Field Recordings welcomes Sally Zakariya out of her internet wilderness into our wilderness. The fields mellow into gold around here, and the Indian Summer has settled to stay upon our fields and backroads. Welcome and explore. Links to Zakariya's work is peppered throughout.
Pen Name: none, but thinking …
Most recent title published:
Insectomania (2013) and Arithmetic and other verses (2011), both from Richer Resources Publications, an independent publisher that specializes in translations of Greek and Roman classics but has recently added a poetry line.
Where do you write?
In my guest room/study, on an antique desk that was my grandfather’s.
What are your rituals with regards to writing (ex: Must have tea, a cat on the lap, etc.) Must spend a few minutes staring blankly out the window. Must have coffee. Must not let cat jump on keyboard, which can result in odd words.
Describe your writing process:
A poem usually begins with a single line or phrase that I fixate on before I go to sleep. I keep a pad and pen next to the bed, plus a little book light so I’ll be able to read what I scribble in the dark. This process works in revision, too—I’ll recite new lines to myself and jot down ideas that occur in the half-there state before I fall asleep. This can result in insomnia, but I think it helps my poems.
What do you when you begin to revise? What's the first thing you do during that process? The first step in revision is reading the poem aloud (quietly) over and over and noting glitches in sound and cadence. Then I look at line breaks. I print out the revision and keep a copy with me to read over while I’m fixing dinner or whatever. Usually at this point I spot things that simply don’t belong—a belabored metaphor, lines that really should be in another poem, and so on. And then I put the poem away in a “draft folder” and move on to something else. Some poems never make it out of the draft folder, some I revisit a number of times, and a few need just a few tweaks to graduate.
When revising, how many drafts do you go through before you feel comfortable with the final product? I typically go through at least 4 or 5 drafts and sometimes more, sometimes changing just one or two words. Sometimes axing whole chunks. Sometimes rearranging lines.
When arranging lines for your poems, what do you consider at the micro level about the line? (For example...I never end a line on the word “and” etc.) I think it’s important to (almost always) end a line on a strong word, whether the lines are enjambed or not. Because I pay attention to cadence (as opposed to formal meter), I don’t want a line to end on an auxiliary sort of word, like “in,” “and” “the,” etc. I also like to keep lines reasonably short—maybe because I’m an ex-smoker and short of breath.
As a poet, whose music, or voice, sometimes do you hear as you write or revise?
My husband, who’s a little deaf, plays classical music in his studio, directly below mine, so I’m often writing to a background of Beethoven, Mozart, Biber, etc.
How would you classify your poetry? Are you a lyric poet? A Romantic? A Surrealist?
None of the above—in fact, I have no idea how to classify my poetry, but people tell me it’s accessible and has layers of meaning.
What poets are you currently reading?
Philip Levine, Li-Young Lee, Sharon Olds, and Michael Dickman
What poets/poems do you strongly recommend a reader to discover?
I hesitate to recommend—everyone’s taste is different. I just suggest reading voraciously.
The contemporary American poetic tradition is elegy. Do you discover elegiac qualities among your own writing as a whole? Are you a poet of loss?
Any poet my age is a poet of loss, so I would have to say there are elegiac qualities in many of my poems.
Where does your inspiration come from (music, film, other books)?
My inspirations are primarily words—snatches of conversation overheard, phrases I’ve read, “creative mishearings”—and nature. I’m big on birds and insects.
What is your literary guilty pleasure? (trashy sci-fi adventures, bad romance novels, 50 Shades, fanfic, etc.) Murder mysteries by the bushel, especially if they’re from cold Northern places.
Explain how your local and regional environment influences your writing, your process, and your product (in other words, how does your reality intersect with the worlds that you create?): For the most part, my reality pretty much reflects the reality around me, but I do sometimes write poems that inhabit some sort of dream space.
You have to invite three authors to dinner, who are they? Why?
Whoever I’m reading at the time, so I can ask them the same kind of questions you’re asking me.
Favorite title (you wish you had come up with):
“Days in the History of Silence” – a novel by Merethe Lindstrom (I haven’t read it but plan to, on the basis of the title alone)
Line(s) you wish you wrote:
Memory revises me. (from “Furious Versions,” Li-Young Lee)
Book you did not read in high school but now have read and have an appreciation for: And why: Too many to pick from …
Words that have a crackling, sparking kind of sound.
Least favorite words:
Sappy multisyllabic words that end in –ly.
Advice you would like to pass on to other writers:
Read, think, read, and share your work with others for honest critique.
What you would discuss with your pet if your pet could talk:
I’d talk to my cats about birds—why I write about them, why I’m glad they catch so few.