By: Andrea Clark
From a seed (a seed!)
I ripened into a majestic softwood tree
I surface as your surplus
from a Memphis movie palace
Andrea Clark lives in Oakland, California with her husband and three cats. She was educated at the University of Michigan and Yale University. “A Girl, or a Ticket” is her first published poem.
“A Girl, or a Ticket began as a straightforward persona poem in which I tried to capture the lifecycle of a movie ticket left over from a film I saw last winter in Memphis. But when I looked back at what I had written, my subconscious read between the lines. I immediately thought, "This is about sex trafficking." Several years ago I volunteered for a Cambodian organization that helped bring teenage survivors of sex trafficking into healing routines of school, therapy, friendship, and play. When I revised the poem, my goal was to figure out how to prime the reader to also see a story of slavery and trauma in the mundane as I had. I chose to do that through the poem's title.”
Interview With The Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press: First off, thank you so much for doing this. This is your first published poem, correct? It must be surreal getting featured and interviewed on your first publication.
Andrea Clark: Yes, it’s my first published poem. So I feel like I’ve won the jackpot. But then with the feature and interview, I guess I’m like any new poet might be: I’m concerned it can only go downhill from here (smiles). I’ve had the chance to publish a couple of interviews with writers in which I was the interviewer, and so it is indeed surreal to be on the other side.
CNP: How long have you been writing poetry?
AC: Just since January, really. I wrote a poem when I was in graduate school in 1991, but no poetry between then and January 2018. I work part-time as a creative coach and my turn to writing poetry was motivated by what I learn from coaching my clients. I work with novelists, memoirists, poets, and visual artists. It was from them that I found what I needed to know to be able to invest in my own creativity. I help guide them but they also teach me.
CNP: The exclamation point has been an academic no-no for a while, so using it can be quite a rebellious move. What compelled you to use an "!" in the first line?
AC: Ah, the dreaded exclamation point. It is for many code for a lack of sophistication, but I work also as a medical editor, and in technical writing punctuation has very specific purpose. I found an exclamation point necessary to convey the emphasis I intended, which was more than could be accomplished by simply repeating the words. I delighted in having a good reason to break the rules.
CNP: When you wrote this poem, did you have the form pre-determined or did it happen in a more spontaneous, organic way?
AC: It spilled right into my notebook. I do fear that I’ve jinxed myself with this first effort, and never again will it be so easy. All of the poems I have written since then require many, many rounds of revision.
CNP: This poem feels as though it's both addressing a precise moment in time and an entire lifetime. Is this intentional?
AC: I wanted to describe a movie ticket from the film The Shape of Water, and in doing that I tried to capture the entire life of the slip of paper.
CNP: I find, often, that when I send a poem out into the world I send it out with an air of anxiety because I have expectations around potential audiences "getting it" or "not getting it". Did you imagine this poem would be received by a general audience in any particular way?
AC: I think it’s fine for a reader to take meaning from one of my poems that I didn’t intend. I don’t expect others to respond to it exactly as I did. I just hope they find some meaning there. From one reader I learned that fancy movie houses were often formerly brothels. In that case she got more from the poem than I brought to it when writing it. And that’s one way poetry is magical to me.
CNP: Who are your favorite poets?
AC: Adrienne Rich, Judy Grahn, June Jordan, Joy Harjo. Most of my education has been shaped by my reading in feminism, and poetry is no exception.
CNP: This poem has so much music in it--I always read the second "a seed!" as a shouting backup chorus--and the echoes have a real cyclical feel, when it abruptly stops. It really captures the movement and sudden end of a lifecycle. You mention that you saw the second story emerge subconsciously after reading it over again; what was the editing process like? What sort of shape was the poem in before you saw the second story?
AC: It was fun to play with sound in this poem, and I like your vision of a chorus. I’d love to hear the poem spoken aloud by a group rather than one voice. As far as the subconscious, I think that I may have misused that word when I described the process previously. What I meant was that I wrote a poem about a movie ticket, and without edits, when I read it again, I saw this subtext about a phenomenon—sexual slavery—that I have read a great deal about and worked against. So the second story was my subtext, but perhaps written in that manner because of my work and interest in social justice. I hope that others see two stories in the poem as well.
Thanks so much for this opportunity!