Behind the Words: Beate Sigriddaughter

Posted by on Sep 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Beate Sigriddaughter

Beate Siggridaughter’s poem Red Fox was published in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here she talks with Spry’s general reader Allie Marini about the process and other writing-related thoughts. Here is their interview.

Allie Marini: The restraint & brevity of “Red Fox” is admirable—you convey so much meaning using just 24 words—sort of a “flash poem” or “micro-poem”, if you will. How was the writing process for this piece? Was it difficult to keep it this short, or did you have to fight the desire to say more? Is your usual style this short, or is this piece unique in its length?

Beate Sigriddaughter: It’s the magic of writing that sometimes you can tell a whole story behind a few words. Foxes tend to be shy and mysterious, so I thought, what a beautiful image to hide behind. No, it wasn’t difficult to keep it short. I sometimes like to write short pieces. I call them cameos. I also write very long ones. I go with my gut when deciding on length and form.

What’s the story behind this piece—how did you get started? How did this particular detail of the red fox end up as the central core of the poem?

I happened to read somewhere how red foxes mate for life and I already loved red foxes in the first place. At the same time the familiar fear: will my mate remain faithful? One does read that it appears to be very difficult for human males to be faithful to their mates. Also, love is a big theme in my life—but of course we can’t just go and say “I want to be loved forever” and call that a poem (though maybe we should).

How many times was this piece rejected before it found a home with Spry? Was placing a poem this short difficult, and if so, how? What challenges does a short form have for the author?

It was rejected once before I submitted it to Spry. So, it wasn’t very difficult to place. Nowadays short poems, as well as flash fiction and everything else short, seem to actually often be easier to place than longer work. The challenge of writing a short piece is that every word has to count without being too obvious about wielding craft.

How big is your “In-Progress” folder? How many works-in-progress make it to a final draft? On average, how long does it take for you to turn a note or poetic stub into a finished piece?

Oh, my! My “In-Progress” folder(s) are monumental. Computers make it so easy to hold on to stuff that doesn’t make to it final, just in case one day it might. It’s also lovely to go back on rare occasion, and just for personal delight, to see what was going on a long time ago. Currently I happen to review some notes from 2003. It all eventually becomes part of the next wealth of invisible substance “behind the words,” even if a particular note doesn’t make it into a final work. By the way, I love the expression “behind the words!”

In terms of timeline: I have finalized a poem in as little as a day or a week, and I have two finished novels, one self-published, one published by a small press, that took an average of 30 years from the first words I put down to the finished product. How many works-in-progress make it to a final draft? Depends on how I define work-in-progress: if I define it as something that I have definitely committed to, I would say about 70 or 80 percent. However, if I define work-in-progress as just-in-case notes I jot down, it’s way below 1 percent.

How has your writing changed since the publication of this piece? (Or, alternately, how has it stayed the same?) Has your style undergone any substantial changes since the debut of “Red Fox”?

I don’t think my writing has changed much—perhaps my style has gotten a tad more sure of itself. I’ve also last year been named poet laureate of Silver City, NM (Land of Enchantment!), which helps with the self-confidence. I tend to write personal, passionate things. Somebody has called my writing “naked.” I can see what she meant. But even naked, I’m still contained in the same skin, whether it’s sunburnt or winter-pale, or anything in between. One thing I have done recently is to write a series of poems, quite personal, but in third person about a character name Emily—perhaps to gain a bit more distance from all that nakedness.

Where might we read some more of your work?

FutureCycle Press published my full-length collection Xanthippe and Her Friends earlier this year. It’s available on Individual poems and stories, including several of the Emily poems mentioned above, are available in various online literary magazines. My website has a complete bibliography of what’s available where.

If you could go back and re-edit this piece, would you? Why or why not, and what, (if anything) would you change?

No, I would not go back and change anything. Once I have a poem published or accepted, I usually let it go. I have so much other material waiting to get in line for quality attention.

Whose work has had the most profound impact on your particular writing style? What contemporary authors do you like to read, or would you suggest to readers who saw an echo of their own style in your work?

My original poetry mentor, the late Roland Flint, then at Georgetown University, was instrumental in showing me that it’s okay to cull poetry out of personal feelings. His own writing was very personal and often quite elegantly simple, with a lot of depth of experience behind it.

Contemporary authors I will go out of my way to read are Mary Oliver, Susan Griffin, Elizabeth George, David Chorlton, Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Foster Trecost, Susan Tepper, and Jen Knox. The late Ursula K. Le Guin and Doris Lessing probably still count as contemporary too. And there are so many more.

Who is your writing community, and where did you find them?

My home town, Silver City, NM, despite its small size (ca. 10,000 people), has a very active literary and arts community. As poet laureate I am quite visibly involved, for example through putting on a monthly reading featuring a variety of writers and open mic, among other things. My main community though is the cyber community. Some years ago I got involved with Fictionaut, where I made many long-lasting writing friends, though at the moment Fictionaut itself has dwindled from what it used to be, and Facebook has taken over as my personal writing community. Finally, my largest community project is a blog I have called Writing In A Woman’s Voice where I publish other women’s writing (and a few men’s writing so long as they credibly and respectfully write in a woman’s voice) almost daily. I even have a modest monthly prize of $91 for one piece posted from one full moon to the next.

What question didn’t I ask that you wish I did? What would your answer be?

Question: Do you have a personal motto?

Answer: Yes. Currently my motto is: “What is the truth I owe this world?”

Allie Marini is a cross-genre writer holding degrees from both Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida. She was a 2018 Shitty Women in Literature nominee, and has been a finalist for Best of the Net and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her masthead credits include Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal & Mojave River Review. She has published a number of chapbooks, including Pictures from the Center of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize) and Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press, finalist for the SFPA’s Elgin Award) In addition to her work on the page, Allie was a member of Oakland’s 2017 National Slam Team. A native Floridian now freezing to death in the Bay Area, Allie writes poetry, fiction, and essays. Find her online.