Sweet Connections: Emily Brisse

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: Emily Brisse
Title of Piece published in SweetTo Be Held
Issue:  10.3

BrissePhoto1Find her:

Instagram

Emily is currently a teacher at Breck School in Minneapolis, MN. You can find out more about Emily on www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com, even though she claims the posts are few and far between. We firmly believe in quality over quantity, Emily, so you’re still amazing in our book.

 
What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Emily was a finalist in December Magazine’s Kurt Johnson Prose Award contest.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I’m working on a novel, set in the early 1990s, that examines one young woman’s experience with harassment in the workplace.

Who is your favorite author?

Louise Erdrich

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Impossible to answer, but I’m currently reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, and it is keeping me up way past my bedtime.

What inspires you to write?

Many, many things; if I’m feeling stuck, though, going outside and writing by hand helps the words start moving again.

What is your favorite sweet?

Sebastian Joe’s raspberry chocolate chip ice cream.

We love local favorites, especially when it’s ice cream!

Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Interview with Anne Champion

Anne Champion is a poet who featured in Sweet’s 9.3 issue. Her most recent work, The Good Girl is Always a Ghost, is an anthology that focuses on what it means to be a woman in society, and channels her own voice into historical figures. Below, she responds to what inspired her to portray these women, the thought process for writing, and what she is working on next.IMG_8576

The Good Girl is Always a Ghost includes the haunting theme of women from the past that were broken either by history or their inner demons. What brought you to depict these stories in verse?

Like many girls, I grew up with the idea that I had to be a “good girl.” But since I was young, I was drawn to goals that were considered “masculine”: I wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to be in the Air Force. I was told I couldn’t, that women didn’t do that, but I saw women doing it on the news, and I read books about Amelia Earhart and Annie Oakley. As I got older, it was my sexuality that trespassed the gender taboos, as I was inspired by the sexual freedom of Madonna.

It was only as I became an adult that I realized that this whole notion of the “good girl” was simply a means of control: no matter what we do, we are never good girls. Even if we stay within gender constraints, we are still scrutinized and degraded. If we are raped, we asked for it. If we consensually have sex, we are sluts. If we come forward about our assaults, we are liars seeking to ruin a man’s life. If we are angry, we are having a meltdown. If we are intelligent and successful, we are feminazis.

In reality, the only girl that a patriarchal society approves of is a dead one.

When I watch shows like Dateline, in which the majority of episodes center on women who are killed by men, this is the only time I see women spoken of positively. Suddenly, women are angelic, saintly, taken too soon, loved.

And if we look at the women throughout history who have broken records, trail-blazed, entered the historical records of our consciousness: they are all dead. Many living women are role models for other women, but they are still living: they are still able to be viciously attacked.

So I decided to resurrect some of these “good girls,” and try to examine them in the context of the patriarchy that abused them. Not all of them are role models: in fact, I hope to present them as real women—thus, not angelic—but human, flawed, chafing against their constraints.

It was important to me to have a diverse group of women: I wanted women from all over the world, old and young, able-bodied and not, with differing politics, sexualities, races, religions, careers, and gender identities. I include one transgender man, Albert Cashier, because he lived in a time when people could not name, much less respect, his gender identity, and so I see him as a victim of patriarchal abuse too, as he was forced into a feminine role he was not meant to inhabit.

What I learned most from this project is that my story, and my struggles, are not new: it’s one of the oldest stories there is. I think this book ultimately became a project that helped me grow stronger, become inspired, feel less alone, and heal.

“The Most Terrible Thing” illustrates Sylvia Plath’s influence on a generation of women writers and readers. In what ways has Plath influenced your work and why do we turn to her for inspiration?

I would probably not be a poet if it were not for the work of Sylvia Plath. When I first picked up Plath in my early 20s, it was as if every foundation I’d ever known cracked. I thought, “Wait, you can say that?”

She spoke the unspeakable for women: she spoke with venom and rage, with a poetic voice that sounds like an incantation. She spoke of her pain—I know this may sound strange, but I had never considered my personal pain to be valuable writing material. Quite simply, she gave me permission. Living in a patriarchal society teaches us many values, but of the utmost importance is silence and pleasantness. And furthermore, we are taught that if we want greatness, we need to emulate men. Plath’s poems did none of that.

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And the vitriol against Plath that still exists today points to the misogyny in our culture that still exists. Often, male grad students would tell me they found Plath to be “self indulgent and overrated”; yet, if a male poet shows any kind of emotional expression, he is deemed brave and emotionally vulnerable.

Plath’s story is particularly tragic, and I’m sure that plays a role in some of the allure surrounding her, but I think that—for me and likely for many women—her story is one we fear. We feel that we could very easily end up like Plath, and we don’t want to. We want to beat the system and end the abuse.

Each poem includes the truth of historical events, like the Challenger explosion. How did you choose these events and what were the obstacles—if any—in turning history to poems?

The events I chose really came to me the same way most images come to me in poems. My brain latches onto something like a dog with a bone and starts gnawing at it.

With Sally Ride, I was reading about her, but it’s very hard to find her voice: she was notoriously quiet and reclusive. There’s not a lot of interviews to refer to. And I don’t blame her: she was asked absurd questions and she was protecting her partner and her sexuality from the public eye.

As I was thinking about what I personally remembered about space exploration growing up, I couldn’t get the image of the Challenger explosion out of my mind. I was a child, but I remembered it and it struck terror in me at the time. Then I wondered: What must Sally Ride have felt? In doing some more research, I discovered that she was actually on the committee that researched what happened with the Challenger, and she personally knew the astronauts. So, that image became a way into the poem, but also a metaphor for her life: for all she had to protect, for the fear of what would happen to her career if it were exposed.

I think the biggest challenge in working with history was the feeling that many of these histories are not mine, and I have no right to them. I did not want to do anything disrespectful or that could be deemed cultural appropriation. But I did not want to ignore them either. In those cases, I generally turned towards odes and elegies rather than personas.

In “Florence Nightingale: The Lady with a Lamp,” you chose to write the poem from her perspective. I’m curious about what is the poet in the poem and what is the historical figure? How did you find her voice?

I’d like to think that all of my persona poems are a mixture of both my voice and the figure. Florence Nightingale is a good example of this because her views are so different from mine.

She was actually against the feminist movement: she felt that women needed to be taking advantage of the careers that were already there for them to gain financial and emotional independence. She believed that she’d worked hard in creating the career of nursing for women to be respectable, necessary, and professional. And she certainly did—she changed the field entirely. She also saw it as a means to independence: she never married or had children.

But I see her view as limiting. So, in writing her voice, I had to really try to imagine a view very different than my view, and I had to find the value in that. But it’s impossible to say there’s none of my voice in the persona poems: as I researched these figures, they all became a part of me.

The voices I wrote for them were the plethora of voices inside me that took root as I read more about them. For me, writing persona poems is the process of cultivating empathy for others, and that is what I was trying to do.

It is clear that the central focus of your work is female identity. How has this shaped your writing thus far? How do you see it evolving in other projects?

As long as the world sees me as a woman before a human and sets limits on me based on my gender, there’s no way for me to not write about womanhood. Traumas related to womanhood are simply a defining part of my life, though I wish they weren’t.

However, I will say that my writing has branched off from this topic a lot, as I’ve been doing a lot of travel research that has led me to look at issues of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and race. I wrote a whole book on Palestine, and I have another political book that I’m working on now: it’s important for me to not only be focusing on my fight, but to join the fight of others as an accomplice in resistance and an eyewitness.

Nevertheless, my poems on gender are much more successful and much easier to publish in book form. I think a lot of that comes with the time we are in right now: after the election, it was clear that this was going to be the political time of the angry white man, and so the voices of women and minorities are coming forward in the arts, and feminist poems are in high demand.

Sweet Connections: Anne Champion

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: Anne Champion
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Florence Nightingale: The Lady With A Lamp
Issue: 9.3

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Find her:
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

Anne resides in Boston, and teaches both at Emerson College and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. You can find out more about her at anne-champion.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

I published The Good Girl is Always a Ghost with Black Lawrence Press—it contains the poem that was published in Sweet.

The Good Girl is Always a Ghost by Anne Champion

I also have a collaborative collection written with Jenny Sadre-Orafai, Book of Levitations, which will be published by Trembling Pillow Press next summer.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I wrote a chapbook of feminist hagiography to female saints in Christianity. I’m still looking for a publisher for it and hope it finds a home someday!

I’m currently writing a lot of political work: anti-colonial, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism poems.

Who is your favorite author?

Sylvia Plath.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Ooof! Tough question. There’s so many! But I love the Ariel poems by Sylvia Plath, Rookery by Traci Brimhall, Seam by Tarfia Faizullah, and Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith.

What inspires you to write?

Destruction: the best thing you can do in the midst of so much destruction is to create. Creating art is a message to the world that you refuse to be destroyed.

What is your favorite sweet?

I love all sweets! I’m addicted to any and all chocolate, but I have to say a sweet that has a special place in my heart would be Baklava.

Ooh, we love all that honey goodness, too. Kudos to those who are brave enough to make it!

Thank you, Anne, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future! 

**Be sure to be on the lookout for an upcoming interview with Anne on October 15th and a book review in the near future!**

Sweet Connections: Nicola Koh

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: Nicola Koh
Title of Piece published in SweetKiss
Issue:  9.3

Koh-headshotFind her:

Twitter

Nicola resides in Twin Cities, MN: “Technically Saint Paul, but it is all one city, don’t let the persnickety locals tell you otherwise.” You can also find her on her website nickolakoh.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Chronologically:

  1. Finalist for the 2017 Glimmer Train Fiction Open
  2. Graduated from Hamline University’s MFA program (Fiction)
  3. VONA/Voices 2018 fellow
  4. Became a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center
  5. A CNF piece forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

Doing some research for a potential literary enterprise.

Who is your favorite author?

Katharine Patterson

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

“Small History”, by Deborah Keenan (Happiness, 1995)
“Eleven Stories of Water and Stone”, by Aurvi Sharma (Prairie Schooner, Spring 2015)
“A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies, 1999)
Bridge to Terabithia, 1977

What inspires you to write?

Obsession with the narratives that shape life.

What is your favorite sweet?

Cadbury Milk Chocolate Minis

Cadbury Milk Chocolate Minis

Thank you, Nicola, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Caitlin Scarano

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: Caitlin Scarano
Title of Piece published in Sweet“Did You Hear the One About the Man Who Killed the World’s Tallest Tree?”
Issue:  10.3

Caitlin ScaranoFind her:

Twitter

Caitlin lives between the Skagit River and the border of Canada, which is on the West Coast for those of you who need to look that up (I did).  This September you can also find her at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula.   Check out more on her website www.caitlinscarano.com.

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

I am really, really excited to go to Antarctica this fall as a participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program. I’ll be based in McMurdo Station. If you readers want to follow my adventures, I’ll be blogging about it on my site while I’m there!

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I’m working on an essay right now about shadow blisters.

Who is your favorite author?

This changes all the time. I’m digging everything Kristin Chang is putting out lately.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

This also changes frequently! I recently found this essay by Jennifer Cheng and think it is a beauty.

What inspires you to write?

That damn barred owl outside my bedroom window each night.

Recently, I’ve found myself writing to the young woman my niece, who is currently six, is going to become, especially about lessons (related to gender, sex, love, self-accountability, addiction, etc) I’ve learned the hard way.

What is your favorite sweet?

Bread pudding is life.

Thank you, Caitlin, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Marlena Maduro Baraf

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: Marlena Maduro Baraf
Title of Piece published in SweetThe Diner
Issue:  10.3

Marlena BarafFind her:
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

Born and raised in Panama, Marlena now calls the United States her country of residence. You can find out more about her and her native roots on her website https://www.breathinginspanish.com.
 
What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Ah, after a few days’ escape to the marshy bays and flat, quiet lengths of ocean in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I must gear up to button up any rough patches of manuscript in my memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World, to send to my publisher for the process of book creation to begin. The memoir will be published in the early fall of 2019. This is my most exciting news.

The memoir is a coming of age story set in the steamy tropics of Panama and populated by a lively family of Spanish-Portuguese Jews. The girl’s mother is mentally ill. The girl pulls away from her and lands in the United States.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I continue to interview ordinary Hispanics, Latinos, Latinx, in a series called Soy/Somos (I am/We are). Some of these essay/interviews first appeared in HuffPost. Others continue via my blog and can be found on my website. My most recent conversation for this series took place a couple of weeks ago with Nico, a Colombian composer living in Boston who plays el Arpa Llanera, a harp with origins in the folk music of the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. I have quite a collection of voices in the series, and I’m hoping to find a home for more individual pieces and for the series as a whole, maybe in book form.

Who is your favorite author?

There are so many, but one that sticks way up there is W.G. Sebald, German author of Austerlitz, The Immigrants, Vertigo, and another book. Austerlitz died in an accident at the height of his powers. You can’t pin down his work; he mixes fiction, memory, photographs, history. There is a dreamlike quality to his stories. I just finished a book of stories, The Mountain, by Paul Yoon, recently published that reminds me of Sebald’s work.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

A book I do still love dearly, though I read it long ago, is Julia Alvarez’ How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, because the family life of these girls is populated by very important tías and tíos (aunts and uncles) and primos (cousins), so close to my own experience growing up in a large extended family. There is a lot of resonance here with my own memoir that will be published next year.

What inspires you to write?

The need to uncover what I am seeing. We do get to live a second time when we write.

What is your favorite sweet?

My tía Mimí, my father’s sister who never married, put her heart and soul into pastries. She made the most delicious lemon meringue pie. The closest thing I’ve found in the US is a key-lime pie, though the crust here is a Graham Cracker thing and hers for the pie was pastry–delicate and delicious. I love the combination of the tart and sweet of key lime pie and like to visit Steves Authentic Key Lime Pie in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where we can sit on wood benches along the water’s edge and see the Statue of Liberty not too far in the distance.

This is a view of the old brick and metal warehouses in Red Hook, Brooklyn, (where I get the key-lime pie), an old and magical place.

Marlena Baraf sweet

We found the recipe online from an episode on Food Network about the owner, Steve Tarpin.

Thank you, Marlena, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

In Memory…

Kayla Roseclere

We were saddened to learn that Sweet contributor Kayla Roseclere passed away in August. She was an explorer–inquisitive, intelligent–and had the ability to navigate this world and write about its subtleties in a way that connected deeply to readers. Please read her Sweet poem Synchronicity from issue 10.2 and celebrate the life of a beautiful writer. We look forward to reading her collection of poetry, The Secret Language of Crickets, coming out from Ampersand Books in 2019.

Kayla Roseclere II

You can read more of her work on her blog, The Good Men Project, and the Molotov Cocktail.

Sweet Connections: John Julius Reel

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: John Julius Reel
Title of Piece published in Sweet: The Foreigner’s Neighbors
Issue: 10.3

JJ Reel

Find him:
Facebook

John currently lives in Seville, Spain where he has been for the past 13 years. The best way to find him, outside of Facebook, is Google. He finds social media to be a distraction, although it can also lead to writing that he loves. We couldn’t agree more!

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?
I’ve published the following in Ruminate: Eyes to See the Orange Trees

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?
I’ve written memoir, alluded to above, called A Great Practice Player. Let’s see if I have any luck getting it published!

Who is your favorite author?
Recently, it’s probably David Foster Wallace, especially his essays.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?
My favorite novel is The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy. My favorite memoir, in part because it inspired mine, is A False Spring, by Pat Jordan.

What inspires you to write?
I’m not really inspired to write. I need to do it.

What is your favorite sweet?
My favorite sweet is the Medjool date.

I love those, too! Here is my favorite go-to party appetizer: Bacon Wrapped Dates

Thank you, John, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Jenna Lyles

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: Jenna Lyles
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Kumquat
Issue: 9.3

Jenna Lyles

 

Find her:

Jenna is starting her third, and final, year at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where she is earning her MFA in Creative Writing. You can find out more about her on her website https://www.jennalyles.com.

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?
This past summer I was one of five (vastly talented) writers picked to attend The Mastheads’ month-long writing residency. I also placed as a semifinalist in the 2018 BlueCat Screenplay Competition. And I nabbed a prestigious teaching award at my school.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?
I’m writing a tv show right now and that’s occupying a lot of my creative juices. I’m also getting started on my Master’s thesis, which I’m envisioning as a collection of essays dealing largely with sex and sexuality.

Who is your favorite author?
Gabriel Marquez. He’s too good.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?
Poem: L’Invitation au Voyage, Charles Baudelaire
Book: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs

What inspires you to write?
First and foremost, reading and listening to other people’s work. But also: eccentrics, thunderstorms, good movies, and deadlines.

What is your favorite sweet?
Dove chocolate. Fortunately for us all, you can find it in the candy aisle of most grocery stores.

Hmmm…guess we should have asked you what your Dove quote would be!

Thank you, Jenna, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Andrew Bertaina

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: Andrew Bertaina

Title of Piece published in SweetWinter in Washington, DC

Issue:  10.3

author Andrew BertainaFind him:
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
Andrew currently lives and works in Washington, DC. He is an adjunct instructor at American University, teaching College Writing, and also work in the library at American. You can find out more about him on his website www.andrewbertaina.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

I have work appearing soon in the newest edition of Redivider, online at Green Mountains Review, and the anthology, Best American Poetry 2018, releases in a few weeks. I’ll be reading my poem that was included in anthology at the New School with other people includes in this year’s Best American.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I’m excited about a lot of random essays and stories that I’ve started. It’s hard for me to pin down a particular project that has me excited. Honestly, I’d like to find a home for a collection of essays or short stories. I’m currently working on finding a place for my collected work.

Who is your favorite author?

Right now, I’m really into Karl Ove Knausgaard, but I also love Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, Borges and Nathalia Ginzburg.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I’m in love with Little Virtues by Nathalia Ginzburg. Her essay, Winter in the Abruzzi is stunning. I’m also partial to Art of the Personal Essay by Philip Lopate.

What inspires you to write?

Great question. I don’t think I know. At best, writing allows me to use my brain to its fullest extent. I find I’m able to draw on literature, dreams, philosophy, psychology all in the same work. It makes me feel the most intellectually stimulated.

What is your favorite sweet?

I’m partial to coffee cake.

We here at Sweet found a recipe you should try! Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Thank you, Andrew, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!