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Now that The Metromaniacs is extended we are eager to continue our virtual Poets Are Present poetry residency as well. This time around, we asked American University MFA candidate Simone-Marie Feigenbaum our poetry questions and to write us a poem. She told us we were the first to do that–seeing what she came up with, we don’t think we’ll be the last!
Simone-Marie Feigenbaum is a second year MFA student at American University, and is currently living in Silver Spring. She is originally from Brooklyn, which she misses very much, if only for the transit system. She writes about fairy tales and other things that amuse her.
STC: What is the story that started you on your poetry career?
Simone-Marie Feigenbaum: The first poem I ever wrote was in 5th grade, and was about The Nutcracker. My class was listening to our teacher read us the story, and I saw the story play out in my head, and just decided to write down what I was imagining. I showed the teacher after class, and she decided to do a unit on poetry since I was interested, and I’ve been writing ever since.
STC: What poems or poets inspire you?
SMF: I’m most inspired by Sylvia Plath. I feel like many women poets are. It seems like we all found her as teenagers, and it’s comforting to see someone writing about those young woman feelings. It means you’re not alone. There’s also Margaret Atwood, particularly her poem “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing.” That poem has informed quite a few of my poems.
STC: Can you tell us a bit about your process: where do you write your poems (in a notebook, on your phone, etc), How long does it take you to write a poem, and once a poem is written, what is your preferred way of reflecting on the poem?
SMF: I write everything out on paper. I find that I can’t really think on a computer, and there’s something organic and pleasurable in the scratch of pen on paper. The length of time for each poem can vary; I think my longest might have taken a few days to get down because the words just weren’t working. After it’s done, I let it sit for at least a day or two before coming back to it. The revising process can take ages–I have some pieces I’ve been working on for what feels like forever. I’m also lucky to have people in my life who are willing to read my work and talk about it, which is a godsend when you’ve been staring at a piece, it’s not working, and you can’t figure out why. A fresh pair of eyes is always good.
STC: What do you strive to do with your poetry? Do you have specific goals when you begin a poem, or do you write and see where it goes?
SMG: There’s rarely ever a goal. Usually I’ll have an idea, or sometimes just a feeling, and I’ll just start writing and see where it goes. Sometimes there isn’t even an idea–I’m a big fan of playing little games or exercises to banish writer’s block, so sometimes I’ll pick out a group of words and just start toying with them, seeing how they fit together. Sometimes I’ll get nonsense, but sometimes I’ll find those words unlocking something, and I’ll end up with something pretty great.
STC: What are your favorite themes or key influences?
SMG: Fairy tales and folk tales come up a lot in my work, as does themes of depression and abandonment, which really aren’t all that different.
STC: What words matter to you?
SMG: All words matter! They’re the tools of our trade, after all. Unlike Shakespeare, I’m not particularly adept at creating my own words. I am, however, a practiced borrower of words from other languages, particularly French and Russian. I’m also a collector of archaic words- I keep a file on my laptop of old or lesser used words that I just like the sound of, and sometimes they work their way in.
STC: Have we inherited from the poets of the past? What should we abandon?
SMG: For me personally, I’ve inherited the right to be here. It really wasn’t so long ago that someone like me would’ve been locked out of mainstream poetry. And I think that’s amazing–all of the Black, female, queer poets who came before me. So I loathe suggesting that we necessarily abandon anything, since I feel that it is vitally important that we always remember that history. If I had to suggest something, I would hope it would be the exclusionary practices that created this history.
STC: What is the climate of poetry today? Where do you see in the future for poetry?
SMG: I think the internet has played a big part in our current poetry climate. There are so many people who would never have been published before, and can now post their work and reach audiences through blogs and Twitter and what have you, and it’s brought to light all this amazing talent. It means there’s a whole world of new voices and ideas out there, and that can only ever be a great thing.
STC: What contemporary poets or poetry books would you consider mandatory reading?
SMG: I think everyone needs a general anthology of poetry through the ages, to trace where poetry has come from and how it’s grown, but also more specific anthologies, such as Bittersweet, or Fire on Her Tongue. I also think everyone should have a collection of Rumi poems, to hear what good love poetry should sound like.
STC: What do you do when someone asks you to write them a poem?
SMG: I’m actually pretty sure this is the first time anyone has ever asked me to write them a poem, so I suppose the answer is to be flattered!
By Simone-Marie Feigenbaum
There are plenty of other fish in the sea–
I didn’t mean literally.
here’s a pan of brownies,
and some chocolate ice cream
(Of course you like chocolate, Ophelia.
Every woman likes chocolate).
Watch Lifetime and cry,
watch HBO and feel better,
and forget the prince,
and his failing family.
Be glad you got out alive,
you and your brother–
Yes, I suppose Laertes is cute, but–
Ophelia, don’t be weird.
he’s single, right?
Or what about Fortinbras
if you must have a prince?
It’s not that bad.
You’re a pretty girl, Ophelia.
You could do so well if you would only
stop associating with madness.
By Simone-Marie Feigenbaum
I am bored of winter, tired
of icy sidewalks, salt-ruined shoes.
I welcome spring, high 40s temps,
perfect skirt weather after months of
long pants and leggings. I will curl
in the sunlight streaming through my window,
relish sweet sun after endless clouds,
The last storm has melted, clouding streets
and grass with tiny glacial rivers.
I watch them pool into lakes and hope March
is more lamb than lion.