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.
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.
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.
I hope so. I hope people read these poems and find some amount of solace or at least feel some familiarity with the book.
I don’t think so! I do kind of like this idea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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