The Beat Converses: Hayley Solano by Amanda Silberling

By Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief

Songs can speak – especially when they're written by Hayley Solano, whose lyrics blur the lines between music and prose. But behind the conversation held within a song is a conversation with the writer herself – meet our Beat Converses for the month of May, Hayley Solano

Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief: Thanks so much for chatting with me! First of all, before we really dive in, could you give our readers the brief low-down on what you and your music are about?

Hayley Solano: I’d love to! I really fell in love with music when I was a teenager. Teenage years can be so difficult to navigate, but during that time I would come across songs that described exactly how I felt. I thought that was so magical – that someone who had no idea I even existed could make me feel less alone. That’s when I realized I wanted to be able to give that gift to people: the gift of feeling understood. I’ve always absolutely loved singing and writing, so putting the two together to share my stories was really natural for me.
 

I personally adore your mantra, “in love with stories. i tell mine in songs.” seen on your YouTube page and your website. It seems to me that a lot of vocalists and musicians see narrative as not a central priority to the development of a song, if a factor at all. Has your link between storytelling and music always there? How did you develop it?

Absolutely! I’ve loved stories for as long as I can remember. The words “once upon a time” are so magical to me. When you’re little, they’re often a precursor to a fantasy world or fairytale, which is so much fun to imagine. It was really natural for me to incorporate storytelling in my songwriting, especially because of the music I’m drawn to. My favorite kinds of songs have always been the ones that tell detailed stories – that keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear the next line.

 

Do you have a favorite original song that you’ve written? What makes it your favorite? 

Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question! I think the most recent song I’ve written is always my favorite! However, I’m in the process of recording four original songs that are really special to me and each tell very personal stories. If I had to choose one I think I would choose a song called “Yes.” It’s about the one that got away suddenly reappearing in your life ­– the one person you thought you’d lost forever, coming back to you.

 

 

What is one thing about making YouTube videos that you prefer over performing live? What, in turn, do you prefer about performing live?

I really enjoy both! Making videos is great because you can have as much control as you’d like. If you think your performance could be better, you can do several takes, try different angles, and more. Performing live is totally different. You basically have one shot to look and sound exactly how you want to! Although that can feel like a lot of pressure, the wonderful thing about performing live is the energy. There’s no feeling quite like singing songs based on pages of your diary to a room of strangers.

 

On your website you write, “I knew it wouldn't hurt to pursue a degree while growing as an artist.” This is something, as an undergraduate student editor, I try to balance as well, but I know that at points it came be extremely challenging. Do you have advice for students like us out there who aim to pursue the arts in the context of other degrees and academic commitments?

It can be really difficult! Balancing music and studies was always a challenge for me when I was in school. Focusing on school work can be a strain on creativity while taking the time to be creative can affect studies. To be honest, I did focus a lot more on school than music when I was pursuing my degree. It always helps to keep the end goal in mind and know once you’ve accomplished your academic goals, you will have more time for other interests!

 

If you weren’t a singer/songwriter, what kind of artist would you want to be?

Definitely some kind of writer and/or storyteller. Writing has always been such a wonderful form of expression for me. I also think it would be so fun to come up with concepts for music videos.

 

I asked this question to Hannah Trigwell in the last installment, but I’m curious: who’s the coolest person you’ve been able to work with thus far, and what’s the coolest place you’ve been able to visit for music?

I’m absolutely loving working with my producer on my songs. He is so full of incredible ideas and has helped me to develop my sound in a way that I’ve always dreamed of. There are so many places I would love to visit for music. I’ve always dreamed of visiting England and hope to play there next year. Nashville is also at the top of my list!!

 

And, finally, what’s next for Hayley Solano? Where can we find you in the future?

I’m planning to release music this year! I’m in the process of recording right now which is so exciting. I’m falling in love with being in the studio, and it’s so exciting to bring these songs to life in a way I’m really proud of. I can’t wait to share these stories. Also, I’m always playing shows in the LA area!


Peter LaBerge is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work is featured or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry JournalRedividerCopper Nickel,Best New Poets 2014DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He grew up in Connecticut, and now lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. Learn more at www.peterlaberge.com.

 

MORE BEAT CONVERSES:
September 2014 - Caroline Glaser.
Octover 2014 - Louisa Wendorff.
January 2015 - Drew Tabor.
February 2015 - Maddy Hudson.
March 2015 - India Carney.
March 2015 - Hannah Trigwell.
May 2015 – Hayley Solano.

Raise Your Glass: March 2015 Beat India Carney Places Fifth on The Voice Season 8 by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

            Last night, Brooklyn-based talent India Carney placed fifth on the eighth season of The Voice, as a member of Christina Aguilera's "Team Xtina." Before that, however, she spoke with Founder & Editor-in-Chief Peter LaBerge as the March 2015 Beat Converses Feature.

            Carney auditioned for the acclaimed show earlier this year, as a senior Voice major at the University of California, Los Angeles. As a high school senior at the famed Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, Carney was recognized as a 2011 YoungArts Winner for Voice and Theatre, and was ultimately named a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

            We at Adroit are so sorry to see India go -- we tweeted and voted and re-tweeted until our fingers popped off! We'll be following her next moves vigilantly through social media, and suggest you do the same. For now, however, I've taken the liberty of assembling three truly jawdropping India performances; if you haven't found her music, better late than never!

            Let us know what you think in the comments below. We can't wait to hear!

 

#3: "Big White Room" by Jessie J (Knockouts)

No explanation necessary, because Jessie J tweeted about it.

 

#2: "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel (Audition)

Where it all began.

 

#1: "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson (Top 5)

Literally the definition of going out with a bang.

 

Congratulations, India! You're a star, and quite #adroit, if we do say so ourselves! (...okay, we'll keep our day jobs.)

On Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach's "The Bear Who Ate the Stars" by Amanda Silberling

By Casey Lynch

            Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s debut chapbook The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014) is titled for one of its pause-inspiring images.  In “On the Pripyat, 2006,” Dasbach likens the nuclear waste that obscured the sky in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to a bear “growling so loudly, the entire city woke / to look up, only to find / he’d already eaten the stars” (38-40).  The fantastical, beautiful image and its tragic referent reflect the connection between beauty and darkness that unifies the chapbook.  As it probes illness, destruction, and death with pensive lyricism, The Bear Who Ate the Stars invites readers to puzzle the intricate interconnection of the enchanting and the off-putting.  With a sharpness that makes it difficult to believe this a first chapbook, Dasbach succeeds in capturing the confusing beauty of darkness. 

            The first poems of the chapbook examine the extent to which illness and beauty can coexist.  In the opening poem, “The Secret to Remembering,” the speaker identifies beauty in the face (more precisely, the ear) of handicap.  When a beloved “you” goes deaf, the speaker imagines “[lilacs] bursting your eardrum, their purple plume / smell, their pulse, falling away from the flower” (3-4).  In subsequent poems, however, as the speaker confronts the blood disease wracking her husband, she struggles to find meaning — let alone beauty — in anything.  The speaker’s search for meaning spans several poems and culminates in “Origin,” where she studies various etymologies (those of ‘viscosity,’ ‘blood,’ and ‘cure,’ for example) to better understand her husband’s disease.  When this systematic thinking fails, she begins to grasp her situation using her imagination:

            You break apart Kenneth-Das-bach, break apart

            his given name.  Gaelic Caioneach: “handsome, comely,”

            Das.  German article “the,” then complicate the bach,

            “to live as an unmarried man,” you re-name him

            husband,          forget his origin  (“Origin,” 12-16) 

            The speaker draws on creativity again to treat the darkness of heritage, this time using her imagination to experience destruction rather than escape it.  Toward the middle of the chapbook, the poems begin to meditate  on Eastern European conflict.  The perspective in these poems — at once inside and outside the destruction — reflects Dasbach’s background; at age six, she moved from Ukraine to the United States as a Jewish refugee.  In a poignant insider moment in “Dark Chocolate Play,” the speaker feels reverberations of the Holocaust forty-plus years later:

            [. . .] the Jew

            And German both prefer a cold beer inside

                        A Soviet winter, and hold kosher

            dark-chocolate-gelt in their palms

                        until they can color my childhood’s wallpaper

            with a trail of guilty hand prints. (“Dark Chocolate Play,” 28-33)

At other moments, however, the speaker can only access Eastern Europe indirectly, fashioning images to empathize with the destruction from afar.  In “After the Stars Fell,” she says of the Chelyabinsk meteor, which injured hundreds when it crossed Russia in 2013, “We missed it all: the shattered glass and panic, / ‘the end of days’ written in Russian / blood” (9-11).  

            As the chapbook draws to a close, the poems again circle the devastation of individuals.  In these final poems, Dasbach displays her talent for harmonizing the personal with the universal.  In “Mother always knows, so,” the speaker attempts to calculate “the pace of death”— catalog steps that universally signal its approach – “based on my mother” (8, 10).  In the penultimate poem, “Lasts,” the speaker suggests death a unifier, observing how the final expressions of her great grandmother and her husband’s grandfather “fit, like a charcoal outline” (18).

            The finale and capstone of the chapbook is a poem titled “Olam Ha-Ba,” after the Jewish term for ‘afterlife.’  The poem raises a number of questions that complicate the Jewish notion of an afterlife: questions about the soul, about inequality among people, about the logistics of rising from the dead.  At the end of the poem (and chapbook), the speaker confides herself skeptical that there is anything but darkness after life:

            until you are the one who stops outside

                  of a synagogue, and sees it is nothing like

                        that license plate framed: “God Loves You,” a fish

            swimming towards another bumper: “Real men

                  love Jesus!” And it becomes more like

                        trying to read a language turned foreign, trying

            to place the “you” that isn’t you within a faithless text,

                   within hunger that’s nothing like hunger, but the want

                                                                                    for it (“Olam Ha-Ba,” 24-32)

            In important sense, these final lines are the point at which all the preceding poems converge.  With characteristic clear-headedness and precision, the lines convey the darkness that dominates The Bear Who Ate the Stars.  However, the lines also convey the cautious optimism underlying this darkness.  Even if the speaker in “Olam Ha-Ba” cannot hunger for afterlife, she has “want for [hunger].” She finds a way to want something in the face of interminable darkness.  A look back on the chapbook yields more sparks of optimism: lines like “you keep repeating / mer mer mer. . .repeat until it fades to miracle / until you remember him, cured” and images like the title image (“Origin,” 60-1, 63-4).  It is this combination of clear-headedness and optimism that makes Dasbach’s first chapbook remarkably masterful: The Bear Who Ate the Stars becomes a compelling antidote to the darkness it represents.

 

The Bear Who Ate the Stars
by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
Split Lip Press, October 2014
Paperback $11, 40 pp.


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach came to the United States as a Jewish refugee in 1993, from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and grew up in the DC metro area suburb of Rockville, Maryland. She earned her BA in English from the University of Maryland, College Park, and then spent three years in Eugene, earning an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon while being inspired by the beautiful west coast. Julia is currently back east, living in Philadelphia and working towards a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the lyric rendering of trauma in contemporary American poetry composed by emigrants of the former Soviet Union.

Casey Lynch is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying English and Urban Education.  When she is not reading books or disciplining children, she likes to write fiction and chew absurd amounts of blue Trident gum.

Overheard @ AWP 2015 by Amanda Silberling

By Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief & Talin Tahajian, Poetry Editor

AWP 2015 was our first AWP. We wanted to savor each moment of our experiences. In the process, we also savored some of others’. Check out some of our favorites below –  
 

1.     “I didn’t expect to board the plane and see Tarfia Faizullah in the flesh.”

2.     [on a panel] “Just imagine the love child of Elton John and Richard Simmons…”

3.     “The entire staff of The Kenyon Review was on my flight.”

4.     “It’s Don-ez.” “It’s Dan-eez. It’s definitely Dan-eez.”

5.     [at an off-site reading] “I thought I’d end the night with a poem about masturbation...”

6.     “I’m going to get some tattoos from the Poetry Foundation and apply them in the bathroom.”

7.     “Sandra Beasley’s poetry just does things to me, you know?”

8.     “Is hooking up with an editor still a thing?” “No, that’s so Seattle.”

9.     “I’m not going to judge your poem on a scale of one to gay…”

10.  “You can’t be in Better because you’re a man.”

11.  [after a panel] “#Jarfia just killed that panel.”

12.  “I’m 95% sure David Lynn was just in the stall next to me.”

13.  “If you ever need to make a homemade tortilla…”

14.  [at a reading] “I was going to read a poem about food allergies, but then I realized I’d rather read a poem about sex.”

15.  [at same reading] “This next one is an evolution of sex poem… it’s called ‘Inner Flamingo.’”

16.  “Richard Siken puts the ‘P’ in ‘poetry.’”

17.  [on phone] “Do you have a job? Yeah, didn’t think so...”

18.  “It’s always this moment every year, standing at the bathroom sink at AWP, that I think to myself: Do I even exist?”

19.  [at coat check] “Are you from Colorado?” “No, I’m from New York.” “Good grief...”

20.  [on a panel] “I learned nothing at grad school worth remembering—thanks, Iowa.”

21.  [on a panel] “The worst that can happen is ALWAYS herpes.”

 Talin Tahajian (Poetry Editor), Peter LaBerge (Editor-in-Chief), & Leila Chatti (Poetry Reader)

Talin Tahajian (Poetry Editor), Peter LaBerge (Editor-in-Chief), & Leila Chatti (Poetry Reader)



The Beat Converses: Hannah Trigwell by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief.

SURPRISE! This month, and hopefully in the months going forward, we will have TWO Beat Converses -- because they're just so cool. Ending this month strong is UK-based songstress extraordinaire Hannah Trigwell. I'm so excited to share her words with you!

Born and raised in Leeds, Hannah Trigwell has garnered more than 300,000 subscribers and over 35 million views on YouTube. She has received international acclaim for her covers and original music, with numerous top ten singles under her belt, as well as a number 1 single in Vietnam with her original song ‘Headrush’.

Hannah has performed in several sold-out UK tours, playing alongside the likes of Josh Kumra, Boyce Avenue, Jake Bugg, Alex Goot, Wretch 32, and Lawson. Her music has gained praise from the likes of Ed Sheeran (we're fangirling), Johnny Rzeznik (Goo-Goo-Dolls) (fangirling so hard), The Script (the fangirling is literally infinite), and many more. 

Hannah is currently in the studio writing and recording for her next EP release. With that: Questions!


Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: Thanks so much for chatting with me! Since some of our readers may not be familiar with you and your music, could you give us a super-abridged autobiography to start out?

Hannah Trigwell, Musician: I am a 24 year-old singer-songwriter from the UK! I started out busking on the streets of my hometown (Leeds) before posting videos up on YouTube, which have now had a crazy 35 million views! I just recently returned home from my seventh UK tour, and I am spending early 2015 writing for my next EP.


PL: Any songs or artists you can’t stop listening to right now? What makes them so irresistible?

HT: I love Years & Years. I’m so obsessed with their latest single "King". The chorus is just so catchy, and the band’s energy on stage during live performances is infectious! I’ve also gone back to the first Ben Howard and Damien Rice albums again recently. I really appreciate thoseevery song is magic. I love harmonising acoustic guitars and emotive music, which is why those are two of my favourite albums!    


PL: I’m curious (and I feel like a lot of other people are, as well)how and why did you start recording covers and original music for YouTube? Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians whose followings are not as large as they’d like? What do you think it takes to become a well-regarded and well-known web-born musician?

HT: I started making videos to upload onto YouTube mainly because I saw other people do it, and thought, I could do that! Haha. I also couldn’t get many live gigs locally because I didn’t have a fanbase, so when the subscriber count and views started building up online, I was able to prove to promoters that I had people that could come to see me perform. It wasn’t overnightlike a lot of YouTubers, I have been uploading videos for years now. You have to persevere and be prepared to work hard if you want any kind of successthat includes music on YouTube! To be a well-regarded web-born musician, you just have to be real… it has to be about making great music; the rest should follow, but the aim should never be about numbers. People see through that.


PL: What’s the coolest place you’ve been able to visit because of music, and who’s the coolest person you’ve been able to work with?

HT: I played a small arena in Lisbon during a European tour and it absolutely blew my mind. I was really grateful for that opportunity!

The coolest person I’ve been able to work with... I’ve worked with some really successful producers and artists, but I feel really lucky to be able to work with my incredibly talented guitar player Will Dewsbury and keys player Ben Matravers everyday in the studio and on tour. So, those two!


PL: I’ve noticed that many prominent YouTube musicians work together in a variety of ways (for example, you and Boyce Avenue). How did this network arise, and what do you think you’ve gained from it?

HT: Boyce Avenue saw my videos on YouTube, and asked me to support them on tour, I toured with them three times and we worked on a few awesome cover collaborations! I learned a lot from them about touring and the music business, but mostly they helped me progress with my guitar and vocal technique. Working with others definitely helps you progress.

 

PL: Who’s the coolest person you haven’t (yet) worked with, but would love to work with? Why?

HT: I’d love to work with Passengerto do a duet with him would be amazing. Or David Gray! I also really like Kygohis remix of ‘I See Fire’ by Ed Sheeran is on repeat in my house.

 

PL: According to Facebook, you’ve just recently returned from a tour! Where, when, and how can we find you?  

HT: Yes! I just got back from touring the UK, and now I’m going to be posting regularly vlogs and behind the scenes studio footage up onto my YouTube channel. So until the next tour, that is where you’ll find me!

 

PL: And finallyDo you have a favorite cover of yours on YouTube?

HT: I really enjoyed recording my Sam Smith ‘Stay With Me’ cover. I just reworked the song as an acoustic finger-tapping/harmonics piece, and then jammed it out a few times in my bedroom before recording. It felt natural, and I love how the video turned out.

 

Peter LaBerge is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work is featured or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He grew up in Connecticut, and now lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. Learn more at www.peterlaberge.com.

 

MORE BEAT CONVERSES:
September 2014 - Caroline Glaser.
Octover 2014 - Louisa Wendorff.
January 2015 - Drew Tabor.
February 2015 - Maddy Hudson.
March 2015 - India Carney.
March 2015 - Hannah Trigwell.

Five Books to Read Over Spring Break by Amanda Silberling

By Joanna Moley, Blog Correspondent

 Photo via  Contrary Magazine

t's finally spring break, which means you can put down all of your school books and do some pleasure reading for a change. Whether you will be relaxing by the pool, bundled up in a ski lodge somewhere, filling free time on a sports team training trip, or taking time off at home, here are a few spring break book suggestions to take your mind off real life for the next week.

1. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This novel is recommended for anyone who loves books told from multiple perspectives, people interested in music and the music business, and PowerPoint enthusiasts everywhere (read it, I promise that will make sense).

2. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This is a great pick for dog lovers and people who love heart-wrenching, yet uplifting stories about life. I suggested this book to a certain editor-in-chief back in high school, and it was a big hit (Ed. note: A solid testimonial)

3. This is the End by Various Authors

Check this out if you're a fan of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, or if you just really hate big business and love/identify with awkward people.

4. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Read this if you love intertwining short fiction, intellectual-yet-enjoyable beach reads, and stories about Africa. This book was written by the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who not only writes amazing novels but also gives killer TED talks.

5. Emma by Jane Austen

This one may be a stretch, but anyone looking for a great classic novel to indulge in during their week off should pick up a copy of this classic. I recommend it for fans of complicated love triangles and powerful female protagonists. As an added bonus, read the book and then use the rest of your free time to watch the movie "Clueless" and find the parallels.
 

Whatever you're up to this break, make sure to find time to read! As second graders and school librarians everywhere will remind you, books can take you on vacation without your ever having to leave the house.

“Vision of My Lover Dressed In Drag”: On Sarah Fletcher’s "Kissing Angles" (Dead Ink Books, 2015) by Amanda Silberling

By Eloise Sims, Blog Correspondent
 

Sarah Fletcher’s Kissing Angles takes the reader through a world of stark reality and swirling dreams, a world in which we cannot be sure of what is fact and what is a desperate plea for a different life. Fletcher carefully sketches this world with a myriad of characters that we can all recognize – sailors, lovers, and lads alike. In Kissing Angles, a story is told of love and life that alternates between past and present, between nostalgic glory and mundane reality, and produces breathtaking moments of solemn truth. 

Initially, Fletcher’s first few poems continue along the same thread – written of a “sweet boy, pearled boy” who captivates the narrator and her imaginings (“Vision of My Lover Dressed in Drag, 1). This portrait is one of a fighter with a tongue like a “whip”, a self-destructive modern wild spirit, whom the narrator fantasizes of taming into “a scene of domesticity” (“Our Daughter, 3). But these fantasies remain forever beyond reach, as the obscuring mark of the boy’s eventual absence “spreads like a stain across the sky” (“The Matador,” 2). Fletcher’s writings unveil this character through the simplest of prose, her words being the brushstrokes of these tiny portraits of modern life.

However, Fletcher’s poems are also distinctive for her continued, Plath-esque references to Nazi Germany. One such poem is indeed called Kraut Girl, which was the nickname given to Dutch women who had relationships with German officers during WWII, and were thereby treated as traitors when the war ended. In the poem, Fletcher writes of “the red that set across/ my upper-lip for days”- and then, in a later poem titled The Liebling, writes from the point of view of an Eva Braun character, of “bloodied” feet. Fletcher here makes love and sex synonymous with blood and shame, and exposes darkness to a subject usually associated with positivity and life. With allusions such as “I was a page on fire” (“The Liebling,” 18), she portrays love as being desperate, passionate, and ultimately, destructive- much like fire itself.

But, while some poems in Kissing Angles expose a much darker side to the world, some reveal great beauty in the most mundane of areas. Throughout the book, there is a constant and interesting juxtaposition between fantastical beauty and the abhorrent reality. In “The Belle Of New Orleans, a dance between the narrator and a woman takes place in a butcher’s house, which becomes as elaborate as any great ball- the woman asks the narrator to pretend her bloodstained apron is “her wedding dress” (“The Belle of New Orleans,” 19). This strong contrast between the macabre setting and the fantastical air to the dance provides a hazy, dreamlike air to the book. The reader continues to observe life through Fletcher’s eyes, as it becomes harder and harder to tell what is reality and what is a dream. 

But in reflecting our society through her portraits, Fletcher also tackles controversial issues, in her most confessional and confrontational of poems in Kissing Angles. In “Sex Education,” Fletcher exposes a feminist vein, as she writes of her teenage perception of high school sex education lessons. This poem is littered with brutal and bloody imagery, with “mutts/devouring meat outside a butcher’s” being compared to sex in a lesson for girls, whereas, in the boy’s lessons, the boys are told “they are/ gods if they want to be.” In “Third Date,” a character nonchalantly brings up the conversation topic that “his ancestors were gassed,” but “that’s fine.” Fletcher juggles significant issues in our society like they are mere frivolities of a casual conversation ­­– and, in this way, makes them seem far more visceral and real for the reader.  

Above all, what should be taken away from Kissing Angles is the intimate reflection of what modernity actually means. The final poem in the series, “Beach Combing,” returns once more to the subject of the narrator’s elusive lover, contrasting between her imagined beauty of their relationship and its harrowing reality. In her fantasies, she compares her lover to a “washed up” merman. In reality, “he’s as good as drowned as he is now/passed out across the couch/shaking in his drunken sleep.” The combination of fantasy and reality leaves the reader, yet again, with Fletcher’s sharp perception of modern life ­– a world in which, in Fletcher’s eyes, one must continually lose themselves in dreams of what could have been or should be) to avoid the uglier truth.

In a fashion typical of Kissing Angles, Fletcher, in the final line of the book, reflects quietly, “I should have met him on the beach.” Once more, we seek an alternate reality and join Fletcher as she falls back into the world of dreams. 

Initially, Fletcher’s first few poems continue along the same thread – written of a “sweet boy, pearled boy” who captivates the narrator and her imaginings (“Vision of My Lover Dressed in Drag, 1). This portrait is one of a fighter with a tongue like a “whip”, a self-destructive modern wild spirit, whom the narrator fantasizes of taming into “a scene of domesticity” (“Our Daughter, 3). But these fantasies remain forever beyond reach, as the obscuring mark of the boy’s eventual absence “spreads like a stain across the sky” (“The Matador,” 2). Fletcher’s writings unveil this character through the simplest of prose, her words being the brushstrokes of these tiny portraits of modern life.

However, Fletcher’s poems are also distinctive for her continued, Plath-esque references to Nazi Germany. One such poem is indeed called Kraut Girl, which was the nickname given to Dutch women who had relationships with German officers during WWII, and were thereby treated as traitors when the war ended. In the poem, Fletcher writes of “the red that set across/ my upper-lip for days”- and then, in a later poem titled The Liebling, writes from the point of view of an Eva Braun character, of “bloodied” feet. Fletcher here makes love and sex synonymous with blood and shame, and exposes darkness to a subject usually associated with positivity and life. With allusions such as “I was a page on fire” (“The Liebling,” 18), she portrays love as being desperate, passionate, and ultimately, destructive- much like fire itself.

But, while some poems in Kissing Angles expose a much darker side to the world, some reveal great beauty in the most mundane of areas. Throughout the book, there is a constant and interesting juxtaposition between fantastical beauty and the abhorrent reality. In “The Belle Of New Orleans, a dance between the narrator and a woman takes place in a butcher’s house, which becomes as elaborate as any great ball- the woman asks the narrator to pretend her bloodstained apron is “her wedding dress” (“The Belle of New Orleans,” 19). This strong contrast between the macabre setting and the fantastical air to the dance provides a hazy, dreamlike air to the book. The reader continues to observe life through Fletcher’s eyes, as it becomes harder and harder to tell what is reality and what is a dream. 

But in reflecting our society through her portraits, Fletcher also tackles controversial issues, in her most confessional and confrontational of poems in Kissing Angles. In “Sex Education,” Fletcher exposes a feminist vein, as she writes of her teenage perception of high school sex education lessons. This poem is littered with brutal and bloody imagery, with “mutts/devouring meat outside a butcher’s” being compared to sex in a lesson for girls, whereas, in the boy’s lessons, the boys are told “they are/ gods if they want to be.” In “Third Date,” a character nonchalantly brings up the conversation topic that “his ancestors were gassed,” but “that’s fine.” Fletcher juggles significant issues in our society like they are mere frivolities of a casual conversation ­­– and, in this way, makes them seem far more visceral and real for the reader.  

Above all, what should be taken away from Kissing Angles is the intimate reflection of what modernity actually means. The final poem in the series, “Beach Combing,” returns once more to the subject of the narrator’s elusive lover, contrasting between her imagined beauty of their relationship and its harrowing reality. In her fantasies, she compares her lover to a “washed up” merman. In reality, “he’s as good as drowned as he is now/passed out across the couch/shaking in his drunken sleep.” The combination of fantasy and reality leaves the reader, yet again, with Fletcher’s sharp perception of modern life ­– a world in which, in Fletcher’s eyes, one must continually lose themselves in dreams of what could have been or should be) to avoid the uglier truth.

In a fashion typical of Kissing Angles, Fletcher, in the final line of the book, reflects quietly, “I should have met him on the beach.” Once more, we seek an alternate reality and join Fletcher as she falls back into the world of dreams. 


Sarah Fletcher is a young British-American poet. In 2012, she was a Foyle Young Poet, and in 2012 and 2013, won the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize. She has been published in The Rialto, The London MagazineThe Morning StarInk Sweat & Tears, and had her work commended in The Bridport Prize and the Stephen Spender Prize. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and displayed at Olympic Park. 

 

 

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2015 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to all Adroit-affiliated 2015 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards national medalists:

Ariella Carmell, CA, Blog Correspondent
          Gold Medal - Poetry
          Gold Medal - Short Story
          Silver Medal - Poetry

Carissa Chen, NH, Art Contributor
          Gold Medal - Painting
          Silver Medal - Painting

Julia Falkner, CO, Prose Reader
          Gold Medal - Poetry

Lauren Finkle, CA, Summer Mentee (Poetry)
          Silver Medal - Poetry

Eden Gordon, NY, Summer Mentee (Poetry)
          Gold Medal - Poetry
          Silver Medal - Short Story

Henry Heidger, MO, Blog Correspondent
          Gold Medal - Poetry

Madeline Kim, CA, Summer Mentee (Poetry)
          Gold Medal - Personal Essay & Memoir

Helene Lovett, LA, Summer Mentee (Prose)
          Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio

Emily Mack, IL, Summer Mentee (Poetry)
          Gold Medal - Poetry (x2)

Lucy Silbaugh, PA, Summer Mentee (Prose)
          American Voices Medal - Short Story
          Gold Medal - Short Story

Audrey Spensley, OH, Summer Mentee (Prose)
          Gold Medal - Poetry
          Gold Medal - Short Story
          Silver Medal - Poetry

So there you have it! Congratulations, one & all.

The Beat Converses: India Carney of The Voice by Amanda Silberling

By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

   Photo via The Daily Bruin, Neil Bed

Photo via The Daily Bruin, Neil Bed

Another month, another stunning emerging musician... this month, meet India Carneythough you may already know her from the brand new season of The Voice, where she managed to turn all four chairs & land on Team Christina. Stay tuned today and tomorrow at 8 pm EST to see India battle it out, and win our hearts all over again!


Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief: First off: congratulations on getting a standing ovation from all four coaches in your Blind Audition—proud to say I’ve known about your talent since before The Voice! Let’s start off simple: How does it feel to be named a “favorite” for this season; has it sunk in yet?

India Carney, The Voice Contestant: Thank you so much! Honestly, I didn't realize I was a favorite this season, but I appreciate it! I suppose hearing that I'm being named a "favorite" hasn't sunken in yet. I'm just focusing on preparing for finals, getting my graduation requirements in order, and getting all my thank yous out on Twitter and Facebook!

 

Tell our readers your story. (We really want to hear it.)

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. When I was younger, I would tinker on the keys of our piano, and my parents saw that as a sign that I might be interested in music. So, my mother took me to weekly Mommy & Me music classes starting at 6 months old, and I was studying at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music by the time I was 2. I had the experience of using different instruments and understanding rhythm. I not only learned about music, but I also was able to create music. Soon after, I began taking classical piano and flute lessons and joined a community choir. During my early education, my parents taught me at home. Homeschooling allowed me the flexibility to explore a variety of interests, including tennis, golf, music, theater, and lots of field trips!  Brooklyn was my classroom, and that early education gave me my foundation. When I was enrolled in elementary school a few years later, I joined the choir, drama club and the school band (playing flute). I performed in community theaters and also sang at my church. When I was 9 years old, I was cast as "Annie" in Annie Jr., a community theater production directed and founded by Tony Award winner Ben Harney. Through that experience, I discovered my voice and realized my passion for this art. In middle school, I began studying voice as a Voice Major (or, "Vocal Talent", as we used to call it). I then graduated and studied at LaGuardia Arts High School where I was enrolled as a Vocal Major. I participated in the school musicals, talent shows, and a few other events. My first musical there was A Chorus Line playing the role of "Diana Morales" and then Hairspray as a “Dynamite”.  As a high school student, I also attended Saturday school for four years at the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College in Voice and for my final senior production I starred as “Aida” in the junior version of the musical, AIDA.  At LaGuardia, I also got my start with songwriting. I took a composition class and started to develop that skill as best I could. During summer breaks, I went to summer programs, one of which included the National High School Summer Institute (NHSI) @ Northwestern University where I studied Theater and Musical Theatre.  During my senior year of high school, I was also a National Foundation YoungArts Silver Winner in Pop Voice and won other Voice and Theatre awards through YoungArts. I was selected to be one of 20 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest scholastic achievement for a graduating high school senior! The Scholars and I were flown out to Washington, D.C. to be honored by the White House and White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, and give a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. I was completely humbled by that experience and opportunity. After I graduated from LaGuardia, I immediately went on to study Music at UCLA, where I am finishing up my senior year.

Music has been my life. Sometimes, I look at it as a spiritual thing, to be honest. It wakes me up in the morning, walks with me during the day and tucks me in to bed at night. It's the one thing that I've always understood, and one part of my life that I am especially passionate about.

 

What made you decide this season of The Voice was for you?

I think the timing was just right this season. I am about to graduate from college, and I figured it would be neat if I were lucky enough to have this opportunity, something that could potentially set up my future and my life post-graduation. The Voice is an incredible show. I even auditioned a few times before finally getting a "Yes" for this season. I just knew it was worth it to keep auditioning, so I did. I was encouraged by all of my professors to pursue it. Thankfully, I was selected for this season and I couldn't be happier! #TeamChristina!

 

If you weren’t a singer, what type of artist would you most want to be? Why?

Music has been my life. Sometimes, I look at it as a spiritual thing, to be honest. It wakes me up in the morning, walks with me during the day and tucks me in to bed at night.
— India Carney

If I weren't a singer.. wow. It would very hard for me to think of not being a singer. I’ve been preparing as a singer my whole life and I love performing!  I guess I'd like to be a director, whether it be directing plays or directing a choir. The feeling of being able to develop and nurture something, and be somewhat in charge of that journey seems to be awesome and super gratifying. I currently direct an a cappella group at UCLA (ScatterTones), and vocal direct a student-run theater company called Act III Theater Ensemble at UCLA. I feel that sentiment all the time.


How have your educational experiences changed the person and singer that you’ve become? Any specific mentors? Which opportunities would you most highly suggest for teenagers or young adults that hope to be where you are now in a couple of years?

My educational experiences have greatly shaped the artist that I am today. Through music education, I've developed such a deep love and respect for music, and for the art of teaching and learning, whether it be in a classroom setting or a real life performing experience. For people who have been products of a musical education, it's always about the teacher's impact. That's why we have a Grammy award for the Best Teacher in the nation. Teachers have, and always will be very valuable to an artist's success, and I can say that I've been blessed with supportive teachers all throughout my journey. My parents were my first influential teachers, since I was home-schooled for a while. I went on to learn from and be encouraged by my teachers during private lessons, elementary school and middle school, but I think I met my most influential teachers in high school, which is where my passion in music really began to grow. All of my teachers were incredibly supportive and even tried to help me network and advance to the next step. My current teachers at UCLA are so generous, so giving, and so supportive of my endeavors. I admire them and couldn't be more grateful to have them in my life.

My suggestion to those looking to start your career in the performing arts would be to network. Oh my gosh, it's the one thing that is incredibly difficult for me, but it’s the only way that you'll get to where you'll eventually want to be. Not to mention, you meet new people and establish new, positive relationships. Networking is key. Auditioning and never giving up are also key. Success doesn't come on the first try. I've heard "No" several times, and in fact, I auditioned for The Voice a few times before getting selected for the Blind Auditions. Now, I'm part of an incredible process that has put me in a position I couldn't ever have dreamt of. If you're looking to be part of a competition like The Voice, I'd suggest you do some competitions in preparation for the experience. The other advantage of participating in competitions is that your talent can be recognized by industry professionals.

 Photo via  Facebook

Photo via Facebook

 
This next question is quite a conceptual one. Where does the art of voice lie for you? Is it collaborative, or is it between you and the song? How does this philosophy affect your methodology and style?

Ooh, this is a great question. I could write an essay on this, but I promise I won't. Last year, after my Junior Recital, my friend came up to me and said, "India, you know how to use your instrument so well." That was actually the first time I looked at the voice as an instrument. Of course, we're all used to people differentiating musicians form singers, when in reality, we're all musicians. The voice is an instrument, and it's a vehicle for emotion. Thinking of the voice as an instrument causes you to take a different perspective on how to treat it. Many times, singing is the only way I can truly emote something and my the message across to an audience. It has reassured me during tough times and the sound of someone's voice really has the power to speak to people, and emotionally touch someone's heart. Studying opera has taught me a lot respecting the voice, and looking at it as something that needs to be taken care of and cherished. So many people take singing, and singers for granted, but the voice has the power to change lives and send messages. I just find singing to be such a beautiful thing.

Auditioning and never giving up are also key. Success doesn’t come on the first try. I’ve heard “No” several times, and in fact, I auditioned for The Voice a few times before getting selected for the Blind Auditions.
— India Carney

To answer the second part of your question, I think that singing calls for an active combination of your personal connection with the song, and a collaborative element. Being part of YoungArts taught me that music, especially singing, is a collaborative experience, and that mentality has helped me a lot in the group singing and other collaborative activities that I'm a part of. The Battle Rounds of The Voice are all about collaboration, believe it or not. Some people may have the idea that Battles are about showing off and finding a winner, but it's really about creating a performance on the stage, where you get to work off of your partner, and make both of you shine, so that you both can come out winners. I'm always excited to work with new people, because it's a new learning experience for you. The only way to move forward is by working together, and I wholeheartedly believe that.


And finally, you mentioned during your blind audition that you chose “someone who was a big part of my childhood” as a coach—Christina Aguilera. What was it about Christina that had a particular influence on you? Any other artists that have had a similar influence?

Oh yes. Christina Aguilera was my iPod. I would travel with her songs wherever I went. I still belt out "I Turn To You", "Fighter", and I was just listening to "Reflections" while watching Milan (basically my favorite Disney movie besides Lion King) the other day. She has been an inspiration to so many singers, myself included. Her voice is so iconic and her career is so influential. Not to mention, she's an incredible person. I grew up listening to all sorts of music, and my iPod still consists of many different artists. I'd say some more musical inspirations include Michael Jackson, Jasmine Sullivan, Adele, Coldplay, John Mayer, Jessie J, and of course, Whitney Houston!


Peter LaBerge is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work is featured or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He grew up in southwestern Connecticut, and now lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. Learn more at www.peterlaberge.com.

MORE BEAT CONVERSES:
September 2014 - Caroline Glaser.
Octover 2014 - Louisa Wendorff.
January 2015 - Drew Tabor.
February 2015 - Maddy Hudson.

Rapid Reviews: Tantalus in Love (Mariner Books, 2005) by Alan Shapiro by Amanda Silberling

By Henry Heidger, Blog Correspondent

Welcome back to Rapid Reviews! The premise is simple: Our lovely blog correspondent Henry Heidger pulls up to a bookstore, walks in, and has an hour to read and study a book of poetry selected randomly from the shelf. Then, he writes about it here.


Tantalus in Love explores the emotional abyss that is trenched when a loved one leaves. As the title indicates, the collection utilizes the Ancient Greek myth of Tantalus, a man who sacrificed his son, Pelops, as a banquet for the gods. Citing the gruesome nature of Tantalus’ sacrifice, the gods refuse his offering. For his punishment, he is forced to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low-hanging branches. However, the fruit eternally eludes his grasp, and the water recedes before he can drink from it.

The collection’s first poem, “Tantalus in Love,” is epic in scope, encompassing the breadth of a marriage. Shapiro’s writing style is reminiscent of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. His verse is marked by loose structure, ambiguous, even blurry structure. But marriage is similarly messy, especially in the period that leads up to a divorce. Shapiro raises powerful images and messages out of the loose structure: bits of dialogue between a wife and husband, domestic images, unfinished interjections.

“The nearness of it, the right / there too bright mocking / plentitude that leaps away / so teasingly each time…” His skewed syntax recalls John Berryman, yet his voice is very much his own. Here, Shapiro become Tantalus. His wife is likened to the fruit that Tantalus can never reach.

As the marriage disintegrates through the poem, the narrator becomes more skeptical, even retracting and correcting previous statements. “She just ignores it— / no, / “ignores” suggests too much / awareness— / how / she doesn’t / so much as realize / he’s there—…” This type of self-correction is used throughout with powerful effect.

Tantalus in Love is a journey that ends with rebirth. Shapiro’s demons (his divorce and the loss of his parents and siblings) are finally cast out, and a lovely lightness illuminates the final section of the collection.

In “Iris,” Shapiro writes, “The flower bends under the blossom’s / weight; it trembles, bending / it almost / seems / to hold it up, as if / to hold it there forever…” It is in several poems near the end that Shapiro let’s go, releases his past and moves into the light of the future.

At the collection’s end, Shapiro’s voice is heroic, daring, and triumphant. In “Sunflower,” the collection’s penultimate poem, Shapiro writes, “Say / there-is-nothing- / I-won’t-do-to-live.” Tantalus grasps the fruit; however, this time the fruit is not the past, not his marriage, not his parents. The fruit is the future and all it holds—a new phase of life.


Alan Shapiro is an American poet and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has authored nine books of poetry, winning a Kingsley Tufts Award for his collection The Dead Alive and Busy (2001).

Henry Heidger is a senior in high school from St. Louis, Missouri. He is a poet, writer, and critic. His work is forthcoming in The Scapegoat Review, and he is a cofounder of Young Poets of St. Louis. His favorite poets are Anne Carson, Owen Sheers, and John Berryman, and he plays the violin in his spare time. He writes the column "Rapid Reviews," which appears once monthly.

Staff Spotlight: Lathan Vargason (Art Correspondent) by Amanda Silberling

By Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor

We first fell in love with Lathan Vargason when his art appeared in Issue Seven of Adroit. But even after Lathan has spent over a year on staff, our honeymoon phase hasn't ended. I mean, he has a drag alter-ego named Potato – how could we fall out of love?

  biohazard 22" x 24" acrylic and graphite on panel 2013

biohazard
22" x 24"
acrylic and graphite on panel
2013

Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor: You're a student at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) – what exactly do you study there? What projects have you been working on lately?

Lathan Vargason, Art Correspondent: I entered MICA in 2012 as a Painting major, and studied that for two years.  I found the department to not be the best fit for me. I really wasn't a "painter's painter" so it was hard to get into shows, get attention, or get money.  I switched over to a department called "General Fine Arts", so now I'm doing pretty much whatever I want as I prepare for my senior year.  My latest projects have been miniature replicas of 1950-70s appliances and bathroom fixtures, and I am currently building a 1:12 scale model of my grandmother’s 1956 house in Owensboro, Kentucky, where I was born.

 

Did you find it difficult to switch from medium to medium?

I really enjoyed painting; I was making a lot of color-field paintings that would have small detailed drawings on them. I relied heavily on negative space for a reaction from my viewer.  But after I did so many of those it just became boring.  Being around 1,000 visual artists, 200 of whom are doing paintings, I just became overstimulated by painting and really needed to switch it up.  Now I've just been teaching myself different techniques and tools, like 3-D Printing.  It was actually pretty easy to go from my style of painting to the miniature work.  It felt like the perfect next step

  toilet 2014 2 in x 2.5 in x 1.5 in plastic, metal wire, enamel paint

toilet
2014
2 in x 2.5 in x 1.5 in
plastic, metal wire, enamel paint

How does 3D printing work with the scale model project?  Also, what inspired you to build your grandmother's house?

For the miniatures, I either model pieces or pull manufacturer's CAD files and convert them into workable files so that I can print them on my printer.  I then have to sand, prime, and paint them for weeks to achieve the desired surface. It's really fun to dissect appliances and model each piece.  For my miniature stove I modeled like 30 different pieces and did the process of preparing the surface, and then had to painstakingly put them together so that the stove door would open, the drawer would pull out, and the knobs would turn.  My grandmother’s house was always so interesting to me. It was built in the 50s, which has become a really interesting era for me. The house had a turquoise bathroom and hand-built kitchen cabinets, and it just seemed like a really good vessel to play with and create a conceptual environment related to domesticity. It's a very personal project steeped with my history, but it's also something I think can speak to an audience.

 

What intrigues you about the 50s? Does art from that era influence your art at all?

It's kind of expanded from the 50s up to the 70s.  It was such a colorful time; Venetian pink, harvest gold, avocado.  All of these whimsical names and bright colors, and then when you examine the era there's so much wrong. These colorful homes were often facades for troubled marriages, closeted queer identities, etc.  I'm also fascinated by my experience of seeing these facades ripped out and "modernized" in today's culture.

I'd say I'm very influenced by art of this time period, 50's Edward Hopper, but I'm even more influenced by the design of the time period.  Wall mount dishwashers, crane sinks, hide-a-way toothbrush holders… It was such an industrious and bustling time for invention.  In my work I'm constantly toying between two extremes, the "beautiful and the lethal" as artist Laurie Simmons puts it.  I often draw from imagery from the whimsical side of the 50s/70s and try to incorporate what I see as "lethal,” symbolism related to gay culture, HIV-positive status, mental illness, suicide.

 "Perfect Match,"  The Adroit Journal , Issue 7

"Perfect Match," The Adroit Journal, Issue 7

Before joining staff, you had art appear in Issue 7, which also dealt with aspects of gay culture. Describe those pieces, and what your process of creating them was.

Oh boy, Throwback Thursday. Those pieces were my first works after moving from a town of 500 in Kentucky. It was very much a sexual awakening of sorts in my work. I was overusing gay sexual positions and phallic forms. "Perfect Match" was a drawing of me with my legs up in the air, in happy baby pose, with the caption "enjoys long walks on the beach.” It was a response to my newfound sexual exploration, with the anticipation of a lasting relationship. I've always been interested in having my work be inviting, so I drew it very delicately and wrote the caption playfully.  The colors of those works were pastel-y and subdued, very nursery rhyme-esque.  I think the work I'm doing now relates directly to those pieces, especially "Map," which was a literal map of my town in Kentucky, with imagery of tombstones, penises, and angels. It even had a 50s diner hiding in one of the corners.  I think I'm just now refining the technique of creating inviting work that has a deeper connotation, which I see as being very in line with the 50-70s era.   The pieces were fun for me because they served as my coming out, and gave me a lot of inspirational reactions from audiences including certain family members who decided they couldn't be associated with a sexual deviant. Sorry, Aunt Kim.

A year after those works when I created a series of paintings using imagery of a family member named JoAnn, I actually had people email me to threaten me and demand that I remove her image from my website.  They thought I was desecrating her memory by placing her in the same web browser as my previous work.

 

How does that make you feel about censorship and art?

I've had a lot of experience with censorship, mostly in my freshman year, when I was denied from a couple of shows for the imagery in my work.  My opinion is kind of weird. I like censorship because it gives me a challenge and forces me to find ways to expand my work beyond the "shock" imagery, or include the imagery in an even more subtle way. Though I definitely don't believe in censorship, famous examples like Robert Mapplethorpe, it is something that exists when you're dealing with the public, and I've learned to embrace and incorporate it into my work.

  kitchen set

kitchen set

What's your biggest challenge as an artist?

It's such a cliché, but balancing real life with studio practice is exceedingly difficult.  I work three jobs and go to school full time, so I'm always struggling to find time to sit down and create.

My biggest challenge when creating is dealing with my obsessive nature.  It took me two months to finish the miniature stove because I am constantly redoing things. I have anxiety about how my work looks, how I present it, etc., and it is sometimes difficult to overcome that and just go full force with the pieces. I had a lot of success towards the end of high school with Presidential Scholar, and I always set way too high of standards for myself.

I do set aside time for fun projects, like my drag alter ego "Potato" which had mild Youtube success, and I have a passion for interior design and home restoration.  So I just have to balance the serious "fine art" with "fun projects"

 

Elaborate on your drag alter ego.

Potato was the result of a film class I took where I was really struggling to create "serious" films, so I was like fuck it, and since I am a huge fan of “Rupauls Drag Race,” I thought it would be a good starting point to parody an audition tape.  I made an audition tape as Potato and it got like 7,000 views on Youtube within a couple weeks. It was fun, and I'm working on part two now. Potato is a really awful drag queen who wants to be on reality TV more than anything


What are Potato's deepest fears, hopes, and dreams?

Her deepest fear is rejection, but she’s getting over that.  She wants to be on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, and her ultimate dream is to host her own interior design show on HGTV.  She shares some qualities with myself.

She also wouldn't mind judging an episode of Top Chef.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on Adroit staff?

I don't think anything weird has happened to me on Adroit staff, but the submissions by artist Andrew Wilson (Poetry Reader) always brightened my day. He used to just submit really obscene hilarious comics, about poop or something else. He is a really hilarious artist.


Lathan Vargason (1994 - ) is a visual artist from Lewisport, Kentucky. Influenced by a rural background and employing that personal history into his work, Lathan works to create engaging conversations with his audience. Often the work challenges traditional viewpoints and creates a new visual experience related to complex ideas, sexuality and unfamiliar subcultures.  
A variety of technique and materials are present in Lathan’s work. Ranging from delicate drawings on expansive plains of solid color to molded and designed miniature replicas of vintage appliances and bathroom fixtures.
Lathan has shown nationally and been recognized by President Barack Obama as the first U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts from the state of Kentucky. His work has been on display at the Miami Art Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and included in group shows in New York City at the Flomenhaft Gallery, BravinLee Programs and Salon94 Freemans with a solo exhibition at the Carnegie Center in Covington, Kentucky in 2011. His work sits in collections in San Francisco, New York City, Cincinnati and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania from South Florida. Her poems, essays, and reviews appear in Crab Orchard Review, PANK, The Los Angeles Times, and The Rumpus, among others. Find her on Twitter at @asilbwrites.

Conversations with Contributors: Zach VandeZande (Prose, Issue 10) by Amanda Silberling

By Derick Edgren, Blog Correspondent

He shocked us with his story "Accord" in the latest issue of Adroit – so we couldn't resist talking to him a bit more about Rick Perry's farts (you'll see). In our next installment of Conversations with Contributors, we chat with Zach VandeZande about the Wendy Davis filibuster and writing what you wish you knew.

Derick Edgren, Blog Correspondent: Before we get started, I think it'd be a good idea to purge our outside thoughts so that we can be super specific (or not) with these questions. I want you to say anything and everything that you've been thinking about lately. That being said, what's on your mind? 

Zach VandeZande, Issue 10 Prose Conributor: Well, I feel like a real live writer today, since this morning in my email I got some really brilliant and helpful editor comments on a story, news about a book review I wrote, these interview questions, and a damn contract for my first short story collection (which I'm not sure if I can officially announce yet, so as a compromise I won't give any details whatsoever). I am trying not to have a big head about all this. It is difficult!

Rick Perry is on an elevator in the Statehouse building in Austin and he has to fart but he is not alone and he knows it will be audible and wet-sounding and of course he is also governor.
— "Accord" by Zach VandeZande | The Adroit Journal, Issue 10

What else have I been thinking about? I’m getting old, so my body has begun betraying me in little ways. It’s odd, the way the body just starts to sort of say no to you. Like, “You can have another cup of coffee if you want, but all of us here in your abdomen are gonna throw a huge tantrum about it.”  I’m beginning to understand why my grandmother moves so slowly and eats such bland food—if she didn’t, it would hurt like hell. 

I’ve also been thinking about humanity’s schizophrenic attitude toward nature—our insistence on our being separate from nature, and how that leads to a lot of pointless pearl-clutching or hand-wringing w/r/t things like breast-feeding and back hair and the fact that we are all ultimately just the pupae of skeletons.

Okay, I think my head is clear.

 

Now that we've aired those thoughts a little bit, let's discuss your most recent contribution to Adroit. Where does a story like "Accord," with talk of farts and Rick Perry and mushrooms, come from? 

It actually came from following Wendy Davis’ filibuster a little while ago. If you’ll recall, she filibustered to stop the largely Republican, largely rich, largely white male Texas government from massively restricting a woman’s right to choose in Texas. It was very inspiring, and it sparked a lot of conversation, and I think in a decade or two we’ll look to it as a moment that helped shift the balance of politics in Texas. 

The point is, though, that this was happening, and I started thinking about Rick Perry’s smarm, and I was going through this phase of trying to have empathy for absolutely everyone, even people like Perry or my then-upstairs neighbor who I once heard say that Dragonball Z was more important than Shakespeare, both because I thought it would be good for me and because I thought it was something that was missing in a lot of writing by white men, who, whether they admit it or not, are still too often scrabbling after the ghost of Hemingway and filling their stories up with typical, insular white dude stuff (I am also very much pointing the finger at myself here). And I thought, “Rick Perry is just a man who probably farts really aggressively into his leather office chair when he’s alone and then laughs.” Just this silly, this dumb thing that saps him of his power and menace while also making him deeply human. Which he is. 

The story started with that, and then the ghost watching him kind of came naturally out of that, for some reason. Maybe because true empathy requires a kind of understanding that we only get in fleeting moments, but a ghost could see those points of connection and love.

 

I'm fascinated by your exploration of that part of ourselves we like to keep "trapped inside." Would you care to elaborate or expand upon what you discuss in your work? 

Well, I read a lot of critical theory stuff, Derrida and Foucault and Baudrillard, a couple of years ago, and that reading reinforced something I already knew from living and reading and etc.: we’re all trapped in here, in our heads. We’ve invented language as a way to get out, but it’s hard to ever use language to properly escape. It’s like trying to bail out the Titanic with cupped hands—sure, it works, but it’s not anywhere near enough. It’s scary, but there it is. And the beautiful thing about language and writing stories or poetry or a blog or whatever is that we know in some sense that we won’t ever get it right, that the ship will continue to sink, with I guess our deaths being the moment when it slips under entirely, but by god, we’re trying.

 

Is this story different from what you usually write?

I sort of have two modes of writing. One mode is like this, where weird things happen and I try and push all these magical-realism/slipstream/whatever ideas together in order to explore something I’ve been thinking about too much. The other mode is often more traditional realism, and focuses on some situation or some person that I want to explore. So, for example, my dissertation had a bunch of realist, MFA workshop-ish stories and then a novella in vignettes that was written to slowly disassemble its own truths as it kind of spiraled into deliberate incoherence.  I’ll let you guess on your own how well that went.  I’m still trying to figure out how to merge these two modes together, because I like both kinds of writing. Some day!

 

You wrote from the point of view of someone who is dead. Since you're definitely not dead, this leads me to believe you don't approach the old dictum "write what you know" conservatively. How might you amend that saying? 

“Write what you wish you knew” probably works. There was an essay in the Atlantic by Bret Anthony Johnston a few years ago called “Don’t Write What You Know” that I like a lot, which basically said that the emotional truth is actually hindered by the actual truth. I like to write my way into who I am, not what I’ve been.

Write something hard, or weird, something you’re not sure you know how to do. Don’t write palatable work. Don’t write stuff that would go over really well in a workshop. Find a way to love yourself and the world, and then write about that.
— Zach VandeZande

I was listening to Aleksandar Hemon speak recently, and he was talking about both fiction and nonfiction, and he said something along the lines of, “It’s not true until I’ve said it.”  I’m probably misremembering, but whatever. On its face it seems really obvious, but it has these enormous implications when you think about it. When you write, you’re truing the world.  And you can true it any way you like. 

I also think that these dictums that we follow are largely based on anxiety—anxiety about our own goodness/value, anxiety about the unteachability of writing, anxiety about having some kind of legitimate doctrine to follow as an artist. I’ve been through academia, and I will continue to deal with academia (both to make my monies and because I believe in it), and I think the workshop model has a hell of a lot to offer students.  But too often when we focus on these rules—write what you know, show don’t tell, etc.—what we’re doing is teaching people about hammers instead of teaching them to drive a nail.

 

What challenges have you faced as a writer?

A tough question.  I could list every challenge I’ve ever faced, probably.  I will say that I had to give up a lot to do this for real—security, money, comfort, etc.  I think too much about too many things, which naturally leads to times when sadness is hard to shake.  I don’t believe artists need to be tortured or unhappy to produce good work, but it does seem easier to create when you’re feeling wounded. I’ve hurt a lot of people too, sometimes in ways that didn’t hurt me back equally, which is perhaps less about being a writer and more about just being a living person.

As for the business of being a writer: eh.  I’m used to the rejection letters, I’m used to the slim odds, I’m used to it feeling sometimes like things are stupid or hopeless.  My motto for the past year or so has been “You’re working today,” which solves a lot of that tension for me. 
 

What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

Focus on the process, not the goal.  I said at the beginning of last year that I was going to read 100 books, write or revise 250 pages, submit my work 250 times, and get 10 stories published.  I could control three of those four, and so I focused on those three, made myself a system that broke it down into what I had to do for the week.  And then, instead of thinking “oh, I have so much to do, and success is so far off,” it was “All you have to do is write a little something today, submit a little something, and you’re good.”  And then I set up a spreadsheet (some strong dork stuff here) that kept track of that and had a points-based reward schedule for staying at it. Doing that, I read 103 books, wrote or revised 343 pages, and submitted my work 326 times, getting 15 stories published and now a book deal out of the effort.  Plus I bought myself some really nice scotch and a PS4 without once feeling guilty about it. 

What else? Make a journal tell you no instead of assuming they don’t want to read your work. Be satisfied with what you’ve done and keep believing in it.  Write something hard, or weird, something you’re not sure you know how to do.  Don’t write palatable work.  Don’t write stuff that would go over really well in a workshop.  Find a way to love yourself and the world, and then write about that. 

 

And the most important question of the interview: are you a dog person or a cat person, and why? (Brownie points for relating your reasons to a favorite poem or novel.) 

Allergic to cats, but I like a few of them. But: dogs all the way. I love it when someone brings a dog to a party, or when I’m on the street and there’s a dog, or just when I’m thinking about dogs. I like best thinking about a medium sized dog in a bandana named Charles or Tuck or Hazel or Pemulis. My favorite dogs in real life are named Santiago, Rory, Roan, and Banjo, in a random order so as not to upset their owners. Dogs don’t go to heaven; dogs are heaven. I have a lot of feelings about dogs.


Zach VandeZande is the author of Apathy and Paying Rent (Loose Teeth, 2008).  His work has recently appeared in Portland Review, Atlas Review, decomP, Bop Dead City, Necessary Fiction, Hot Street, Crack the Spine, and Punchnel’s, and is forthcoming in Gettysburg Review, Passages North, Thin Air, and The Boiler. He holds a PhD of fiction from the University of North Texas.  He likes baking bread, hammocks, and people who bring their dogs.

Derick Edgren is a student at Sarah Lawrence College.

Raise Your Glass: Adroit's Madeleine Cravens and Richie Hofmann Meet the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology! by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief. 

 Contributors Madeleine Cravens and Richie Hofmann represent The Adroit Journal in the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology.

Contributors Madeleine Cravens and Richie Hofmann represent The Adroit Journal in the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology.

            The Adroit Journal is thrilled to announce that Madeleine Cravens' Summer 2014 nonfiction essay “Girls and Boys: Growing Up in Four Parts” and Richie Hofmann's Summer 2014 poem "Midwinter" have been selected by guest editors Michael Martone and Kathy Fagan (respectively) for inclusion in the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology, to be published in mid-March by Sundress Publications.

            This news marks the journal's first inclusions in the anthology, following its first nomination cycle earlier this academic year. The anthology seeks to “bring greater respect to [the] innovative and continually expanding medium” of online publication. Nearly 150 journals nominate more than a thousand pieces for the few annual seats. 

            Richie Hofmann is the Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University. His debut collection of poems, Second Empire, is the recipient of the Beatrice Hawley Award, and is forthcoming from Alice James Books in November 2015. He is the recipient of a Ruth Lily Poetry Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New YorkerPoetryKenyon ReviewPloughshares, and Poetry Daily.

            Madeleine Cravens is a freshman at Oberlin College, and a recent graduate of Bard High School Early College in New York City. Her work can be found in The Postscript JournalRevolver Literary Magazine, the Winter 2014 Issue of The Adroit Journal, and the Human Parts collection of medium.com

            This marks Hofmann's and Cravens’ first appearances in the anthology. Coincidentally, Hofmann served as the judge of the 2014 Adroit Prize for Poetry, while Cravens was named the runner-up for the 2014 Adroit Prize for Prose. Guest judge and University of Alabama professor Wendy Rawlings says, “‘Girls and Boys: Growing Up in Four Parts’ lyrically evokes the trials of adolescence in a way I found entirely fresh.”

            As a college freshman, Cravens is the youngest inclusion in Best of the Net history.

            For more information about Best of the Net, please visit the website here

Conversations with Contributors: Philip Schaefer and Jeff Whitney (Poetry, Issue 10) by Amanda Silberling

By Talin Tahajian, Poetry Editor

Philip Schaefer and Jeff Whitney are provocative, compelling poets on their own – so when they work together, there's magic on the page, to say the least. As recent winners of Black Lawrence Press's Black River Chapbook Competition, Philip and Jeff are no strangers to working as a team. So now, we're challenging Philip and Jeff to collaborate on an interview, rather than a poem, in our first ever double contributor interview. 

Both of your Adroit poems create these crazy worlds inside them. How important is physical setting to your poetry? Do you find that you write differently depending on where you are?

You might be tempted to swear
that this is a place for being found
but details are never the same: now
a family of foxes is curled into commas
in the hull of a Cessna, the tower is crumpled
into blocks. Maybe there never was a train.
All an empty place wants is you
to witness its emptiness. What it means
to say if only and mean it.
— "Poetry," Jeff Whitney (Issue 10, The Adroit Journal)

Philip Schaefer: I have to be constantly moving. My best stuff often happens without me, usually while hiking my dog up a mountain and sweating out last night’s stupor. Sometimes I try to write poems in front of a computer or in a notepad, but mostly they suck. I must be moving—legs pumping with blood, mouth cursing at my shit-head terrier to stop barking at logs that look like taxidermied squirrels, etc. I’m obsessed with place. With knowing a world, creating a world, and obfuscating this world. I often feel like I live in Twin Peaks, and it’s the best place to live. I will dread the day I ever have to leave the mountains. How’s Annie?! 

Jeff Whitney: Having shifted the past 6 years from Madrid to Montana to South Korea to Portland, place is a large, capital P kind of idea that’s always looming in my mind. In writing, I rarely create the same world as the one I experience in real life, though it may contain some of the same landmarks. The setting in the poem that appears in Adroit, for example, is based on an actual airfield near my parents’ home on San Juan Island, but hardly any of the details are real. As Dick Hugo (sort of) put it, all truth must conform to music—and not the other way around.  

I’m sure something seeps in to my writing from whichever place I happen to be hanging my hat, but usually physical location has little bearing on the writing I do at that moment. For instance, during my time in Madrid there was a stretch of highway my bus went down on the way home from work that lent a great view of planes coming in to land at Barajas.  It was amazing to see them, stretched out sometimes 4 or 5 back, little lights progressively dimmer and smaller ramping up in the sky, to think of the people hauled in from everywhere and then to think of me passing beneath, going my way.  I used to imagine this was a very important experience, something I would have to write about. I tried. The poems were mightily unsuccessful. It hasn’t come up in any poem since, may never will.           


You’ve written a bunch of chapbooks together—how does your process of collaboration work? Is it always easy? What are the most difficult/natural things about poetic collaboration?

PS: OK, a bunch is endearing, but not true. We’ve written two, and though we’ve been lucky as hell to get them published, it certainly doesn’t feel easy. It’s pretty incredible, actually, that we’ve found each other in this sort of poetic northwestern vortex. We both received our MFAs from Montana, though we never overlapped. Except right before Jeff moved. He had a garage sale of sorts and I took some wool socks off his hands/feet, and a couple copies of his first chapbook. From there, the poe-mance is history. We kept in touch and realized we had extremely similar voices and aesthetics, and thought, shoot, let’s see what happens.

We exchange lines and stanzas and poems almost every day, in some capacity, and all through the web. After a month or so of this back-and-forth, we begin whittling. And whistling. We become like the seven dwarves until the work is done. Then we hit click.

We seem to yin and yang each other pretty well. When one of us creates the world, the other one fills in the details. I say Everest, he hangs a climber by his own pickaxe.

JW: Our process of collaboration for those two chapbooks was pretty haphazard: we did some writing exercises, put together some things we’d written individually, and shared in the editing of each others’ writing along the way.

Some people use the word work to describe the writing process, but with Phil it never felt like that at all. It was always fun, always invigorating. As a result, it was easy to keep going with it. Looking back, it really felt quite natural to do a collaboration. Poetry is, after all, inherently collaborative, not only between the writer and the reader, but between the writer and all the other writers/artists/people with whom he or she has been in contact.

I’d say the most difficult thing was settling revision ideas—the little stuff: comma here, line break there—but even that wasn’t so tough. If ever I suggested something Phil didn’t agree with, he’d tell me why, and if he seemed more passionate about his idea than I was about mine, we’d go with his. 


In that same vein, what are some things you’ve learned about your own poetry by working closely with someone else’s?

Instead of burying the shoebox,
we take off our shirts and kiss
the ground. Again, the moths fly
out, the gross wonder. We’re still young.
Shaped by summer and its lesions.
We toe the line between field
and sun until it’s light
in our mouths.
— "Human Aviary," Philip Schaefer (Issue 10, The Adroit Journal)

JW: I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about Phil’s poetry. Being so close to the ground floor on his writing process has helped me understand the way he tends to shape poems: his tendencies, his preoccupations, and how he flushes those things out. But for my own poetry, it’s tougher to say. I suppose the flipside is that through collaboration I became much more aware of what my own tendencies are in writing. I also found myself taking on more of a “Phil voice” as we went further along. I’d venture to say that Phil twisted some of his stuff to inhabit more of a Jeff sound. Just like the knowledge that is gained by reading great poetry, I have been able to add Phil’s approach to poems to my own tool belt, and that’s a pretty damn useful thing to have.   

PS: I’ve learned I have a lot to learn. I consider myself a dumb poet but a lover of words. Jeff’s poetry has this ability to fashion a world into existence within a line or two, then zoom in to the most bizarre, broken details without warning. And yet, somehow, nothing is obscured. It’s both ends of the magnifying lens. If you pay close enough attention, you realize more than one ant will burn.
 

What do we need to write less about? What do we need to write more about?

JW: I think people are writing about every possible thing humans could ever write about. Perhaps, if you don’t mind, I’ll frame the question as: What do we need to lend more of our attention to? And toward that, the answer hasn't changed: how to build the just city, how to maximize the well-being of all, how to responsibly live in this world, how to be a family. 

PS: Honestly, I think we need to stop concerning ourselves with what we need to write less or more about. It’s not a bad question, I simply think that the words “about” and “poetry” are like apples and orangutans. Richard Hugo once said “I’d far rather mean what I say than say what I mean” and I can’t help but apply that to everything. If you sit down to write about war, or heteronormative behavior, or Nixon, you’ll write a shitty poem. Doesn’t mean these subjects can’t occur within the template of the poem, but I can’t emphasize enough that I think poetry writes people, not vice versa. Poetry is discursive and dialogical. The reader and her realm are more important to interpretation than anything the author can put on the page.

  

If you were to get a tattoo of a poem (or a few lines of a poem), what would it/they be? 

PS: Finally an easy answer. Five years or so ago I had the lines “like a wooden ocean out of control” inked on the inside of my left forearm. They were Jack Gilbert’s words, my favorite poet. It’s one of those phrases where if I have to explain it, it’s not worth explaining. And if I don’t, and you like it, the next round is on me. Jesus, isn’t that the nature of tattoos. And poetry. 

JW: Phil’s answer to this is pretty stellar, and so is his tattoo. For me, if I were ever going to go under the gun, I would feel pretty good with these lines from Antonio Machado:

Late corazón… no todo

Se lo ha tragado la tierra.

 

Beat heart… not everything

Has been swallowed by the earth.

 

Think about the biggest argument you had with a parent or adult as a teenager. Looking back, do you agree with yourselves or the parent? 

JW: I wasn’t very argumentative with my folks growing up (that was my brother’s job). But, looking back, they were always right.

PS: When I was sixteen my parents booked it to Florida for vacation. I didn’t know how to drive a five-speed, so naturally they left me with our silver 1987 Nissan Stanza. It smelled like moth balls and lawnmowers. Though I was flipped off by grandmas and mule deer while learning what it meant to kick in the clutch, I eventually got the hang of it. I hated my parents that week, but I lived. And now I talk shit to anyone who can’t drive a stick shift. My parents definitely won.

 

Are poems arguments? 

JW: I’d hesitate to refer to poems as arguments, though it’s certainly true that they make a case for more fully inhabiting the world—how to do so and why. Additionally, they contain within them language that makes arguable claims (Jack Gilbert’s wonderful line, “we must risk delight,” comes to mind).

Instead, however, I prefer to think of poems as something more numinous—and thus less rhetorically & syntactically grounded—than an argument. Closer, really, to music or what the other end of the universe has up its sleeve.

PS: Everything is an argument, from our knee socks to our cheekbones. The beluga whale is an argument. An empty church pew. It’s why poetry exists—to frame the argument in a fractured way. In fractals. A mosaic of voices. Everything exists within a context, and that context enters a contest for best argument, and whether or not you’re persuaded by joy or blood doesn’t matter; we’ve all got our money on one horse or another. Poetry is the best kind of argument (well, art in general) because it doesn’t impose its view. This goes back to that “about” thing—the best poetry leaves the reader feeling like she had as much say in the process as the poet. There is no black or white or right wing bullshit. There is just Michael Jackson and all of us wondering if we’ll die next.


Philip Schaefer’s collaborative chapbook with Jeff Whitney, Smoke Tones, is forthcoming from Phantom Limb (2015), and his poems are out or forthcoming in Forklift Ohio, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, RHINO, alice blue, Interim, and Whiskey Island, among others. He can usually be found tending bar at the craft distillery in Missoula, where he recently received his MFA from the University of Montana.

Jeff Whitney is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which, The Tree With Lights In It, is forthcoming from Thrush Press. Along with Philip Schaefer, he is the co-author of Smoke Tones, which is forthcoming from Phantom Limb Press. Recent poems can be found or found soon in Birdfeast, Blackbird, Columbia Poetry Review, Salt Hill Journal, and Sugar House Review. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English. Find him online at www.jeff-whitney.com.

Talin Tahajian grew up near Boston. Her poetry has appeared in Kenyon Review OnlineIndiana ReviewBest New Poets 2014DIAGRAM, Salt HillColumbia Poetry Review, and Washington Square Review. She serves as a poetry editor for The Adroit Journal, and recently co-edited Poets on Growth (Math Paper Press, 2015). She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge, where she studies English literature and attempts to assimilate.

 

Conversations with Contributors: Brittany Cavallaro (Poetry, Issue 10) by Amanda Silberling

By Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor

At Adroit, we're big fans of Brittany Cavallaro – not only is she featured in our most recent issue, but she has also taught some of our lovely summer mentees at a Northwestern University summer program! For this installment of Conversations with Contributors, we talked to Brittany about her upcoming poetry and YA fiction book releases, teaching creative writing, and Sherlock Holmes.

Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor: Your Adroit poems are based on Sherlock Holmes stories. What inspired you to write poems about Sherlock Holmes?

Brittany Cavallaro, Poetry Contributor (Issue 10): These particular poems, “from The Adventure of the Hooded Woman,” are part of a longer series from my manuscript in progress. I’ve always been a Sherlock Holmes fan. The Arthur Conan Doyle stories been a particular obsession of mine for a long time, and I’ve always been interested by the figure of Dr. Watson. The conceit of the Conan Doyle stories is that he’s writing down the events as they happened, presenting the case for the reader. For the purposes of my Holmes and Watson poems, I wanted to explore what those stories changed, left out, elided from "actual" events. What is relevant in the stories you tell about your life? About the life you share with someone else? What do you choose to protect? What can wound by its reveal? 

I’m also a YA writer, with a Sherlock Holmes series coming out—the first is called A Study in Charlotte, from Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins in early 2016—that’s a feminist reimagining of the Holmes stories, following a teenage girl Holmes as she clears her name after her rapist is murdered. It’s a very different project than the poems. I feel a bit silly that I worked on all of these projects simultaneously—it makes me seem like a fanatic, which I’m not—but my interest in Holmes serves as a node for a lot of other things I love (railway history, detective fiction, class structures, Victorian England) and so I more or less couldn’t help myself. 

Writing about a fictional character through poetry somewhat blurs the lines between genres – do you think that there is a divide between poetry and prose? 

To a certain extent, I think all poetry is written through a fictional lens. There’s no way to translate the whole of our autobiography to the page, and even if we’re writing poems from what we believe to be our own point of view, the reader doesn’t have the framework to understand them as such, as parts of ourselves. The reader doesn’t know me, after all. I think employing a distancing mechanism allows the writer to more fully examine their subject matter, allow a little more truth to creep in underneath all the fact. The majority of my most autobiographical poems, for example, are written in the third person. There’s certainly a difference between writing through an invented persona and using one that’s so embedded in cultural consciousness, like Sherlock Holmes, but there’s also a long tradition of writing poems in dramatic monologue (I’m thinking specifically of Robert Browning here), using historical or cultural figures to work out certain ideas. In the poems Adroit published, I was interested in exploring that idea of veracity, of public history and personal history, how experience is mediated through language and how we present ourselves to our "audiences."

What do you think distinguishes one genre from another?

That’s both a really easy and a really difficult question. Once, on a terrible date, I answered this question by saying that in poetry, you hit the Enter key a lot more. 

So I’ll frame my answer by talking about my experience working in these genres, rather than reading them. When I’m in the middle of working on a novel, or a story, I have the feeling that I’m expanding the garden in my backyard. The plants are there each time I go outside, though some might have sprouted or died in the night. Maybe the soil’s dry. Maybe I left the hose running. So I spend an hour or so cleaning up whatever happened since I was there last, and then I go about the business of planting more. In reality, what this looks like is that I revise the pages I’ve written the day before and usually write five to ten more, fifteen if I’m really doing well. But I have that kind of fresh air-and-sunshine feeling at the end of those days, of hard work and surety. It’s less exciting than working on a poem. Sometimes, in the middle of the novel, you want a completely different garden than the one you have. But you’ve put in the work, so you put in some more.

Poetry, for me, has always been a lot more like sneezing than anything else. (Not to mix my metaphors.) Writing poetry is usually a reaction to my environment, whether it’s what I’m reading, or what I’ve seen, or what I remember. I write poems whether or not I really want to write them. They show up and demand to be written. For me, working a novel has always been more of a choice.

While you're at it, tell us about your book of poetry, GIRL-KING, coming out from the University of Akron later this year.

It actually just came out! I received my copies this week, which was a startlingly surreal experience. 

The poems in that book started as a project I was working on in my MFA about female agency, myth, and power. I’m interested in reclaiming female agency wherever I can—there’s a section in that book about the Burke and Hare murders in Edinburgh in the 19th century, written in dramatic monologue, where I try to give voice to the women they killed. Another section is made up of poems I wrote in response to John Berryman’s Dream Songs. Formally and lyrically, Berryman’s my favorite poet, but a lot of the time, I find the representation of women in his poems baffling. So I went through and wrote the opposite of his poems, shifting hes into shes, cities into towns, et cetera. There are a lot of poems in the book about the Midwest I grew up in, but while the landscape if drawn from life, there’s no real autobiographical analogue in the book to the kind of girl I was growing up. You’ll find a lot of the experience of my twenties laid over the experience of my teens. As is probably inevitable. 

How do you juggle both poetry and prose writing? Do you have a preference for either genre?

I think the answer to both questions is that I don’t. For the longest time, I considered myself a poet, someone who wrote poetry exclusively, and so I’m learning how to balance my writing life. I can’t say I have a system just yet. I tend to work pretty single-mindedly on a novel when I’m drafting it, not thinking much about poetry. When I’m going to write a poem, it spends a day or two bubbling up and then sort of announces itself. And then that’s what I devote that particular day to, and I push the novel aside. It’s all the same work to me—I’m just exploring different interests in different genres.

You've taught a few of our Summer Mentees in the past – what's it like to work with teenage writers?

I think I’ve taught five or six of them at this point! I love recommending my students to you guys. I teach the advanced creative writing honors class at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development program in the summer. It’s easily the professional highlight of my year. The writers I work with are uniformly excellent: talented, excited, interested in reading anything they can get their hands on, willing to push out of their comfort zone. I have them for three intensive weeks, and they write their hearts out. They go on to do awesome things. I’m so proud of them.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in teaching creative writing? 

When I was a teenage writer, I was desperate to be taken seriously. I can’t tell you another time in my life that I read or wrote as much as my high school years—and I read and write full-time right now. I got better by leaps and bounds, sometimes in a single week. I wrote in a more varied and adventurous way than I could possibly do now. All of this was because I had teachers who listened to me, who told me that I was good, but that, if I put the time in, I could be so much better. 

As a teacher, I think it’s a really important thing to listen to your students, understand what their goals and aspirations are, and then challenge them to be and achieve even more. My advanced creative writing students come to my class with a high level of intention, talent, and motivation. So I take them seriously. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the basis of my pedagogy. 

What do you think is your biggest challenge in being a writer yourself?

Oh, man. Honestly, the hardest thing about my process is probably my lack of a schedule. I’m more or less a house cat. I spend hours and hours puttering around my house, thinking idly about things, reading books and then putting them down, drinking cups of tea. Then I’ll burst into a flurry of motion. And then I start pacing around again. I have this feeling that I’d get a lot more done if I could just sit down at a set time every day, but it doesn’t show any signs of happening.

In terms of the biggest challenge for me of being a writer, it’s probably the ability to maintain that identity even when you’re not actively working. I believe in showing up every day to your writing when you’re working on a project, but I also pretty firmly believe in taking some time away if you’re in a fallow period. There’s no good in hitting your head consistently against a wall, but it can also be really hard to consciously not be doing your work. It can feel like you’re slipping away from your identity. I’ve been in that phase for the last month, and I can tell you that it’s completely unscrewed my head from where it usually is. I’m looking forward to getting back to it, if just to regain the usual foundation for my days. 


Brittany Cavallaro’s first collection of poems, GIRL-KING, is forthcoming from the University of Akron Press in 2015. Individual poems have appeared in AGNI, Tin House, and Best New Poets, among others. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania from South Florida. Her poems, essays, and reviews appear in Crab Orchard Review, PANK, The Los Angeles Times, and The Rumpus, among others. Find her on Twitter at @asilbwrites.

 

The Beat Converses: Maddy Hudson by Peter LaBerge

            By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Happy February! Love is already in the air – love between America and blazing American Idol XIV contestant Maddy Hudson of Pleasanton, CA. Where did this girl come from, and how did she get to be so fantastically talented? We're about to find out, in this month's installment (the first of two!) of The Beat Converses. (Hannah Trigwell's stopping by our metaphorical studio in two weeks, but we couldn't resist reaching out to Maddy as soon as we saw this! Watch the below video, and you'll understand why.)

Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: So, first off: CONGRATULATIONS on slaying your audition, and quickly becoming a favorite for American Idol XIV! Casual brilliance. How does it feel to get three enthusiastic yes’s, and to hear J-Lo literally say, “I think she could win.” right after your audition? (Caps are encouraged, but – of course – not required.)

Maddy Hudson, AI XIV Contestant: Words can’t even begin to explain how it felt to hear Jennifer say that! I had never seen the audition prior to air, so the minute that everyone else heard her say that was the same time that I got to hear it! It blew my mind to hear those words actually come out of her mouth. I was extremely flattered in the first place to get three yes’s and to have such great feedback, but to hear that on top of all of the rest, I was absolutely speechless. I couldn’t have been happier in that moment. It filled me with such an incredible amount of love and happiness that I couldn’t even believe it. I was crying, but who wouldn’t cry after hearing something so special?!

 

PL: What is/are your favorite song(s) and/or artist(s) right now? Basically, who & what should we be listening to?

MH: I’m all over the spectrum when it comes to my playlist! I’ve been listening to some older stuff recently! I’ve been listening to “Sleep Forever” by Portugal. The Man, “Only One” by Kanye West, “Run” by Hozier (I love all of the music on Hozier’s album, but I’m especially crushing on “Run”), Arctic Monkeys, Yuna, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, Cage the Elephant, etc. I honestly have tons of artists that I listen to and I could go on for days about artists I’m into, but with me it really depends on the day! Depending on the mood I’m in and the weather, my playlist could be completely different from any other day. I like to be really well rounded with my music selection, because I find that it makes me not only a better musician, but also a better person. Music changes lives. 

 

PL: Let’s shift back to you for a second: how did you discover your passion for music, and how did you develop it?

MH: My passion for music really started around age 6. I was in first grade and we were doing a play, “The Three Nanny Goats Gruff”, and I was cast as the troll (lead). I never really knew much about singing or whether or not I could do it, but right before the big show my mom came up to me and said, “Maddy, this is your one time to shine, so get up there and do it”, and after hearing her say that, I got up there and sang my part with a huge smile. When I finished, everyone looked stunned. They all clapped and made me feel special, but then all of a sudden people were coming up to me and asking where I learned to sing like that, and I was just sitting there thinking, “wait, I can sing now?” This was so funny for me; I realized that I was good at something and that it was something that I really liked doing! From that moment on, nobody could get me to stop singing.

 

PL: What has been the biggest challenge so far in your pursuit of music? Have you overcome it? 

MH: I think the biggest challenge for me has been being able to share what I do with my peers. While I can go and play in front of a bunch of strangers and do really well, if I were to play in front of a bunch of my peers, it probably wouldn’t go so well. I’m not sure what it is, but I just always felt as if my peers would judge me, and while everyone judges everybody, the thought of them judging me was a lot harder to deal with. This is definitely still something that I struggle with, I won’t lie, but with every day I try to work on myself to realize that it’s okay to not be perfect in everybody’s eyes, and that it’s all about me being proud of the work that I do.  

 

PL: Back to American Idol briefly: without divulging any ~super secret~ results, have you found anything about what goes on behind-the-scenes of the show (or, I suppose, in front of the camera) super surprising? What about being on the show itself?

MH: I think the part that I found most surprising about the Idol process was the “family” feel that we have. I can’t speak for everybody, but my personal experience with all the cameramen, sound guys, and contestant coordinators was really what made it so wonderful. With the fellow contestants there is that competitive energy, but with the behind the scenes workers there was truly this loving vibe. I can honestly say that I love each and every person that works for production and I personally did my best to learn all of their names. I love all the people; I think that with any career it is extremely important to respect and love the people that work with you, and I have loved working with each and every single one of them! I never in my wildest dreams would’ve imagined that I would get a family out of this whole process, but I did. While nobody gets to see this interaction, it has definitely been one of my favorite things about the process. As far as being on the show, everything is surprising! Everything is much harder and much less glamorous than it seems on TV, but it’s still such a beautiful process. I love everything about it.

  CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

PL: Have you ventured at all into original territory, or mainly stuck to covering for now? Do you think it takes certain objectives or skills (besides songwriting, obviously) to pursue original tracks? 

MH: I actually have written many original songs! I think that every person has the ability to write, and that the only reason they may not write is that they haven’t learned how to channel all of their emotions into original words yet. I spent a lot of time covering, and I still do, but I think that writing is definitely something that every artist should do. I think that it just takes time and valuable experiences! Sure, you could write a song about anything, but most of my music is about a real thing that I’ve gone through or witnessed, so I usually recommend writing about things that the artist has actually lived through.

Every person is original every day! People are all different! Writing songs is just as easy as going through regular life. You just need to make sure to write it in your own words.  

 

PL: This next question has become a Beat Converses classic. If you could have coffee (or tea, etc.) with three vocalists – past or present – who would they be, and why? 

MH: Etta James, Beyoncé, and Christina Aguilera. These are the artists that have truly shaped how I view music and how I went about singing. They are my biggest inspirations. The thought of getting to sit down with them is just incredible. I would love to thank them for creating their music, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be the artist that I am today!

  

PL: And finally: it’s clear from your American Idol audition that you value the emotion of a song. What is your best advice to artists that want to open themselves up and feel more connected to the music they play or sing? 

MH: I think that when it comes to music, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through, you can find a way to properly emote a song. Whether or not you’ve had a particular experience, every person has experienced basic emotions such as sadness, happiness, etc. One can simply pick and choose when to use those emotions! You need to remember what it was like in the moment that you felt that deep emotion, and then you need to think about how much deeper that pain/happiness would’ve been had you been in the song’s particular situation.

Singing isn’t simply singing, it’s acting, it’s feeling, and it’s a state of being. Each song has a tone, an emotional tie, and a theme. I’d say just do your best to become the character in the song. Think about how you would feel if you were in that situation. You need to live the pain, feel the happiness, and experience the tears, because without doing this, it’s just another song. It’s probably very obvious by now that I’m a deeply emotional person, so it’s natural for me to feel the music I sing, but I truly feel that every person is capable of relating to a song in one way or another, so they just have to look for the parallels within their lives! 

 

I will resist the urge to ask more questions about AI XIV. [Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!] Perhaps that’s for another installment of The Beat Converses – after the season, of course! Thanks again to Maddy, and remember to stay tuned & cross your fingers for her. American Idol airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 pm on Fox! Here’s another brilliant cover for the road –

 

 

Peter LaBerge is author of the chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Recent work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, andIndiana Review, among others. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. For more information, visit him online at www.peterlaberge.com.

 

MORE BEAT CONVERSES:
September 2014 - Caroline Glaser.
Octover 2014 - Louisa Wendorff.
January 2015 - Drew Tabor.
February 2015 - Maddy Hudson.

Staff Spotlight: Lucia LoTempio, Poetry Reader by Amanda Silberling

By Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor

Welcome back to The Adroit Journal's Staff Spotlight! We think that Poetry Reader Lucia LoTempio is pretty great, and you will too. As an intern at VIDA, Lucia works on the frontlines in the fight to earn women the representation they deserve in the art. Plus, we hear she's a particularly awesome poet, too.
 

Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor: So, first off, what have you been up to lately in your writing? 

Lucia LoTempio, Poetry Reader: Lately, I've been interested in writing about gender performance. A lot of my poetry deals with how gender is performed and perceived. I have a poem coming out in Weave this winter that has been functioning as a bit of a summary for my project. Also I have a few poems coming out soon in Hidden City Quarterly – and one in particular I'm especially excited about works a lot with cognitive dissonance.

 

What does gender performance mean to you? How does that differ from gender expression? 

Well, I feel like differentiating the two terms is very difficult. But I find that using "performance" implicates an audience. So not just the person expressing or performing gender is the focus, but how others perceive that person's gender and then act (or don't act) as a result. I find that push-and-pull relationship interesting and important to talk about.

 

Describe the project you’re working on – How do you incorporate these ideas into your writing?

I have been writing a lot of characters. Whether they are real people – so Rachel, the woman Van Gogh gave his ear to – or new creations – like my Mary Queen of Sunshine. Additionally, I have been using "we" as a speaker more often which implicates the readers a bit more.

 

You’re interning at VIDA – what kind of work do you do, what has the experience taught you?

We're still gathering data and counting until late winter, or early spring! As writer who is a woman, VIDA's work has always been important to me. I was lucky enough to be selected as an intern and to work with many brilliant and talented women across the globe to make the Count. Being on the front lines is hard – the work can be grueling, but worth it. Many journals and magazines need to reassess their practices when it comes to publication – and readers and submitting writers need to be aware of who is getting published and how much. Once I was at a publishing fair in Rochester wearing a VIDA t-shirt, and a small press owner and started talking. He tried so hard to defend his admittedly poor numbers to me and was a bit shamefaced. It was misled, but encouraging: he really was trying to change, to make his publications more inclusive. So the fact that awareness and genuine push to change is there is a great start.

 

What do you think is the best way for a publication to work towards making change?

Solicit more female authors, encourage more re-submissions, review more books by female authors. But I think the issue is bigger than the magazines and  journals. Attitudes and preconceptions about writing by women needs to change. The legitimacy of work by women needs to be taken seriously. The universal is not exclusive to those who are white and male, nor are the individual and the specific lesser if they are female and/or non-white.

 

You just finished working as the editor of the SUNY-wide lit mag – how did you incorporate these ideas into your editorship?

Well this fall Gandy Dancer somehow had an all female staff! That was totally on accident, but also a lot of fun. Generally, every season it's interesting (and necessary) to have the conversation about what makes a good poem or a good story or a good essay with each new staff (our staff changes every issue). In that conversation there is always a dissenter: "I don't like this because it's like Sylvia Plath" is (sadly) a very common happening. But having a conversation, cracking open the "why" of this comment is beneficial to rooting out subconscious bias towards female voice.

 
What do you have planned going forward in terms of you/your writing?

I just finished up applications to grad schools! So MFA-land here I come! For me personally, this is the right next step. I want to start working toward a collection and to be in an environment where I will be thinking seriously about poetry and what it can do. Having the time, opportunities, and support that is an MFA to really dig in and write, write, write is crucial for me. I'm nervous, but excited and ready to take this giant leap!


Lucia LoTempio is currently studying literature at SUNY Geneseo and will be graduating in May 2015. Hailing from Buffalo, NY, she plans to get an MFA in a place where there are no “seasons,” just the potential to be sweating 24/7. Her poetry has been or will be featured in Bayou Magazine, Weave Magazine, The Boiler: A Journal of New Literature, Spinal Orb, and more. She was the 2014 winner of the Mary A. Thomas Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Black Warrior Review 10th Annual Contest in Poetry. Her work has been nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Project. This winter she is counting for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, reading for The Adroit Journal, and interning for Writers & Books in Rochester.

Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania from South Florida. Her poems, essays, and reviews appear in The Rumpus, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Find her on Twitter at @asilbwrites.

 

Conversations with Contributors: Jedidiah Gist (Cover Artist, Issue 10) by Amanda Silberling

By Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor

The Adroit Journal's tenth issue was released last week, and you know what that means – more Conversations with Contributors! Intuitively, Issue 10 begins with our cover, so why not begin this round of Q&A with our cover artist?

Jedidiah Gist is a freshman at Clemson University originally from Columbia, South Carolina. For his piece "Whirl,” Jed was awarded a National Silver Medal and Regional Gold Key from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

 

Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor: What was the process of creating "Whirl"?

Jedidiah Gist, Cover Artist: I did a push-processing shoot with my 35mm Canon Rebel for my AP 2D Design class. I had this idea for a composite image of four different corners of skyscrapers scrapped together to form one massive building, floating in the sky. I figured I may as well take some shots of the corners of tall buildings during my push-processing shoot, and three of them turned out pretty well. I scanned the negatives into Photoshop and worked for a few days, making about forty of fifty different versions. Most of them I didn't even save, I actually only have four left, but the one that y'all have is by far my favorite.

AS: What message are you trying to convey through this piece?

JG: I attempted to show how the mundane can be monumental through the isolation and iconization of seemingly every-day architecture.

AS: What media of art/photography do you usually work with?

JG: I usually work with photography, digital art, or sculpture.

AS: "Whirl" is a black and white photograph – how do you think color influences the presentation of a photograph?

JG: The lack of color helps to emphasize the monolith. It adds to the simplicity of the image, emphasizing the simple motif.

 "Whirl" by Jedidiah Gist,  The Adroit Journal  Issue 10

"Whirl" by Jedidiah Gist, The Adroit Journal Issue 10

AS: How did you get involved in photography?

JG: I went to an art summer camp in middle school, and one of my classes was photography and Photoshop. I loved it, and ended up taking photography in high school and did my AP concentration in photography as well.

AS: What's the best experience you've had so far as a photographer?

JG: The best experience I've had as a photographer is having access to the dark room and lab at my high school. I was able to experiment with different methods of film photography, and it was extremely fun.

AS: What do you find most challenging in art?

JG: I'd have to say the most challenging thing is finding time to work on my projects. They are very time consuming, and require a lot of commitment.

AS: How do you plan to pursue art in the future?

JG: Right now, I'm a Chemical Engineering and Physics double major and I'm focused on school. I find time to shoot around every now and then, but nothing serious. I intend on getting into photography seriously once I've settled into a job.

AS: Have you had any unique experiences as a teenage photographer?

JG: Getting published in an online publication is a pretty unique experience!


Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania from South Florida. Her poems, essays, and reviews appear in The Rumpus, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Find her on Twitter at @asilbwrites.

The Beat Converses: Drew Tabor by Peter LaBerge

            By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

It’s back! After a few-month hiatus, I’m thrilled to resurrect the one, the only Beat Converses, where I sit down with incredible musicians far cooler than I am to talk art, writing, and all that awesome stuff.

On all levels, January 2015 Beat Drew Tabor is certainly no stranger to music. And -- with nearly 200,000 subscribers following her YouTube account, and more than 23,000,000 video views under her belt -- it’s safe to say that music is no stranger to her, either.

But, in case you haven’t heard of her, here is her Facebook page, here is her Twitter, and here is a lovely picture of her in a garden (which, you’ll see later on, is quite relevant):

Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! In October, I chatted with fellow YouTuber Louisa Wendorff, and I began by asking her to summarize the aim and content of her EP Arrow; now I’ll do the same to you! I’ve obviously listened to the EP a few times (#understatement), but can you give our audience -- and yours! -- a two or three-minute description of your EP In The Garden, its contents, and the ambition behind it?

Drew Tabor, Musician: In The Garden is the first project I've done that I feel really represents who I want to be as an artist. I wrote all of the songs based on personal experiences that I had during a very important time in my life. They not only tell the story of falling in and out of love but also of finding and losing yourself within love. I am so incredibly excited for people to hear the EP and see this new chapter of myself. 



PL: Let’s move back in time for a second. How did you get involved with YouTube in the first place? What’s ‘the story,’ as it were?

DT: I started posting YouTube videos pretty much out of boredom. I began uploading during high school at a time where I found myself spending a lot of Friday nights alone in my room. I honestly thought that creating videos might give me something to do with my time. When I first started, I never had any intentions of becoming a "YouTuber", or even a musician at all. It was simply a hobby and a creative outlet -- it wasn't until I had been making videos for about a year that I realized how much I really loved it. Any success I've been lucky enough to have on YouTube didn't happen overnight. I've been making videos for five and a half years, and I still feel like I'm learning and trying to get the hang of things. There have been a lot of ups and downs over my time on YouTube, but I'm excited nonetheless to see what the future holds.



PL: I can imagine initially it was very difficult to distinguish yourself from other artists on YouTube. At what point did it go from “recording covers and uploading them to the black hole that is YouTube” to “recording covers for viewers (in addition to, of course, for yourself)”? How do you think your music developed in the process, if at all?

DT: I feel like distinguishing and establishing yourself as a unique artist in an ongoing process. Of course, as a musician there are some specific things you can do if you want to get more views on YouTube: you can sing popular songs, use a good camera and post content regularly. That's a start... but I think if you really want to be successful and make an impression on people you need to be memorable.

My most viewed videos are acoustic covers of "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj and "Friday" by Rebecca Black. I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to sing Rebecca Black songs in order to be successful; I just mean that sometimes you need to do things that people don't expect. I don't believe in gimmicks or cheapening your work for people to like it, but I don't think you can expect people to just like you and care about your music right off the bat. Also, while singing covers can be a great way to build an audience on YouTube, I think it is so, SO important to have original music if you really want to be an artist. As much as you can be creative with your song choices and put your own spin on the covers you do, I think if you want to truly touch and connect with people you need to give them something that is purely you.

I don't know if the development of my music was necessarily a result of any one specific thing, but there has been a lot of trial and error as I try to gauge people's reactions to the different things I post. I was sixteen when I began making videos (and am now twenty-one) so I've been through a lot and certainly grown as a person over that period of time. I just consider myself lucky to have an audience so accepting, loving, and supportive of me no matter when I am.




PL: Wow, it sounds like you’ve undeniably collected quite a bit of insight throughout the whole process! Any other good advice, particularly for aspiring artists (of all sorts, for that matter) who haven’t yet hit that point where they feel the sense of obligation that comes with a following?

DT: This might sound cheesy, but I think the most important thing is to stay positive and stay motivated. Being an artist is very difficult as a career path. If you love what you're doing then it's worth it… but no matter what, you're bound to face some rejection and frustration. There have been so many times when I go to bed saying that I'm done being a singer and that it's too difficult, but then wake up the next morning ready to do it all again with a smile on my face.

I think it's especially easy to feel unmotivated if you don't necessarily have the obligation of a following but it's important to not get discouraged and to keep pushing through the tough times in order to get to where you want to be.




PL: You, of course, just came back from a tour of the West Coast a couple of months ago! How was that experience? Any funny experiences or anecdotes to share?

DT: Being on tour was such a great experience! I had never done anything like it before, so it was great to get a taste of what it's like to be a touring musician. I was so inspired by the many great musicians and just all-round cool people I met along the way, but my favorite part was definitely meeting some of my viewers and YouTube followers.

It was a pretty small-scale tour, as it basically consisted of my friend/tour manager Shab and I driving up the coast in my car. Spending so much time in the car meant that we had tons of time to listen to music. While we usually went for indie bands or folksy-singer-songwriters, we insisted on listening to “Jealous” by Nick Jonas every day, first thing in the morning.

Overall, none of us really knew what we were doing at the beginning of the tour, but by the end we had all learned so much.




PL: Here’s a rather zany question I love to ask: if you could have coffee (or tea, etc.) with three musical or vocal artists -- from past or present -- who would they be, and why?

DT: First, Lana Del Rey because I am borderline obsessed with her would just want to soak up some of her coolness. Also, Frank Sinatra because he is one of my all time favorite artists/vocalists, and I would love to just chat about music and life with him; I feel like he's got an old soul and would probably give really wise advice. And finally Adele because she's hilarious. I would also try to do some kind of sorcery to steal her voice. It would be great.



PL: On a similar note, how do you get inspired? It might just be me, but I feel like there’s a sort of universal artistic language spoken through emotion, memory, and feeling that all artists -- regardless of medium -- are able to interpret and speak.

DT: I'm very nostalgic. I rarely write about things that are happening in my life in the present moment, and instead take a more retrospective approach. I love looking at old photographs, reading old journals, and talking to childhood friends, as well as talking to older relatives. I'm inspired by a lot of music from past decades and even by the music, images and aesthetic in a lot of old movies. I have a fixation on the way things were. It's probably not the greatest mindset to be in for regular day-to-day life, but it's how I get a lot of my inspiration.



PL: Okay, and one last question! What’s next for Drew?

DT: I'm honestly still trying to figure that out. There are so many things that I want to accomplish and that I want to do with not only with my career, but also my life in general. I'd love to travel and tour different parts of the world. At some point this year, I'm really hoping to make trips to Nashville and the UK to write and perform. I'll probably spend the next couple months pushing and promoting my new EP In The Garden (shameless plug), and then get back to writing new material to put out into the world. I really just want to continue to create, share and be inspired.

 

Thanks so much again to Drew! Be sure to show your support by ordering her EP online here, and by checking out one of her newest stunning covers:

 

Peter LaBerge is author of the chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Recent work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. For more information, visit his website here.

MORE BEAT CONVERSES:
September 2014 - Caroline Glaser.
Octover 2014 - Louisa Wendorff.
January 2015 - Drew Tabor.

Rapid Review: "They Don't Kill You Because They're Hungry, They Kill You Because They're Full" by Mark Bibbins (Copper Canyon Press, 2014) by Peter LaBerge

By Henry Heidger, Blog Correspondent

Welcome to our second Rapid Review! The premise is simple: Our lovely blog correspondent Henry Heidger pulls up to a bookstore, walks in, and has an hour to read and study a book of poetry selected randomly from the shelf. Then, he writes about it here.

Heralded by many ‘best book lists’ as one of the top poetry collections of the year, They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full has proven to be a energized work in new poetry. For his 2003 collection Sky Lounge, Bibbins was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Poetry, and this collection surely doesn't disappoint.

Powerful in its critique of modern society, They Don't Kill You Because They're Hungry, They Kill You Because They're Full aims its laser directly at the issues of economic corruption, sexism, religious radicalism, societal racism, and homophobia. “Factory” is one of the collection’s darkest poems; it pairs a detached tone with a metallic cynicism not unlike factory machinery itself. The final passage of the poem, “a city / That was broken / That we had been / That we were broken / That was our city / This was our city / That was a song replaying itself in the dark,” shifts into cog-like syntax. There is brokenness in the poem, just as their is brokenness everywhere.

In this way, the collection unmistakably draws from politics, current events, and the media. There is a vast array of personas instituted throughout the collection -- everyone from Medusa to Pat Robertson. The collection culminates with a series of poems which range in unconventionality.

Perhaps the most visually and structurally interesting poem of the collection is “Witness.” Part I of “Witness” is an insightful critique of the spread of religion through force, representative of modern religious radicalism. Part II, however, is a five-page list of words in alphabetical order. Each word ends with the suffix “-ness.” One word within the list is partially redacted and one is completely redacted. After reading Part II of “Witness,” some readers may be left mentally and visually tired, perhaps even somewhat unfulfilled—there are simply too many concepts within the list of words for some readers to realistically stop and interpret meaning for each. Upon finishing the poem, however, the reader understands; the poem, like a religion, embodies ideas that are each hidden at least partially from conventional view. It is up to the reader, rather than religious figures, to decide whether the ordeal of traversing the list brought meaning, as well as what exactly that meaning is.

 

Henry Heidger is a senior in high school from St. Louis, Missouri. He is a poet, writer, and critic. His work is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic and The Scapegoat Review, and he is a cofounder of Young Poets of St. Louis. His favorite poets are Anne Carson, Owen Sheers, and John Berryman, and he plays the violin in his spare time. He writes the column "Rapid Reviews," which appears on the blog of The Adroit Journal monthly.