Here at Horn & Ivory we’re all about dreams. Can you tell us about the kind of dreams that you usually have?
I have always had an uneasy relationship with my dreams. I have a lot of emotional baggage tied up with my elementary schooling, as I was fiercely bullied as a child. I think, because of a lack of closure and the impact those years had on me, I continue to dream about being stuck in school hallways with no way out, or going down staircases with no end in sight. I had these recurring dreams about both of my schools until I visited my second grade teacher, who taught at the school where most of my bullying took place. After I paid my visit I stopped dreaming about that school, although I still dream about my other school (which I have yet to visit).
Perhaps this is my brain’s way of telling me to find peace and closure on my own accord, rather than wait for an apology that may never come. It’s difficult, but maybe my unconscious knows more about my fears than I do.
As we’re a summer zine, could you talk to us a bit about what seasons mean to you?
Summer means birth. Quite literally, as I was born in July and much of my growth into adulthood occurred during the summer. The first time I lived away from home, the first time I went out on a date, the first tearful fight, the first heartbreak, and the first time I truly believed that I deserve love.
Autumn means sorrow. Everything is falling, like something both cleansing and rotten. Maybe I believe this because this autumn will mark my first year out of school. I’m still grappling with my new reality, and the post-grad depression hit me hard , but I am trying. God knows I’m trying.
Winter means death. Everything is stripped bare and naked—the trees, the bushes, every lie we tell ourselves during the rest of the year. It’s damning, and damaging, and eye-opening in every conceivable way. It’s burying the past and planting seeds for the future. It’s the funeral call. It’s the rotten flowers on the grave. It’s the end of one life and the beginning of another. It’s painful. It’s unbearable. It’s necessary.Spring means renewal. The whisper of promise floating in the air. I think I will always attribute the seasons to life itself, constantly going through the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Like reincarnation, or the horizon, letting us see where we have been and where we may go.
We’d love if you could share with us a piece of writing advice that you feel has changed the way you work.
I only started seriously getting into poetry when I turned twenty. However, I let what everyone else said about poetry influence how I wrote poetry. I was told that “true” poetry can be found in milk and honey and the work of r.h. Sin, and that poetry died along with the Beat Poets. Bearing my soul seemed pointless, because why should l pour my heart out onto pages that no one will read? I let this fear of not writing “real” poetry hamper my own authenticity. I wrote about the things that happened to me in a way that would make my work easily consumable for the widest audience possible. Stepping away from Tumblr (which was where I published most of my work) and taking a break from writing for the sake of writing allowed me to truly figure out why I was drawn to writing and poetry and self-autopsying my experiences in the first place.My advice is to remember that the first person you should ever write for is yourself. There is no such thing as “real” or “unreal” poetry, just differences in taste and style, and anyone who tries to shame you for writing about the things you want to write in the voice you want to use knows very little about the subjectivity that lies at the core of art. Be honest, write what you want, treat your literary voice with the care it deserves, and stand by your work with pride, even as your skills continue to grow. Write for the first audience you will ever have (yourself) and others will soon follow.
We really liked “2 A.M. Interlude”, could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind it, or what process you went through while writing?
“2 A.M. Interlude,” and nearly every poem in SANTO CALIFORNIA (the chapbook it first appeared in), are about what I experienced during the summer of 2016. That summer was filled with exploding happiness, confusion, pain, anger, chaos, and learning how to move on. I was going out with a boy at time, and I fell absolutely head over heels over him. In retrospect I was reeling over a small string of non-reciprocal love; I wanted someone to love me so badly that I latched onto the first person who I thought could .
We both went to an apartment party that ended in fights, tears, confessions, and the sort of pain that stays with you (I still write about this night in my poetry). I ended up dragging my boy back to my dorm room and took care of him. He kept repeating that he loves me and that I deserve better than him, and I remember crying while I wiped his brow and swearing at him to never get that drunk ever again. To say that night broke both of us is an understatement.
“2 A.M. Interlude” is about the night he called me from a kickback with a few of his hometown friends. He was slurring that he missed me while his best friend accidentally locked himself inside the bathroom and threw up in the tub. My roommate was yelling at me to tell him to shut up so she could sleep while he went on and on about how much he needed me. I wanted to believe him so badly but then I remembered how much the party changed us. How he said “I love you” and refused to repeat it. How he tried to push himself away from me emotionally yet still wanted me physically. I told him what he said to me the next morning and he denied ever calling me, even after I showed him my call history. I don’t want to say that call was the turning point, but it did force me to recognize that things were not like they once were; we were fighting nearly everyday, my friends urged me to drop him, and he would tell me he couldn’t live without me one day and that I ruined his life the next.
I think we kept crashing back into each other because we were so starved of affection; me because of past rejection, him because of his home life. I wish we didn’t part ways as viciously as we did, but I do think much of our relationship can be summed up in the lines “...you can’t / tell the love from the hurt / or the I need you from the fuck you ” and “I never wanted to cry over you, but / we all have our late-night regrets.” He told me he loved and needed me at two, three, four in the morning, and I cried over him during those same hours. We were not the same people during the day as we were at night, but the consequences of those late night actions hurt us as much as we tried to hurt one another.
Perhaps this is why I still dream and write about him—I do not have closure, and there is still so much I want to say and apologize for, so I try to give myself that closure through poetry. Maybe one day I’ll message him and tell him all of the things I should have said long ago, or maybe I won’t. Only time will tell.
Have you read anything interesting recently that you’d like to talk about? We mean anything--novels, poetry, articles, a well-written cereal box…
I’m part of a writing group that produced this post, which became somewhat viral on Tumblr. The post garnered some controversy (you can read some of them in the notes!) but I do believe it has opened up a dialogue on the trouble of writing for the sake of an “aesthetic,” recognition, or a fear of rejection. There is nothing wrong with writing about the same subjects as “everyone else,” but becoming stagnant and refusing to grow as a writer out of fear of losing one’s audience can be self-defeating, as a refusal to grow is a symptom of not truly caring about your work. Audiences come and go, but your work should reflect your growth, not the ups and downs of your audience’s. Again, write for yourself first, and the rest will follow.I was also introduced to this older The Atlantic piece about teen writing competitions and the pressure to win. Although I was not fully immersed in poetry until my twenties, I did submit to the Scholastic Writing & Art Awards in 2013 (I won Gold and Silver Keys for my writing), and I am familiar with the concept of doing work for the sake of contests and awards, as I have submitted art to various contests since the age of eight. Either way, I believe this article should be required reading for young and emerging writers and anyone who feels that they cannot call themselves a writer because they have not won x awards or attended y writer’s workshop. To those who believe this, I ask you to please read this article, and remind yourself that if you think you are writer, then you are one. No one can take this title away from you, and no one can speak about your experiences as genuinely as you can. Just remember to sit with your words, live within them, get to know their every nook and cranny and deeply-held secret, and let them flourish.
Kanika Lawton is a poet and editor from Vancouver, Canada, founder and editor-in-chief of L'Éphémère Review, and a visual arts editor for Venus Magazine. She received a BA in Psychology with a Minor in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. She loves the ocean and you.
Visit Kanika's website at kanikalawton.weebly.com and on the following social media platforms: