Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.
Name: Katrina Vandenberg
Title of Pieces Published in Sweet: “Mandala,” “Black Bears and Their Bear-Dreams,” “Two Bracelets”
Katrina teaches creative writing and lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. When not at school, she is usually hanging out with her eight-year-old daughter Anna. You can learn more about Katrina by visiting her website.
What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?
I got tenure! I took my first sabbatical. Recently I published two feature-length essays, “Jam” — speaking of sweets — in Image and “Essence of Lavender” in Orion. I also have an essay about writers’ conferences (in which I do not mention social media at all) in a forthcoming issue of Poets and Writers.
Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?
I’m working on a book of essays around the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory near our house, where it’s never winter, even though here in Saint Paul we have snow on the ground for at least five months of the year.
Who is your favorite author?
I don’t think that I have one. I came to writing through poetry, and what I loved most of all were individual poems. I liked to write them out by hand and collect them in notebooks, collaging together all these highly lucid and charged flashes of insight from dozens or even hundreds of people across space and time. My first favorite poet was Emily Dickinson, when I was seven or eight. I loved how small her poems were. As an adult I still love how complicated she is, and counter-cultural in a lot of ways. If I had to pick only one person, I would say her. But only if you made me pick one.
What is your favorite poem/essay/book?
The two best books I read this year were Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity by Joshua Shenk, and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I don’t know that I have a favorite anything. I read a lot, and the books and poems that live in my head rise to the surface when I need them. A few years ago, I re-read Theodore Roethke’s poem “In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See” every day for over a month. At one point in my life I really needed the odes of John Keats, and at another time I needed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, and at another time I needed James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son.” I nearly always seem to need E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.
What inspires you to write?
I used to sit down to write with the desire to say something, but these days I tend to sit down in order to see what will happen. I don’t mean that writing is a game, or about cleverness or “nothing” – far from it. I do think that I am finally coming to terms with the fact that my subconscious self is smarter than my conscious self. So, work creates its own inspiration.
What is your favorite sweet?
Several years ago, I wrote a poem called “Consuming Desire,” in part about the locally-famous cakes at the Saint Paul wine bar Café Latte. I don’t eat much dessert these days, but if I were going to, I could do far worse than the cake there. Here is the Café Latte dessert menu, complete with photographs, in all its glory.
Thank you, Katrina, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!