Chair Review’s inaugural interview, I thought it would be appropriate to talk with the inaugural poet, Donna Snyder about her piece, Voices, and her other writing endeavors. She is accomplished and well respected and it was quite an honor to speak with her! – Alexzan Burton
AB: So around when did you start writing? What prompted you to start writing?
DS: Without ever thinking in terms of me being a writer, when I was 13 or so, I wrote a series of poems and monologues and gave them to a teacher who threw them all away. When I learned that she tossed them all in the trash, I immediately stopped experimenting with language. Twenty years later I began writing in the free write workshops presented by various Santa Fe writers, really pretty much as a lark, on a dare from my ex. In these workshops, we wrote on the spot and then read aloud. I also got the chance to read in public with some other terrific writers. Both in the workshops and the performances people gave me great positive reinforcement so I continued writing. At the time I primarily wrote fiction, monologues and dialogues, and memoir, but I did create a computer folder called “poetry like substance,” so there was some barely acknowledged thought that I might also write poetry.
AB: Tell me about your inspiration for Voices.
DS: When I founded Tumblewords in 1995, I modeled its format after the Santa Fe writing groups I participated in. I wrote the first draft of Voices at Tumblewords around 2009, after hearing some Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath poetry read by the presenter. A few months ago, I read a piece by Anne Sexton which inspired me to find my own poem, do some rushed editing, and share it with a friend, Mike Jewett, the editor of Boston Poetry Magazine. He urged me to submit it to Sarah Frances Moran, the founding editor of the still new Yellow Chair Review, who he has advised and encouraged, but said if for some reason she did not accept it, he would publish it in BPM. With his support, I sent it on to Sarah and it was chosen in the Rock the Chair weekly challenge.
More specifically, the inspiration was my strong identification with the horrors both Sexton and Plath suffered, labelled as mentally ill and subjected to harsh and invasive therapy, when perhaps their true illness was really just reaction to the ridicule and other hurdles brilliant women have faced in the arts or other professions. So much that is a part of creative people’s lives and entwined with the genesis of their art is and has been labeled as pathological or neurotic or disordered or psychotic or manic. The psychiatric practitioners and treatment providers have long attempted to medicate away or otherwise diminish what looks like diagnostic criteria to them, but is really a part of the creative personality. Additionally, Fernando Botero’s art about the tortures at Abu Ghraib were much on my mind, and a few details made it into the first part of the poem.
AB: Are you currently working on anything we can look forward to seeing?
DS: I’m doing the final final FINAL edits of The Tongue Has its Secrets, coming out very soon from NeoPoiesis Press, which has diverted most of my energy necessary for individual submissions of my work. On an ongoing basis, I write book reviews for various ‘zines and the local newspaper. Of course, I write every week at Tumblewords, which is the source of most of my publication credits for the past decade and a half or so.
AB: Do you use a blog or website where we can keep up with you and your work? And also links to other publications and maybe that book that we spoke of on the phone?
DS: My blogs are poetry from the frontera, raw poetry, and The Vagina Gun. You can read several of my poems at VEXT Magazine, Boston Poetry Magazine, and in other journals and anthologies. Some of my book reviews are at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, at la bloga here and here, and at Red Fez.
AB: If you find yourself in a block, can you share some secrets that help you come out of it like…authors that inspire you or people or an activity? What’s your writer’s block cure?
DS: Twenty years of writing on a dime at weekly workshops with the Tumblewords Project has been a wonderful cure-all for any problem with my writing, whether block, laziness, shyness, avoidance, depression, grief, or needing to try some experimentation. But anyone can practice writing and reading aloud with one or more friends in someone’s home or at a café or some other conducive location.
AB: Do we get to keep coming across your work in Yellow Chair?
DS: I certainly hope so!