In her sixth collection of poetry, The Feast of Erasure, Sheri Wright uses common vernacular to unfold tales of average working people in rural settings and unnamed cities. Utilizing these voices, her poems imply philosophical quandaries in between the raw experiences which often unravel her characters’ lives. These stories are told in a candid, yet whimsical tone, relaying trauma and tragedy first-hand from the minds of characters or eyes of observers intimate with them.
Being familiar with her work, I was able to ask Ms. Wright some specific questions about The Feast of Erasure and her contributions to the literary community here in Louisville, KY:
KLL: Your new book The Feast of Erasure (similar to your book about Eastern Kentucky residents past and present, The Slow Talk of Stones) is filled with the stories of other people, real and imagined. Where do these stories begin?
SW: This book is more personal; [some of it] is based on the stifled life and also the death of my mother. [In some poems] I’m exploring her life and applying it to my own. Other poems are based on stories I’ve been told or heard directly—this book also contains more of my personal experiences.
KLL: How many of these stories are based on living or once-living persons?
SW: A good number in this book, maybe half, are closely based on my life or the lives of people I’ve known.
KLL: These characters, the narrators of your persona poems, struggle with dark desires, loss, grief, or are otherwise conflicted in the moments you present. What compels you to tell the dark side—the struggles and tragedies inherent in our lives?
SW: I see it as a way of understanding—working through their lives and relating them to my own. Sometimes I just find myself drawn in those directions without clear reasons. I’m trying to understand what makes people tick; why we are what we are.
KLL: The abstract images on the cover and interior of The Feast of Erasure are also your work. Like your poems, they too seem to focus on the aesthetic of things worn by time, objects with character. Do you look for the same traits in objects to photograph as you do when searching for people to write about?
SW: I do. I think that a flat surface has no story, just like a pristine, blank page. Stories are behind the scenes—in overlooked places— places where we don’t want to look.
KLL: Your poems are usually free-verse, defying academic and traditional constraints. Tell us a little about your history in regards to writing and literature. What were the formative events or influences that encouraged you to write in free-form vernacular?
SW: I started out writing bad song lyrics. I found a writer’s group and discovered free-verse; then chucked rhyme out the window. Free-verse had no constraints; it opened up all possibilities [for me] with writing and thinking [about the world]. The poet Ai influenced me. Lisel Mueller [German refugee during WWII; winner of the US National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize] who has elegance when speaking of horrific events. She taught me the power of subtlety—how to find the beauty in tragic stories. I look for the same with photography; I’m fascinated with the beauty found underneath decay.
KLL: You supplied the graphic art and text of the book and also self-published this collection. You were publishing poetry collections through small presses (two with Flood Crest and two with Finishing Line), what motivated you to self-publish The Feast of Erasure?
SW: I liked the opportunity I had [using] Amazon [to self-publish]. The affordability and allure of absolute creative control was enough to convince me to give it a try. World-wide distribution [via Amazon.com] gives [Feast of Erasure] higher exposure, and I can flip the print book into an e-book version.
KLL: Apart from being your own publisher and marketing person, you also hosted the Crescent Hill radio show “From the Inkwell” and continue to host the Stone Soup Poetry series @thebardstown. Please tell us a bit about those experiences, interviewing, introducing, and otherwise promoting other poets.
SW: It was a priceless experience [at Crescent Hill Radio]. I got to meet so many people and to read their work. [I was] so happy to help others as I had been helped— to give a little back and build up the literary community by exposing more writers [to each other’s work]. It was a lot of fun.
KLL: You’ve been promoting yourself and others for several years now. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write and perform poetry, or alternatively, host spoken word events?
SW: Don’t give up. Expect to work hard. Don’t forget to have fun. Be open to whatever comes your way; mostly, you have to work hard. There’s no big money; just do it for the experience.
You can contact Sheri Wright, view her photographs, purchase her book(s), and read more at www.scribblingsandsuch.com
You can also follow her on Facebook to receive invites to the Stone Soup Series and updates on her work.
Sheri will be hosting a release party for Feast of Erasure at Hillbilly Tea (120 S. First St. Louisville, KY) Sunday, Sept. 9th at 7pm.