in the damned darkness of winter, we swallow sleep
& spit stars. our eyes are closed
to paper killings on the streets,
the gunk, the insides
of our own bodies. imagine
a man named Horses
who smokes cigarettes on your lawn
& calls it Liberty. don’t call him Free.
there is a woman
who walks on a razor with iced veins,
but when she slips, her blood
is pellucid. every new day
brings more tears. alar:
to the armpit. when one part of my body
takes flight, the rest
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
Traditionally, I have seen the term “emerging poet” be used to signify any poet who has not released a full collection of their work, such as in a chapbook. More than that, though, I view “emerging poet” as hope in the poetry community. As a young adult poet, it is easy for me to become disillusioned with an overwhelmingly adult poetry culture; it becomes difficult for young adult and teen poets to find comfortable places among their adult peers. The term “emerging poet,” however, creates a chance for such poets to begin to find success.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
I do consider myself an emerging poet for two reasons: because of my age, and because I feel relatively new to the poetry community. This is my second year of submitting my poetry for publication, which, to my non-writer friends, seems like a long time, but is really very short compared to those who have completed MFAs or have published chapbooks. It is my lack of publishing experience combined with my age that makes me feel the title “emerging poet” fits.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
Recognition in the poetry community is ultimately determined by chance. Yes, there are classes, workshops, fellowships, MFAs, etc. that claim to improve a writer’s work, and these programs often do work - I have benefitted immensely from them myself - but at their core is the idea that there is one, superior method of writing. This I disagree with. Writing is arbitrary. What I find beautiful, you may not. Ideally, recognition should occur as a result of the quality of one’s work, but the measure of such quality is so variable; poems of mine that I think are amazing will receive no recognition, while poems I think are mediocre will.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
Power politics definitely shape the poetry community. Despite the progress that's been made, one can still see, at the top, a ruling of the community in favor of whiteness, maleness, and heteronormativity. Ageism is also a huge factor, and problem, here. It is easier to be published if the writer is older, or male, or white, or straight. Journals focusing on writers of color and queer writers and young writers (such as this feature!) have helped, and I am so grateful for them. There is still a dire need for progress, however, towards which we must unceasingly work.
What does community mean to you?
Community means family, a safe space. I did not fully know what “community” meant in terms of writing until I started sending out my work and applying for workshops - journals such as The Adroit Journal and Winter Tangerine, where I met and was mentored by Luther, introduced me to wonderful groups of writers. In these groups I felt secure and eager to share my work and bounce off ideas. I love the writing communities I am in; my peers support my work and inspire me, both in and outside of writing.
TALIA FLORES is an undergraduate at Stanford University. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, recipient of the Texas Book Festival Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2017 Gabelle Prize for Writing, her work appears or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, Words Dance, and more. She is the media manager for The Blueshift Journal.