Su Smallen is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of February and I had a chance to interview her about her two amazing books of poetry. Read on to learn more about Su, her writing practice and her books of poetry.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m named after the flower rudbeckia, in the sunflower family, which my parents call brown-eyed susan. I would love to live in a yellow house and grow a garden of sunflowers.
2. What is the inspiration behind Kinds of Snow?
We experienced several years with little snow in Minnesota, relative to previous decades, and I missed it. I wrote to imaginatively call forth snow, and while doing so, snow called forth me.
3. What is the inspiration behind You This Close?
I was awarded a residency with the Science Museum of Minnesota’s St. Croix Watershed Research Station, which included the opportunity to learn from the scientists there about the river and its watershed. This gave me images and language for writing poems to a beloved I have not yet met.
4. Why did you become an author of poetry?
I come from quiet people who pay attention to small things. I am attuned to language, space, and light.
5. Where do you find your inspiration?
Nature, poetry, visual art, performance art, and the necessity of connection.
6. Do you read? What books or author/poets inspire you?
Yes and never enough. I have studied Virginia Woolf half my life, she constantly evolved herself. Woolf saw through things; she focused the inner life within the outer life.
7. You’ve written and published several books of poetry. Tell us a little bit about your other books.
Buddha, Proof was first published as an artist book, hand-stitched with original art by broadcraft press. The book became a Minnesota Book Award Finalist and quickly sold out of two printings; it was then picked up by a small press for traditional, perfect-bound publication of a new edition that includes more poems. Buddha, Proof is a seriously light-hearted portrayal of Buddha in the United States.
Wild Hush was also published as a hand-bound book with original art by Susan Solomon. It is about many kinds of silence.
Weight of Light is my first book, and I am excited to tell you that it has been picked up by a new publisher after being out of print for ten years. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but perhaps late 2018.
8. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write? Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job? What is one of your daily writing rituals or habits?
Yes, my day job as a science editor is impossible, and work days are too long and draining. During the week, I jot things down when they occur to me. Sometimes these are cryptic notes like "red-handled can opener" that I hope will be enough to remind me later what I was thinking. Also during the week I write for 20-30 minutes twice per day: when I wake and before sleep. Then, during the weekend, I set aside quite a bit of Sunday for writing, using my week's reading and writing notes.
9. Usually poetry is autobiographical and personal. Is it hard to share your personal memories and experiences with the world? Why do you do it?
By the time a poem is published, it has "grown up"; I have revised it, sought and considered feedback, tested its reception during poetry readings. Along the way, the poem becomes its own being, separate from me. I write them to wonder, to connect, and to give.
10. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read Kinds of Snow.
Snow, because it conceals and reveals, can help you make your way, “from point A to point A.”
11. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read You This Close.
If you seek your soulmate, if you know your soulmate, or if your soul loves a river, these poems will resonate with you.
If you want to win a copy of Su's books enter here:
Kinds of Snow Giveaway
You This Close Giveaway