Q&A with Kanika Lawton

  • by Shekinah Vera-Cruz
  • 14 Aug, 2017

we hear from the featured poet of issue two


We published  2 A.M. Interlude   by Kanika Lawton in issue two of the  Horn & Ivory  zine, Zodiac. We loved it, how it was sharp & sweet all at once. How it held your hand, but pushed you down memory lane, something other than gently. We loved it so much that we had to ask her some questions.

Q & A

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:

by Shekinah Vera-Cruz 14 Aug, 2017
We published  2 A.M. Interlude   by Kanika Lawton in issue two of the  Horn & Ivory  zine, Zodiac. We loved it, how it was sharp & sweet all at once. How it held your hand, but pushed you down memory lane, something other than gently. We loved it so much that we had to ask her some questions.
by Shekinah Vera-Cruz 30 Jul, 2017
After 15 days we're so glad to be releasing the second issue. Thank you to all our readers and contributors for making the inaugural issue a success. It was wonderful to be able to share  Baptismal with you. Now,  Zodiac  is here & we're bringing you stories of change. Our wonderful contributors for the issue have written about memory, about birth, about morphing. At our most fundamental level we are made of movement. We are always changing: we can't help it.

We'll be interviewing another of our contributors before we release our next issue, but you'll just have to wait to find out who. We really loved their poetry, though & we can't wait to hear what they have to say. In the meantime, you can read Issue II: Zodiac here .

Remember to check us (and our contributors) out on social media. We're on tumblr @hornandivoryzine and on twitter @horn_ivoryzine .

We hope to see you again for the next issue, there's something wonderful in the offing.
by Shekinah Vera-Cruz 25 Jul, 2017
Caleb Lovelace wrote "Baptismal" for the inaugural issue of Horn & Ivory, titled "Baptisms: A Beginning". We loved his poem that soared & sang:  I am beginning to confuse you with the / taste of blood now  and we couldn't wait to ask him a few more questions about his poetry &  about him.
by Shekinah Vera-Cruz 15 Jul, 2017
Out of the hard work of the  Horn & Ivory  team and our contributors, the first issue is now live! Thank you so much to everyone who submitted, we're thrilled to have you as a part of what we've been doing.

In case you didn't know, the zine has a tumblr that you can check out here , where we'll be posting updates & our favourite parts of the issue. We received some truly stunning work and we can't wait to share more of it with you over the coming weeks. We'll also be hosting a short interview with one of our contributors over the coming days, so stay tuned!

The first tendrils of the next issue are starting to take shape already. We don't know what it's called yet, but we're sure it'll let us know when it's ready.

In the meantime, you can read Issue I: Baptisms here .

If you want to tell us (or our contributors) nice things about the issue, you can do so at submit@hornandivory.co.uk 🌙
by Shekinah Vera-Cruz 28 Jun, 2017
Though from now on we'll only be choosing the names of our issues after all the pieces for the issue have been picked, we've gone straight in this time with Baptisms: A Beginning . Poems submitted don't have to be around this theme, but we wanted the title of our first issue to symbolise a new beginning, the first cautious step over the line, a pushing open of half of a gate to slide out onto the other side.

We've had some great poems come in already but we'd love to get more. It's shaping up to be a wonderful issue & we can't wait to share it with you.

love & best wishes
the horn & ivory team
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