In October: “Bram Stoker nominated poet Stephanie Wytovich”
To celebrate Halloween, the HWA Poetry Page will be covering another 2013 Bram Stoker nominated poet: Stephanie Wytovich. Stephanie’s collection, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, is an intense and thrilling debut that has me eagerly anticipating her next book (more on that later).
To help celebrate this Halloween season, Stephanie dropped by the virtual HWA Poetry Page HQ for an interview:
HWA: Do you still have the first poem you ever wrote? Would you be willing to share it?
SW: I actually do not. When I was younger, I kept all of my poetry in a collection of notebooks that I kept in a box under my bed. When I went to college, I bound them all with electrical tape and hid them so no one would ever be able to read what I wrote. The day I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I came home, cut through the tape and read everything that I had written over the years.
Then I burned them all and started anew.
HWA: How does being a poet fit into the rest of your life?
SW: Being a poet is first and foremost who I am. I write and read poetry every day and it’s as much a part of my routine as eating and sleeping. I find solace through poetry and through being a poet, I find myself.
Here’s a poem from Hysteria: A Collection of Madness
The rope burned my hands,
My hair got caught in the knot,
I twisted it.
I wore my best dress,
My most fashionable shoes
Skinny stilettos that looked liked daggers.
I put on my choker,
(It was always my favorite necklace)
I stepped off the stool,
And danced in the air.
HWA: What were your first impressions after learning about the Stoker nomination? What is the impact and import of the nomination?
SW: I was shocked. Writing HYSTERIA was such an unforgettable—not to mention life-changing—experience that when I found out that it made the final ballot, I was speechless. I feel so blessed and excited to be nominated amongst such talented authors and poets.
HWA: Who are your favorite poets? Favorite poems?
SW: My favorite poets are Sylvia Plath, E. E. Cummings, Ted Hughes, and Charles Bukowski. I’ve also recently been reading a great deal of Rumi and Pablo Neruda, and have been throwing in some Whitman as the weather starts to turn.
My favorite poem is “The Moon and the Yew Tree” by Sylvia Plath.
The Moon And The Yew Tree
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.
The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.
The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness —
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.
I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness—blackness and silence.
Stephanie’s latest collection of poetry, Mourning Jewelry, is now available. For more, visit her website at http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com.
Here’s a poem from Mourning Jewelry
There are little cuts of sadness
that bleed from my arms—punishment
for every time I think of him. I never
see the knife, but I always feel it, and I
imagine that it’s sterling silver, adorned
with a Corinthian rose handle, the one he
used to open my letters with. I pretend he’s
merely writing me love notes to wake up to,
careful calligraphy strung together by the
heart of a romantic, but I know that I’m
the poet because I always sign my work.