Natalie Byers is Alien Buddha’s Artist of the Month for June 2021

ABP- Thank you for taking this interview, Natalie. Back in March ABP had the privilege of publishing The Farmers Wives in 3 Acts, a hybrid collection of writings. What can you tell us about this book? What was the process of writing it like?

NB- The Farmer’s Wives was born out of experimenting with different processes in an effort to dig and mine out these dark places in my past, and present, deal with them, and make something beautiful.

The selfie poems were entirely a product of experimenting with ritual as a process. I flew out to Venice Beach and focused on spending time with the ceramic masks my brother made. That was a weird thing to wrap my brain around, but the more I treated the art objects like living things, the more alive they became; and in some ways, they became a part of me. I love those pieces because of the movement in each, the dance with myself, and it’s still very emotional for me when I think about the experience.

The hand-painted poems are products of mindfulness and intention as process. I made the ink by slowly grinding a watercolor brick, for hours sometimes, while contemplating the words, the syllables, the individual sounds of the image in my head. Then I painted the poem once and never went back to it. Almost the opposite of what we’re taught: write whatever comes to your mind then spend hours re-writing it. I’ve come to really enjoy editing through contemplation first, then just making the thing, letting the thing exist fully in that moment, and leave it. It feels more like life to me and I think that’s why I prefer that type of process.

In many ways, my process comes from something a brilliant poetry mentor said to me, “It’s not the story of our lives that matter, it’s the fact of it, the fact that we exist.”

ABP- What is the art/lit scene like in Boonville Missouri?

NB-  Boonville is an adorable historic town that sits on a Missouri River bluff. The population is a little under 9,000, but there’s a surprising amount of local and folk artists of all kinds. It’s not unusual to hear a few live bands playing downtown, or around town, on a weekend summer night. We have a lot of craft fairs and community events. It’s rare I go out and about and don’t see someone I know, or someone who recognizes me. It’s a neat place to live if that’s your thing. I like knowing my kids can walk to the library or the park and seeing other kids run around; there’s always a dog barking, a lawn mower going, music playing somewhere, and someone is always on a bike, living their best life, haha.

I’m only about 20 minutes from Columbia, too, which is a pretty hip college town. There’s always a show or a reading or creative event going on. Growing up, I spent every weekend in a record store, a coffee shop, and then hit a show. It was always vibrant and exciting, all these college kids on the verge of something incredible, and it created a tangible aura. I was lucky to see a ton of artists and musicians before they “made it.” CoMo still has that same vibe and I haven’t yet found it elsewhere in my travels. As they say in these parts, the Big Muddy always slaps you back.

ABP- Who is your favorite writer? What is your favorite book?

NB– I have several favorites. Sharon Olds is definitely my poetry gatekeeper. AI, Lynda Hull, Sandra Cisneros, Roxane Gay, Maggie Nelson, bell hooks, Claudia Rankine, Sue William Silverman; clearly, I gravitate towards strong, women writers.

I’ve probably spent the most time with Brave New World over the years, but Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You changed my life. I’m also still very fond of Anne Carson’s Nox.

ABP– Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

NB- I don’t really have “projects,” per say, but I’m working on my next memoir. It’ll be a hybrid genre as well including poetry, flash cnf, art, and photography. This one has been particularly difficult to process and delves deeper into my childhood trauma.

ABP- Can you share a sample of your writing here with us?

NB- Sure, this is my favorite of the selfie poems. I was reading James Lord’s A Giacometti Portrait at the time and I still find both the novel and the poem very motivational.

ABP- Thank you again for taking this interview, Natalie. The floor is all yours. If there is anything that we did not cover here that you would like to mention, please let us know.

NB- I just put out a new literature and art mag called Skink Beat Review and we’re always seeking flash subs and images. Check us out at !


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