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Friday
Jan312014

"Someone Loves Us, They Must": An Interview with Gabriella R. Tallmadge

Gabriella R. Tallmadge serves as Social Media & Web Content Manager for One Pause Poetry and is currently working on her first full-length collection of poetry. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Passages North, Crazyhorse, Sou’wester, and Salamander. She can be found in North Carolina and on Twitter (@GRTallmadge).

Her poem, "What Apocalypse," appeared in Issue Fifty-Two of The Collagist.

Here, she talks with interviewer Elizabeth Deanna Morris about slippery titles, the sky in summer, and seducing the reader.

Could you please walk us through writing “What Apocalypse”?

I remember one afternoon in the parking lot of my local supermarket when I was struck with some of the images that would later go into this poem. It was late summer and the sky looked dark and like it wanted to storm. The grackles where there too, squawking and making all kinds of alarming noises. Cumulatively, the whole thing felt very ominous, like something bad was about to happen. That’s when I started thinking about the concept of the apocalypse, as both the biblical collapse of the universe and also as the many things that happen to us all the time that feel like the end of our world.

I’m really curious about the title of this piece, maybe because every time I think I understand it, it seems to slip out of my hands. At first I thought it was maybe sarcastic—but then the poem isn’t. Some of the imagery certainly feel apocalyptic toward the end, “The machine of this month is run on the earth’s electrical urges,” especially. But by the same token, the poem begins “I thought the world might end” (my emphasis), which seems to indicate that this isn’t the end at all. Could you talk about your title?

Yeah, I like that the title is a little tricky. Without the punctuation the phrase is free to turn in on itself and, as you’ve discussed, speak in different tones. Similarly, the poem is at times defeated, afraid, searching, and defiant. The poem’s imagery is full and empty, it rises and falls, it ends, but begins again. I kept thinking about how the apocalypse could be the end of everything for everybody, but also something small and personal that only one person experiences. At the time I had written the poem, my husband had just come back from a long deployment to Afghanistan. That experience felt like the end of the world to me even though some people in my life had no idea he was gone. It was a little like living in two worlds and I think the poem (and the title) speaks to the strangeness of that experience.

I love how each stanza of this poem is punctuated with a single line. The poem move rather quickly between images, but the single line stanzas help the read pause and readjust before the next stanza. Do you think that you could talk more about how you developed the form?

Thank you! I knew right away that I wanted to work with a long-ish line, but the first drafts of this poem proved to be muddled or just too overwhelming. I was in a workshop led by Cynthia Huntington while I was developing the poem and when I asked her how I could better the form, she said “First, you have to seduce the reader. Then you can take them anywhere you want.” From there, I went through about a thousand more drafts and then figured that I could be as bizarre or dreamy or apocalyptic as I wanted as long as I gave the reader some sort of a formal pattern to hang on to.  I landed on alternating the thick, imagistic stanzas with the single lines because, like you said, it helps pump the breaks a little bit and situate the reader. I liked the visual contrast as well—I think it looks like the lines, like the speaker, are falling through each weird world held inside the larger stanzas. But did I end up seducing anybody? I still don’t know.

What have you read recently?

I’m almost done with Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn and right before that I read Matt Rasmussen’s Black Aperture. Next on my list are three titles from former classmates at the University of North Carolina Wilmington: Rochelle Hurt’s poetry collection, The Rusted City, John Mortara’s interactive e-book, Small Creatures/ Wide Field, and Eric Tran’s chapbook, Affairs with Men in Suits.

What writing are you working on right now?

I finished two new poems the other day so for now I’m reading and revising older stuff. It’s all part of the larger project of completing my first full-length collection. Thanks for the opportunity to work with you on this interview!

 

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