Sandra Marchetti is the author of Confluence, a full-length collection of poetry from Sundress Publications (2015). She is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry and lyric essays, including Heart Radicals (About Editions, 2018), Sight Lines (Speaking of Marvels Press, 2016), A Detail in the Landscape (Eating Dog Press, 2014), and The Canopy (MWC Press, 2012). Sandra’s poetry appears widely in Poet Lore, Blackbird, Ecotone, Southwest Review, River Styx, and elsewhere. Her essays can be found at The Rumpus, Whiskey Island, Mid-American Review, Barrelhouse, and other venues. Sandy earned an MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry from George Mason University and now serves as the Coordinator of Tutoring Services at the College of DuPage in the Chicagoland area.
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
When The Canopy was published in 2012, it gave me the moxie to keep going. At that point, I hadn’t had the validation from the publishing community I felt I needed. We all say we don’t need that outside validation, but for a young writer, that didn’t ring true. When my full-length poetry book was published in 2015, Confluence, it taught me to slow down. The book I had worked on for nearly a decade was published. Now I could relax a bit and work on projects that had been waiting.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
It’s interesting. This is the first year in a decade that I’m not teaching literature or first year composition in a university setting. It’s really cemented the idea that the only literature I really want to study—or interact with regularly—is poetry, and writings on poetry. I am not good at making narratives interesting and full like prose writers are. I am better at wisps.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
As far as books go, the two full-length collections I am working on now started in 2013. I doubt either will be published for another couple of years, at minimum. In my opinion, I work slowly. A few poems come out fully formed, and sometimes I have streaks where many of them do. I write about 20 poems in a good year, mostly in the summertime. Most go through dozens of revisions over many months before I would consider them “done."
4 - Where does a poem or lyric essay usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Right now, I am working on my first "project book.” It’s a book of poems about being a Chicago Cubs fan. I have poems about the losing, the winning, listening to baseball on the radio, going to games with my dad, the neighborhood, and everything else. Still, I haven’t lined up the poems and said “there’s a hole there—better write one about X!” I am writing all the things I want to write about the Cubs, and when I have enough, I’ll start organizing it into a book. Then, I may find a few things I’ve left out that inevitably need to be written about!
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I really do enjoy doing readings, and just booked a few for this spring in Lawrence, KS and Chicago! Jerry Seinfeld and other standup comics work small clubs to try out new material. I feel the same way about readings. I read things that are newly finished, not yet published, at events. I learn how they read, how the audience reacts, and then try to figure out who might like to publish such a piece.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I’m so old fashioned. I think my concerns are always beauty and truth. The question I ask after I read every poem is, “Did the poem give you pleasure? How?"
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
This is an impossible question for me, except to say, I feel my role is to be a stay against darkness.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I’ll be upfront with you—I hate being edited. I dislike it intensely. I know I am not supposed to say that. But, the time and care and effort I put into every preposition/metric/etc. comes out as aggravation when someone tries to move things around. With that said, sometimes editors can be spot on and I need to listen to them.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
In each poem, every individual line must be a poem. In a collection, every poem must be a line in the greater poem that is the book.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to lyric essays)? What do you see as the appeal?
If you read my essays, you’ll find they are mostly about poetry. I reference my own poetry in my essays quite a bit. This could be seen as gauche. However, I write those essays to work out my feelings about poetry, sometimes my own poetry, and the processes that surround my work. Writing essays about poetry help me to explore and explain the “deep play” of writing the poem.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
These days, I write on the weekends—mostly it’s doing poetry “work” these days—responding to interviews (!), reading, sending submissions, and revising. In the summer, I don’t work on Fridays, so that is poem drafting day. I have 10 Fridays off every summer, so I try to draft 10 poem during those months. Other poems pop up when they must be heard.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Elizabeth Bishop is my homegirl.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Anything Midwestern—the smell of the grill, a grassy lawn, lake air.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Interesting! Of course, influences are all over my work—the other book I am writing right now is a collection of poems that draws from other poets’ work—their lines, titles, and even their autobiographies. Obviously nature is a huge draw for me, as is rhythm. I wouldn’t exactly say music—but the rhythms of life—sounds.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Annie Dillard is also my homegirl. I am hopelessly anticipating Li-Young Lee’s next collection right now.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Now that the Cubs have won the World Series and I was alive for it, that checks off a huge bucket list item. I’d like to go to Australia with my husband and swim in the Great Barrier Reef before it’s all gone.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Being a writer is less of an occupation for me, and moreso my identity. I am a creative. I run a tutoring center at a community college by day. Learning is part of my identity, and perhaps that’s how the two coexist. I would still be a maker, whatever identity I possessed.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I found out I wasn’t as good as I thought at drawing and painting!
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I watched I, Tonya and Ladybird and both were really bitchin’. Great books? Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond and My Cubs by Scott Simon.
20 - What are you currently working on?