Christina Strong has lived in a recording studio, a yurt, a tent, and a sugarcane barrel in various locations in CT, NH, VT, MA, NY, CA, and HI. Poetry publications includes The Hartford Of (Cy Gist Press), Fifth Plateau-from Pink Adrenaline Star (Propolis Press/Least Weasel) and The New York School (Propolis Press). Latest new poems included in PoemTown (Randolph VT) and West Wind Review.
When not writing or working on websites I am fending off wildlife in central VT.
1 - How did your first chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
a. It didn’t change my life at all. In fact, I found out people cared even less. It meant you were in the gene pool of competition. If I lose the cynical streak I’d say it opened some windows and doors a crack. I don’t have an MFA or work in academia. I do not have a trust fund. I have no safety net. I live in the united states. My passport is now useless. My second chapbook publication didn’t change my life either. Nor any poem published. Barely made a bleep. That said, I get excited when I get a poem published. I also don’t send my work out much. I don’t want to pay for contests because I don’t have the money and contests are gatekeeping . I don’t have copious amounts of money for that.
b. I have been writing since I was 15 years old so sure! A lot has changed. I may have at many points been too rigid. I may have at other times too loosey goosey. I tend to now kinda strive for being less judgmental about things unless I have to.
c. It’s more a matter of how I think different about it than how I feel. See answer b with a caveat: manuscripts don’t feel anything.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I taught myself how to read at age 3; I drew and sketched and wrote my first haiku in third grade about Mt. Fuji.
I wrote a love poem at age 15 (rhyme, meter, not very good!). I showed it to someone and they said they liked it and I “should” write more poetry. I said “ok”.
Had they said: “This poem sucks” I’d might now be ringing up your groceries at the supermarket.
It’s been all downhill ever since. I came to art first. I thought when I was a little kid that I would grow up to be an “artist” whatever that mean - and get some job that paid the bills to do art. There is no “opposition” when it come to creating, or vs or binary. It stinks of linear thought. I was a history major but I don’t read too much fiction these days. Reality is a little too much on the nose these days. We should all be dancing. Albeit with distance.
A pencil and a pen are tools. Use them. They’re also very cheap. So is dancing.
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?
I had a friend of mine once remark that I didn’t take my work seriously and I don’t bc I’m more worried about money. Tho that’s not entirely to blame.
Since I work freelance I worry about money. When I worry about money I write less. And then I worry about writing less and worry about less money. And then I ruminate further. I cannot be the only one.
I write whenever I can eek it out. That said, I have “projects” going on. I have more or less 5+ manuscripts sitting on my hard drive. I do not edit much and maybe I should. Or rather, if a poem or something needs editing, I know. If I write a poem and it comes out more or less brilliantly, I don’t touch it too much. I work more organically.
My idea about my work is to sound like the least pretentions _________ (fill in the blank) in discussing one’s own ouvre. I’ve worked in pr and marketing for over 20 years. I promote other people for a living. When it finally comes down to me, I reach for the chips and see what’s new streaming on WhatEverMovieTVAppDotCom.
4 - Where does a poem 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?
I write from both inspiration, or prompts or anything. The poem begins if a line pops in my head and I go from there. I am probably the last person to turn to in regards to structure. I’m still kinda punk rock and I do whatever I want. Hence, no book book published.
I have been directing a poetry workshop here in VT with non-poets, so the poem is not about me, and nor is the prompt, nor is anything else so the workshop is a way for those folks to think of anything as a poem: a list poem, a cheezy poem about colors. Anything to break folks out of linear and literalthought.
That said, I do think conceptually of books or poems or threads that I want to explore bc themes reoccur through the years. But not lately in last few months. A lil too much other stuff going on.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I do like doing readings. I like them bc I get to hear other people and congregate, tho, not so much of that now. I however, sometimes see them as a pr and marketing business angle and that I don’t like. So no, it is not a part of the creative process. But we all do want to be heard. I try and see it as sounding things out, as it were. I like readings bc of the social aspect - I get to see my friends. I take part in the Boston Poetry Marathon and all its incarnations through the years. This year was virtual It was nice to have access to one’s own fridge.
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?
My poetry is political. I don’t shy away from it. The issue - I have been told - is I delve too much in the dark and write about destruction and mayhem and not enough about joy and love. I am paraphrasing. I have a lot of concerns. Like a million.
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?
Artists/poets/writers/dancers/whomever should be on the vanguard taking a bullet or a bus. None of this Shelley business and go paddling in a lake and drown.
We need to set brains on fire.
We also need to think outside of ourselves and see the larger picture.
We need to be out in the streets every day.
Or the virtual streets.
Reading our poetry out loud.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
As long as there’s no drama, we get along fine, I let them do the editing thing, they let me be me, we’re all good.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
The local drug stores display lifestyle magazines that are full of “Beat Depression” and “Mindfulness” and of course crafts and coloring books. I guess the advice would be: “Chill the fuck out.” We are all going to die and it seems a little sooner rather than later. If yoga helps, go ahead. Stand on your head. Go ahead in believe in the non-violent communication liberation theology god who loves you because he is a hippie and so is jesus. Go eat an ice cream. Enjoy it. Let your favorite ice cream flavor drip down your hand and you wonder now whether it is or is not ok to lick yourself clean. Is anyone watching? If not, do it.
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I work freelance when I have work, and so I write when I don’t stress about paying bills, so I don’t have a routine but I like to write a poem a day somewhere when I can, either in the morning before jumping on something or late at night with no one around.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Listen to music and look at art. Talking to others, or try to. Go for a walk. When my writing gets stalled it is because I am paying less attention to it and more towards keeping a roof over my head and paying the phone bill. “Writer’s Block” is bs, there’s usually something else going on.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
I live in Vermont so cut grass and cow manure. Burnt tar smells like pineapple. Mildew and mold remind me of the Big Island of Hawai’i. If you left your clothes out on the line in the rain you’d have to go wash your clothes again. I’m growing Thai basil, Italian basil, parsley, and cilantro in my small garden.
13 - 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?
The best approach perhaps is to not have poetry 24/7 bc then you don’t have a life. You, one, me, whomever, we, need to do other things, be curious or else you get stagnant. Whatever thing you think is trivial is actually not, it’s more like perfecting a madeline recipe or scoping out constellations or finding the lone raspberry bush in the backyard or indulging in an iced coffee in Green Wood Cemetery. It’s also best not to work 10 hour jobs a day doing bs xyz job that just pays the bills. Especially for some chain store (done those jobs, no fun). Some might see working from home as a blessing. It is not always fun. Standing knee high in a small river under a covered bridge is more fun.
It wouldn’t be any surprise that poets would say and pronounce things. We’ve always been orators of some sort.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
All. All the ones I dislike, all the ones I love, all the ones I glossed over.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven’t yet done?
Get an actual print bound book would be nice, if I have to do it myself, I can, I do layout and design. Insert small violin music here. I’ve never been in a hot air balloon. I’ve travelled a fair amount but now that’s just virtual. That’s a very open ended question with an open ended answer.
16 - 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?
I find this to be a weird loaded question and it reeks of class issues. If I was a cashier at a supermarket but wrote poetry, would people discount me off the bat? I’ve had so many crappy jobs. If I did get an MFA I’d be now dealing with other kinds of bs. Art and poetry and music is the respite from all this so if I never get a dime from a book I don’t care as long as I’m happy. Oh, I lie. I’d like at least about ten bucks. And ten books. With some zeros tacked on for good measure.
Many people I know teach. I don’t want to teach. Or rather, I don’t to teach people who don’t want to learn anything new.
I know what I don’t want to do which is to bust my butt for the man until the end of time.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
See above. Don’t know what else I could do, I’m good at code, maybe, maybe designing websites, maybe, maybe writing poetry, can’t think of what else I’d be good at doing. I don’t have a green thumb but it’s not brown. I can’t cook well, you don’t want to eat my hamburger, or maybe you do, I do know how to cook one medium rare. As opposed to doing something else. Perhaps it is a scale of passion. Poetry first? But who wants to set hierarchies? I am perfecting personal pizza recipes.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Great is subjective but I’m reading Sean Bonney’s Our Death now, and many books on the back burner.
Rewatch of Repo Man at least 30x: “The life of a repo man is always intense”
19 - What are you currently working on?
Putting poetry and art out into the world before it explodes.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;