Malahat Review Book Reviews Editor Jay Ruzesky talks with the Open Season Awards contest creative nonfiction judge about language as energy, creativity arriving through chance and accretion, and how she cares about stakes, risk, and urgency in a creative nonfiction piece.
JR: In your work, you are a shape-shifter, by which I mean that your poetry uses techniques of memoir, and your nonfiction uses techniques of poetry and also narrative. As a contest judge, are you looking for experimentation with form in creative nonfiction, or does the subject carry more weight?
ES: Oh I like shape-shifter: thank you. I don’t believe in literary genre or academic discipline, but I won’t say that here or no one will hire me.
I have never learned how to take content out of form. If anyone knows how to distinguish the texture, syntax, rhythm and shape of language from what language contains, they should contact some really interesting literary theorists and give them the news.
I think from the writers I list above you can tell my biases, so I won’t pretend I don’t have them. In fact, when I was struggling to judge another contest, trying to be more neutral or fair—ha—my friend reminded me that the very point is that they are giving me a chance to express my own aesthetic as a reader.
I will say I am not keen on clever work. I mean clever for its own sake. You know: look how smart I am and look how little all of this matters. I care about stakes, risk, urgency. The saying had to take place. I yearn to feel language carve out my insides and leave something I don’t know yet how to name.
Read the rest of Erin Soros' interview.
fall issue interview with Ava Fathi on CNF
Malahat Review volunteer Catherine Mwitta talks with the fall issue #216 contributor about journaling, building on a recurring theme, and the circular nature of trauma in her memoir, "On Silence, My Inheritance."
CM: There is a circular narrative in your memoir. Your mother tells you to "stop crying" in the car as you're leaving your childhood home at age 7. Then as an adult, when you’re driving, you tell your brother to "shut up" when he panics after a near-accident. When you were building the story's narrative, did you already have this foundation of a circular narrative, or did it evolve as you wrote?
AF: It definitely evolved as I wrote. From the beginning, I wanted to write about the circular nature of trauma, how it grows and festers the more that it is silenced and suppressed, but I wasn’t sure which memories in particular I wanted to focus on. I started by writing out those memories that were clearest to me in my mind. I would focus on the tiniest details, like the flowers on the hem of my mother’s shirt, and let them guide me. Why did I remember those flowers in particular? What was so special about them? Where did I remember seeing them? The more specific my focus became, the more memories I unlocked. I realized car rides, for example, were a consistent theme. Not yet leaving one place, not yet arriving at the other—car rides are a state of limbo, a gap between destinations, where conversations can be had without really looking at the other person, at the driver. There’s a sense of disembodiment and rootlessness, or else transition. If one refuses to speak, the silence can be suffocating. If one speaks too loudly—too candidly—their voice carries. In my life, at least, the car ride has been the most ideal or perhaps the most common place to talk about difficult subject matter.
Read the rest of Ava Fathi's interview.