BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Sophia Starmack’s debut poetry chapbook THE WILD RABBIT was released by Deadly Chaps Press in June 2015. Her poems are magical, ethereal and bold: she traverses the world of sexuality and identity, often asking the hard questions that we all want answers to.
I was lucky enough to meet Sophia at Sarah Lawrence College, while we were both earning our MFA’s; she is as beautiful, kind, and intelligent as her poems, which basically means she’s probably the most beautiful poetess you will ever meet.
JV: Why did you choose to set the story in seasons? What does that represent?
SS: So much of the work is about time passing. Joh is older, looking back on a particular place and history; Alice is still quite young and lusts after a bigger and wilder world, yet is so conscious that the onslaught of adulthood and adult sexuality engenders a dreadful loss. It made sense to use the seasons to work through that awareness of time, both its fluidity and its constraints
Who and/or what are the ghosts?
I grew up in a haunted house, so ghosts were familiar companions from an early age. There are so many kinds of ghosts. They could be truths I’m afraid to tell, stories I sense but don’t know how to put into words, half-clear impressions of my parents’ and grandparents’ unfulfilled dreams, the inherited tragedy of a small place and its “forgotten” history. Or they might just be parts of myself that could have been, but aren’t quite.
How did retelling the story of Alice in Wonderland help tell the story of ghosts?
Honestly, many years ago this character arrived suddenly and insisted her name was Alice and that she was fourteen and one-half years old. Some time later, my best chum from grade school, Keith McCleary, proposed The Wild Rabbit as a title–from a line in one of Joh’s poems that he found particularly spooky and evocative of our common ambivalence about home. For better or for worse, when you have a character named Alice and the word “rabbit” in the title, people go to Alice in Wonderland. I resisted this at first, but I’m familiar enough with psychoanalysis to acknowledge the resonance, and I’m sure that in a deep place in my psyche, Alice is helping me work through some things about sexuality, identity, and the value of losing one’s grip on reality.
Punctuation & structure are clearly crucial parts of your poems — the visual aesthetic creates so much silence, it’s almost deafening. Why did you use slashes, as opposed to dashes or commas?
It terrified me when the poems insisted their music be transcribed that way. I’m a very proper and grammatically correct person. But I have to get over myself.
What part of you writes your poems? What are your obsessions?
I’m really upset about being a woman. It’s a blessing I would never trade in, but I’m constantly working it through in my poems.
Sophia Starmack received an M.A. in French and Francophone Literature from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.F.A. in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. A 2014-15 Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Sophia’s work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012; Short, Fast, and Deadly; Her Kind; and other journals and anthologies. Sophia lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches elementary school students.