1. 1956 was in part intended for a conference at University College Dublin, Ireland; how did this aspect of ‘intention’ influence how you went about putting this title together?
To say that this work was “intended” for the conference is a bit misleading. I was going to an experimental poetry conference called TEXT / SOUND / PERFORMANCE in Dublin in 2019 along with many friends and fellow experimental poets, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to have some new work in hand to pass around (whenever poets know other poets are going to be present at events, it’s an unwritten law that you bring books to trade and share). The title had nothing to do with the conference but everything to do with the fragmented history and memory of my grandparents’ passage under the Iron Curtain from Hungary in 1956 and the resulting reverberations of intergenerational trauma within my family.
2. Regarding leavings the title maps “experimentations with …a poethic of leaving: of falling away, of stitching back together, of beginning again.” What led you to this title? Is it in any way connected to a specific event in your life or was it the result of a sudden epiphany that got to you and you couldn’t shake it off?
leavings is anything but sudden! I have been working on this collection for about 3 years and thinking about it forever. I come from a long history of folks who work with their hands; it’s something in my blood. My experimental practice has always been centered on hand-to-object care. Very little of my work has any digital interventions aside from taking images of the work. And, I’m always seeking different tactile challenges, whether it be sewing with leaves or working with different media like ink and water.
When it comes to leavings, I wanted to investigate fragility as a poetic practice, and as a feminist mode of creation. With this work, I am also thinking alongside the work of feminist theorist Sara Ahmed who thinks of feminism as “a fragile archive, a body assembled from shattering, from splattering, an archive whose fragility gives us responsibility: to take care.” Embroidery and handicraft have long been deemed domestic, “women’s work,” but in this work, they become tools for fostering resistance and strength through fragility and breakdown. Sometimes destruction is necessary. Sometimes putting things back together is necessary. Re-membering, bringing something back to life, or letting it go
3. Your latest chapbook conjure is “constructed in petri dishes using water, india ink, found objects, and fragments torn from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” Can you talk a bit more about the specific choices – why petri dish, why Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
I’ve been working with the same found texts for awhile now—mainly The Famous Men and Great Events of the 19th Century (1899) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—but refracting those texts in new experiments. I really love taking narratives (especially those that have excluded the voices of others) and reworking their fragments. It’s a bit of poetic justice, letting buried voices surface, but it’s also about a love for language itself (I like how the petri dish environment invokes scientific scrutiny upon the text). With these inky poems, I was thinking through how something like the Charter, which is so fundamental to this nation’s identity, carries a heavy legacy of colonialization and violence. By submerging the text and bleeding its edges, these untold stories manifest and swirl, bubble to the surface
4. What, according to you, makes a visual poem successful?
I don’t really think of poetry in such black and white terms—I never think about success or failure, but rather what manifests and whether I am in the particular headspace or timespace to make that manifestation come alive. Some poets might place a lot of importance on “getting things right,” or being exacting, but the type of visual poetry I do does not lend itself to perfection. There’s always something in the course of creation that does not go as planned. Success might be fleeting—it might mean I don’t rip a leaf to shreds while trying to sew it, but ultimately, the poem underhand dictates what it will become and I feel like I have very little control over that.
5. Can you recall an experience where you might have worked with another poet/writer or maybe you collaborated with a visual artist, or a performing artist (say a musician/actor/dancer) – how was that experience different or similar? Or seminal or generative?
I LOVEEE collaborating, and try to do it as often as possible. One recent collaboration that has really stayed with me is the chapbook I created with Petra Schulze-Wollgast, REPLY, during the thick of the pandemic lockdown last year. Each week, Petra and I would send each other work for the other to “finish.” Not only did it keep me creating, week after week, but the energy and intimacy created through getting to know someone I have never actually met through poetry was mind-blowing. We didn’t try to out-do each other or be showy—instead, we let each other’s work breathe while building conversation and exchange. Especially during a time of lockdown, and of increased distance between ourselves and our community, this weekly connection point was such a boon, and the result was really stunning.
6. Does your writing practice impact your emotional state in any way? Does it put you in a certain mood or an emotional state? Or helps you get away from a certain mood or an emotional state? Can you reflect on that?
For me, poetry is a practice, and a necessary one. I always know when I’ve been too much in my head and need to get in with my hands. Working tediously with precarious materials is quite meditative for me, as it requires a bodily focus and a mindful presence with the materials at hand. That rip or tear that humbles. That stitch that doesn’t sit quite sit right. Those cracked, aged letters that manifest shakily. There’s also something soothing about the act of creation when everything—including the world around us—is unsure and on edge.
Kate Siklosi lives, thinks, and creates in Dish With One Spoon Territory / Toronto, Canada. Her work includes leavings (Timglaset 2021), selvage (forthcoming, Invisible 2023), and five chapbooks of poetry. Her critical and creative work has been featured in various magazines, journals, and small press publications across North America, Europe, and the UK. She is also the curator of the Small Press Map of Canada and a co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press.