Katrina K Guarascio Interview, with Nicelle Davis
Your poems make good use of the emotional power found in color. What is your favorite color and why? Where might we find an example of this color in the world?
This is an interesting question, and not one I have ever really thought about. I tend to use color as a symbol in my poetry. Most people can relate to the universal archetypes which colors represent, so it is a device which can create an attachment between the reader and the poem. I suppose I would have to say my favorite color is a burnt orange because it is a color that can be easily misunderstood. It can be seen as either beautiful or harsh. It can be found on the wings of butterflies, rusted fender of a truck, and on the sunflowers tattooed on my arm.
Thank you for the delight of surprise in your poems. How do you craft such unexpected images?
Thank you for the compliment. I attempt to break through clichés or common ideas in my poetry. I want to create something that people can relate to, but then twist it just enough so that it provokes a different sort of understanding or meaning. Since there are so many ways to interpret one image, my hope is to show my audience a type of interpretation, which they may have not previously been aware of.
You make great use of line breaks. How do you decide when to make your shifts, stanzas, and line breaks in a poem?
I consider syntax to be incredibly important to the written poem because it helps the reader hear the meter or rhythm the author intends when the poem is read aloud. Sometimes my shifts are simply according to punctuation, but other times I try to separate certain line or stanzas in order to emphasize the importance of the particular line or image, or feature a technique like repetition or listing. I used to be extremely experimental with line breaks, but as I’ve matured as a writer I try to focus on what really aids in meaning and expresses my message.
You use the image of scratching and / or wounding skin in your poems—do you think this image corresponds with the act of writing somehow?
These images attempt to reflect the idea of portraying what is kept internal (thoughts, memories, feelings, etc) in an external way. They do correspond to the act of writing, as well as any other forms of artistic expressions, where the artist is able to reveal themselves and their inner dialogue to an audience. Sharing your personal art is a vulnerable and delicate act and can often be about an emotional “scar.” Lines such as those mentioned are physical manifestations of the underlying emotions, just as the words written on the page.
What new projects are you working on?
As far as poetry goes, I have just concluded work on my third manuscript of poetry, entitled Acquiescence, due for release in summer of 2012. The book length collection was a collaboration with a local photographer. We attempted to pair her visual elements with my poetic imagery in an attempt to create a different type of product. Now that that manuscript is off the table, I am attempting to focus on some creative short story writing and revisiting a novel I began a few years prior. I am also continuing to work on bringing more poetry readings into the local area. Currently I produce a monthly poetry open mic and slam, and am now working with the local library system to produce a second reading series quarterly.
Your wrists reflect scratches
from your childhood tree,
a skyline still bleeding burgundy
as the sun sighs.
These fire kisses,
spotting the skin
of most precious underbelly,
still soft and unfreckled,
beneath the iridescent hues
of motley leaves.
In celebration of skin
still unscathed by the sting of antiseptic,
how much longer for pink to flush and fade,
for cells to gather upon each other and repair.
Will it take the night?
Will you have enough waning light to once again
stretch to tree branch,
gather strength in formative muscles
and pull skyward?
Or will stars infiltrate
the fire in your gut,
leaving your sky sulking to pitch,
where branches are not as easy to find
as the balance of his arms,
where the scratch and bite of brittle bark
recedes to tender touch.
We build caves in the snow
in an attempt to heal feelings
of self destruction.
In an effort to forget
our distaste for the world.
Are those still your baby teeth?
because, by now, we should be used to it.
We’re a little old for this.
Yet we still pout our lower lip,
dress in animal ears,
and cross our arms in defiance.
Let’s play together.
Forget for a moment
about the aches in our knees
and the thin skin of our hands.
Let’s rock on boats with broken boughs
and pretend it doesn’t matter where we drift.
ignore the need for renewed breath.
I’ve been climbing mountains longer than you,
you know how to hold your fire underwater
make rain out of nothing at all
weave me in the dark
breathe under the floorboards.
It takes only a look from your cracked eyes,
a word from your long tooth,
a head to an exhausted breast,
to remind me,
after all this time,
you are still on my side.
In the days of hunger strikes
and promises made too easily,
I wanted the simplicity of touch
and your chest to support my fears.
It’s been years since I scrapped feet
against white sheets and
we attempted to rebuild empires
weathered to rumble.
But crawling belly to concrete
only left fresh scratches that slipped
slivers of blood strippening our shirts.
In the days of ice and cannibal,
You kept me from shivering
as the tips of my fingers
turned black with frost bite.
You kissed the armor of elbow
knowing it would never be enough
but just the same,
it was the tenderness you knew,
and I was gracious.
There wasn’t enough strength in my grasp
to pull from gravel,
not enough resilience in my blood
to let scratches scab.
I counted coins like lifelines
and made sure they weren’t left to swell
and wrinkle in hot water.
I never wanted them to be unrecognizable
to my touch even as time turned
copper to rust.
In the days of sprinkled streets
and pocket watches,
I grew before you,
less like a weed
and more like a tended flower.
You wanted me then
and more than just the comfort of death
could keep body alive.
I learned the itch under my skin,
could not be scratched by the eager fingers of men.
We slipped easy,
we broke twigs and tricks
as if our feet were only made to slip.
It was never a question
how we became savage.