An interview with Tasha Cotter. Reading tomorrow at Down One Bourbon Bar with Derek Pollard and Eric Sutherland.

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I got a chance to email interview Tasha Cotter about her writing process and her recent book of poems Some Churches.

Tasha Cotter is the author of the chapbooks That Bird Your Heart (Finishing Line Press) and Spectacular Girl (Chantepleure Press). Her first full-length collection of poetry, Some Churches, was released in 2013 with Gold Wake Press. Her work has appeared in journals such as Contrary Magazine, Country Dog Review, and Booth. You can contact Tasha at tasha dot pedigo at gmail dot com.

 

Q- On KLL, I’ve been chatting with a lot of poets about thematically structured chapbooks.   Do you feel this is a tool to generate material or is it the only way to fully explore a specific topic within the format of poetry?
 
 
I’ve authored one chapbook and I am working on edits for another: I do think chapbooks have a lot of potential in terms of exploring one theme. Generally, chapbooks are between 18 and 30 pages so it’s just enough room to explore an idea or a style. I’ve been at work on a chapbook that was inspired by the work of Mexican poet Dolores Dorantes. I’m working in a very bare, experimental style that’s a far cry from my usual narrative-driven lyrical work. And I think that 25 pages is about all I muster, so the chapbook was something I was immediately drawn to.
 
Q-How closely do you relate religion and the physicality of the church as a building?
 
Poetry has always been akin to prayer for me and in locating an emotional center for this book it became clear to me that a theme seems to be the volatility of the heart — and heartbreak. I began delving into this when putting the book together and deciding on the title. It became clear that a key poem in the book was Some Churches — it orbits around the idea of an expectation of happiness and what happens when that expectation isn’t met. I wanted to treat life experiences with reverence. Life is a precious thing. These poems operate as churches.
 
Q-Do these structures give your poems reverence?
 
I hope so. I hope people read these poems and find some amount of solace or at least feel some familiarity with the book.
 
 
Q-Are  your poems structured like the architecture of a church?
 
I don’t think so! I do kind of like this idea. 
 
 
Q-How is form related to your writing style?
I tend to write free-verse narrative poetry and I’ve always loved the prose poem. I don’t tend to write a lot of formal poetry, though I sometimes like to incorporate the sonnet form or the villanelle when exploring an idea. I tend to pay most attention to syllabics and the music in a line. Most of my poems are one page, maximum. I’ve never had much luck sustaining the energy for a longer poem, though I really admire poets who can do this, like Tracy K. Smith and Brian Turner.
 
Q-Aesthetic aside, poets are ever aware of the specific and the universal. How do you approach weaving your personal experience with broader allusions
 
Good question! I think there’s such a thing as emotional truth: a way of understanding the emotional depth of a particular experience that may have little relation to an actual past, but still manages to carry weight. I rely on this in my work and I do incorporate moments, places, and images of my own life in my work, but I always try to build something universal around it. In some ways I feel like an architect trying to envision something and see it through to its creation. Poems are their own structures — they need to stand by themselves.
 
Q-Literature is a (if not the) powerful, transportative medium, formative and informative to us all. So, what books/author’s have had your attention lately?
 
 
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of fiction. I’m currently at work on a novel and some of my favorite writers these days include Hilary Mantel and Jeanette Winterson. I’m leading a discussion on Saturday for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference on the work of poet Tracy K. Smith, so I’ve been reading a lot of her work, too. I read a little bit of everything: :literary work, chick lit, and poetry. I’ve always been interested in a little bit of everything. 
Q-Most bio’s include the writers list of educational pedigree, yours does not, what lead to this decision? Tell us a little bit more about the Lexington scene and writers that inspire you locally.
 
I graduated from UK in 2006 and knew even then that writing was important to me. My mentor was Nikky Finney and she was an inspiration to me. Lexington is such a rich, fertile place to be a writer. We have the Carnegie Center and there are local MFA programs that add to the cultural richness of the area. Over the last three years I’ve served on the board for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and I’ve been able to meet writers I’ve admired for a long time such as Kim Addonizio, Molly Peacock, and Bonnie Jo Campbell. I earned an MFA in Creative Writing from EKU in 2010. Kentucky is home to so many writers who inspire me: Gwenda Bond, Ada Limon, and Jim Tomlinson continue to impress me.
 
Q-How do you go about choosing poems to read for a live audience?
 
In choosing poems to read I go with my gut. Generally, I try to choose two or three from my book Some Churches and read a couple of new poems. I always like to read something new — I think of it like taking the poem out for a test-drive. I want to hear the sounds of the poem. I want to see if the line-breaks are working well and of course, if people like the poem, I want to know that, too
 
You can hear Tasha read live tomorrow evening at Down One Bourbon Bar with Derek Pollard and Eric Scott Sutherland
 
Here is the Facebook event page.
 
Write on, 
Rachel Short 

 

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