ABP- Hi, Candria. Thank you for taking this interview today.
Early this past summer, Alien Buddha Press was fortunate to publish your poetry collection “and the universe said I Love You’. The book is now already ABP’s 5th best seller of all time, after being out for less than half a year.
What can you tell us about this collection? What was the process of writing it like, and how do you feel about it today?
CS- Hi, I’m so excited to get to talk with y’all! I’m literally flabbergasted that the book’s done so well so quickly. If I had to sum up the writing process of And the Universe Said I Love You in a word, I think that word would be “manic?” If I’m honest, it sort of all happened in a really quick blur. Back in October 2020, I remember being in a rough space mentally with everything going on in the United States political climate and the world. I kept thinking about how I used to watch Mars from bedroom window in my first apartment and just be so…amazed at how red it was in the sky. And because I’m a big Minecraft fan, I thought about the game’s long end credits poem (lovingly known as “End Poem” by Julian Gough) and I just suddenly had my first poem for the collection: “And the Universe Said We Are Everything You Think Isn’t You.” Looking back on it today, I’m in awe of how far it’s come from that first written draft. It still doesn’t feel entirely real that it’s a physical thing I can hold and show other people? But, when the book was first available for purchase, my sister sent me a video of my 7 year-old nephew reading “We Are Everything You Think Isn’t You” and I had a moment where it all just…clicked. A moment of “Oh. Yeah. This is why I’m writing. This right here.”
ABP- Can you pick out one of the poems from the book to share with us here?
CS- Yea! I don’t get to talk about this poem a lot— “…You Are Not Separate From Every Other Thing.” I was about two or three poems into the book by the time I was thinking about this one. I didn’t really have a full idea for the collection outside of the inspiration and the naming convention. But I remember turning on the Undertale soundtrack (I cannot express enough how big of a nerd I am), and there’s a song on it called “The Choice.” And I just listened to it on repeat for way too long. After a while, I found myself outside in my friend’s backyard lying down in the fall grass. I was just staring up at the sky and the big tree back there, and for no real reason at all I reached up to trace an airplane flying by. And I remembered how, as a kid, I used to do the same thing sitting on my cousin’s trampoline. Back then, it really felt like the sky was so close, you know? There was no real concept of just how far everything is from each other, earth and sky. It just really felt like I could pluck those airplanes out of the sky. That’s when the first line came to me, and by the end of the day, I had the first draft of the poem.
And the Universe Said You Are Not Separate From Every Other Thing
If I go out into the backyard
during fall, and lie in the brown
grass underneath the tree,
I can stretch out my arm,
reach up to the highest of leaves,
and feel as if I could pluck them
just before they fall. And,
if I reach more, beyond the tree,
it feels as if I could take the clouds
and condense their mist back
into rivers and lakes and oceans.
Further still, if I stretch past
the clouds, it feels as if I could collect
the very blue out of the sky. If I
could hold that blue, lace
it between my fingers, I could bring
it to my lips and kiss the world anew.
And if I could kiss
the world, love it
as so many have before me,
then I could return that blue
to the sky and breathe the water
into vapor and place the leaves
back on their branch and give
the grass its lush and green and
save it all for someone else,
so far into this future,
to do it all over again.
ABP- Are you working on anything new? Do you have anything poetic planned for 2023?
CS- No big plans as of yet! I’ve found that 2022 has actually been a year of significant change and growth, so writing has taken a bit of a back seat as I adjust into my new normal, but I am hoping to get back to it soon. Who knows, maybe there’ll be another book out soon!
ABP- Who is your favorite writer? What is your favorite book?
CS- It might be a bit surprising (or maybe very unsurprising if you know me), but my favorite author is actually Alison Bechdel. Her memoir Fun Home was so pivotal to me as an 19 year-old college student still figuring out my sexuality, and how to relate to my own parents as I became an adult that it fundamentally shifted the way I wrote and what I wrote about. Before reading that book, I actually wrote a lot of fully referential poetry; poems based on The Aeneid or odes to historical figures. After Fun Home, I found that my poetry (and my writing as a whole) ended up much more personal and memoir-like.
ABP- What is the art/lit scene like up in New England these days? Are there any art or poetry events in your area that you have been to recently, or are looking forward to?
CS- So, funnily enough, since And the Universe Said I Love You released, I’ve actually moved up to Washington state! I’m still getting acclimated to the Evergreen state, but I’m keeping my eyes open for any and all poetry related events. And hopefully, now that I’m closer to Seattle, I’ll be able to participate in AWP in some fashion!
ABP- Thank you again for taking this interview, Candria. If there is anything else that we did not cover that you would like to mention, promote, announce, share, or anything else, please do.
CS- Thank you for having me! I’ve got nothing else to promote other than peace, love, kindness, and self-care. Stay safe everyone!