Sandra Marchetti’s poem “Frame” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 20, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I grew up in the Midwest, outside of Chicago, and have been writing about it for the better part of a decade consciously and perhaps even longer unconsciously. My first full-length collection of poems, Confluence, recounts my love affair with the Midwestern landscape. The current project I’m working on, a book length collection of poems about the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and listening to baseball on the radio, is also regionally based, obviously.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
One of the most compelling aspects of the Midwest, the one that has appeared most in my poems, is the landscape and the region’s geographical features. I, for one, really appreciate the flatness of the Midwest (something newcomers to the region seem to dislike intensely) because it allows one at times to see all the way to the horizon line. One can feel simultaneously big (as the tallest feature in the landscape) at times and small (as a dot on this horizon) in a Midwestern prairie. I have written, “Roam the ground where you are / mapped, flat and free, beneath / this sky, this new sea,” which sums up my thoughts on this aspect of the Midwest, I think. Currently, I’m fascinated with Midwestern character, how we forgive, our loyalty, and maybe even our “quiet desperation,” all of which makes an appearance in the baseball poems I’m writing.
How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?
A place I’ve visited since I was a kid, and currently can’t get out of my head, is Wrigley Field. I’m writing about it now, and it’s hard to do so in a fashion that’s not clichéd. I’ve thought so many times about walking up the steps from the concourse to see that brilliant green field, the azure skies, and the sunlight that streams through the first and second decks. I’ve written about the place in winter, as a ghost town, on the night of a rare playoff game, etc. It’s a graveyard or a cathedral. I’m not sure which.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
My writing process is ritualized, which maybe isn’t a surprise now that you know I’m an avid baseball fan. Each part of the writing process (drafting, revising, and submitting) contains a unique set of rituals. When I draft, I like to take a walk first. I used to always read poems before trying to write them. When I submit poems, I like to sit at my big maple desk sipping a gigantic mug of coffee in a clean house. Call it being persnickety. Just as in sports, I don’t know that the rituals are important or if they foster creativity in and of themselves, but I do think performing rituals helps me to get into a mindset to be creative. The rituals, perhaps, oil the wheels.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
One of my poems or essays is finished when it stops itching at me. When I stop thinking about that alternate ending, or am no longer scheming about a sharper verb or better turn of phrase in a poem, I’m done with it. When I can read the piece aloud and do not stumble, it’s done. When I can tap my toe to it without worrying about staying on beat, it’s finished. Better yet, when I stop doing these things, and then pick the poem or essay up again to read it, and like it, I know it’s there.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I could talk endlessly about my love for Elizabeth Bishop (and I have). See my essay about her here:http://lunalunamag.com/2014/04/29/elizabeth-bishop/ However, because this is a Midwestern magazine, I’m going to give a shout out to a Chicago poet I love, Li-Young Lee. The way Lee talks about Chicago in “The City in Which I Love You” and in his book, Behind My Eyes, is breathtaking. I am also drawn to his mysticism, how he talks about family and home life and the way he negotiates the gray areas: between love and animosity, religion and spirituality, the intellectual and emotional. His poem, “Eating Alone,” will never cease to amaze me with its wisdom.
What’s next for you?
Some poems about the Cubs, and others, have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in Museum of Americana, MEAD Magazine, Pilgrimage, and Blackbird. New reviews of Confluence are still arriving, which is a blessing. You can find the freshest reviews in The Collagist, Blue Lyra Review, and Rain Taxi. In February, a chapbook of contemporary love poems I co-authored with Les Kay, Allie Marini, and Janeen Rastall, entitled Heart Radicals, will be released from ELJ Publications. Meanwhile, I’m going to continue writing scraps of drafts, and in the midst of everything else, try to carve out time to revise them—just like all of us!
Where can we find more information about you?
You can find more info about me on my Poets and Writers page and on my ELJ author page:
You can also purchase Confluence here: