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Try Poetry: More Sure + A. Light Zachary
As a young child A. Light Zachary’s father used to share poetry with them from the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Romantics, Dickinson, and Atwood. Today Zachary shares with us their poem ‘Overwrite’ from their debut collection More Sure (Arsenal Pulp Press).
Interview with A. Light ZacharyWhen was the moment that you decided you wanted to write poetry? Describe it for our readers. Was it reading another poem? Was it listening to a poet read? Was it something different entirely?My father began sharing poems with me when I was an infant learning to read/listen: ancient Greeks and Romans, the Romantics, Dickinson, Atwood. I was encouraged to mimic them as child painters are encouraged to visit museums with sketchbooks. Because of this, my understanding of language has always been shaped by the sense of intention inherent to poetry.If you had to pitch your featured poem to someone who had never read poetry before, how would you do so? What kinds of things do you think the new-to-poetry reader might find fascinating about it? What could you share about the poem’s writing process?A. Light Zachary: It was inspired by someone I knew who was once abused to the edge of suicide. As a survivor in the present day, she reclaims agency by engaging in BDSM, often consensually roleplaying abuse similar to what she once survived. She finds this healing and fulfilling, which is fascinating to me. And I thought of the bravery in deciding not to kill oneself when that might feel like the easiest thing to do—deciding to “make the best of this life”, rather than trying one’s luck in the next. The first draft of this poem took an hour to write, and filled four pages; over three or four years, I pruned everything away except for these eight lines. Many writers fail to understand where their poems actually begin and end, so I am careful to take my time.What’s a poetry collection or individual poem that you’d recommend to anyone looking to get into poetry?A. Light Zachary: The most impactful poems are short enough to be read (aloud?) and understood within a single breath. Consider the shortest poems by Lucille Clifton and W.S. Merwin, or haiku by Bashō, or the child’s tiger poem which blew up on Twitter—all of these make precise choices about what is necessary to communicate a feeling.