Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist. She received her MFA in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Her work has appeared most recently in Cobalt Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Prick of the Spindle and Blue Heron Review. She is the author of a chapbook, No Such Place (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Kristina is currently the Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Her website is: http://www.kristinamoriconi.com/
Interview with g emil reutter
GER: You were recently selected as the Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. What are the duties of the office and what goals have you set for yourself as Laureate?
KM: As Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, I am reading at various venues, and I have also started The Traveling Poets Project that will bring art-inspired poetry writing workshops to places throughout the county. On September 27th, I will be participating in the One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change event at the Souderton Arts Jam. I’m very excited about this. I’ll be reading with J.C. Todd and Laren McClung, and I will be offering art-inspired poetry workshops throughout the day.
GER: No Such Place was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Judith Baumel said of this collection, “These wise poems portray the terror and menace built into the architecture of the world”. Tell us about the collection and your journey to publication?
KM: No Such Place is an important collection of poems for me, because it is my first chapbook and I was filled with excitement to know it was being published. And I am thrilled by the words of praise from poets whose work I admire. But I am also continuously learning from that collection. As I work on two different projects now, I am striving to let in more light, to see “the architecture of the world” through eyes less clouded by fear and pessimism.
I keep asking myself: Is it even possible to write a happy poem? But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the poem is not so simple as to be defined by a single emotion. It is a many-layered thing, and the voice of the speaker in my most recent poems is one that both sees and responds to all of those layers. It is important to me to continue to learn and grow as a writer, to keep my eyes and ears open to everything around me, and to never stop thinking there is room for improvement.
GER: You currently host the “Arthur Krasnow Poets and Poetry Series’, at Elkins Park Library in Pennsylvania. Please share with us how this came about and the interactions between poet and audience and the open mic?
KM: At some point, after Arthur Krasnow passed away, someone from the Elkins Park Library contacted me to ask if I would be interested in hosting the reading series. I was, of course, honored, and I still am. I want to keep these readings going in Arthur’s memory, with his vision always in mind. So, the format of the evenings has stayed the same; there is a featured poet who reads and that is followed by an open mic. I hope to continue fostering this sense of a poetry community. I think it’s so necessary for poets to have a place to read, to be inspired, and to join together in conversation.
GER: In addition to poetry you conduct workshops on memoir, familial, and other non-fiction writing. How did this come about and share with us your passion for teaching?
KM: The focus of my MFA at the Rainier Writing Workshop was creative nonfiction. I attended many of the poetry workshops in the program as well, but my thesis was a collection of short nonfiction essays. Once I completed it, though, I knew almost immediately that I wanted it to be something else. So, I put it aside and I started writing more and more poems. It helped so much that I had worked with mentors at RWW who were both poets and essayists—writers such as Judith Kitchen and Rebecca McClanahan and Lia Purpura. I came to realize that switching back and forth between the two genres was critical to the language and the structure of my writing. My work continues to evolve, pushing the boundaries of genres and focusing in more and more on the lyric quality of language.
GER: What poets do you read for inspiration and how important is it for poets to read other poets, both major and minor?
KM: When I am writing poetry, I often like to read brief nonfiction pieces. The short lyrical essays online at Brevity help me to think about the sound and the cadence of what I write. And when I am writing essays, I turn to poetry for inspiration. Reading poems as I write prose reminds me how critical it is to think about every single word. Lately, I have been reading the work of Jenny Boully and Carol Guess. And the writers I return to again and again, for both inspiration and craft, are Brenda Miller, Lia Purpura and Judith Kitchen. They are my constant mentors.
KM: I have been writing since I was a young girl. Reading my work aloud, however, is something I have only done in the last eight to ten years. At first, I was very reluctant to stand up in front of an audience and read. I prefer the quiet, solitary process of writing. But, at some point, I realized that my poems needed to be heard. I had something to say and, even if it only reached one person, I needed to say it.
GER: Many poets become disillusioned with the submission process, particularly if they submit to major publications. Bukowski is said to have stated if the biggies don’t want your work submit to the little’s. Do you agree and why?
KM: I can honestly say that I have never been disillusioned by the submission process. I send my work out into the world knowing I have revised it and read it aloud (to myself) over and over until I am confident it is my best work. I do my research ahead of time, trying to find a literary journal that is a good match. And, then, off it goes. I look at rejection in one of two ways. Either the journal was not the right match for a particular piece or I need to think about further revision. I’ve been writing and submitting long enough to usually know the difference. So, there are times when I will hold onto a piece after it’s rejected, really scrutinize it, blow it up, turn it into something else entirely. But most often I will send rejected work right back out there.
GER: Tell us of your passion for graphic design and how it has impacted your poetry?
KM: My background in art and graphic design has impacted my writing in many ways. Foremost, it has intensified my interest in form. Art of any kind is composed of elements that become integrated or unified, and I am very fascinated by the process of discovery one goes through in finding the right form for whatever they are creating, whether it be a painting, a poster, a piece of music, or a poem.
Visual art also serves as inspiration for many of my poems. I often look at paintings and photographs to trigger memories or to prompt words or phrases that I will use in my poems.
GER: You have written several book reviews. How is this process different for you and after writing a review does the process have an impact on your own writing?
KM: Writing book reviews is an entirely different process for me. My creative writing engages one side of my brain while my critical writing relies entirely on the other side, the more analytical half. I am a voracious reader, so writing reviews is a logical next step for me. From reading so much, I have the vocabulary I need to express what I think works and what I think doesn’t work. I read every book twice—first for content, then for craft—and I take notes only on that second read. Compiling my notes and writing the actual review feels like a conversation I get to have with other readers out there.
GER: Do you have another manuscript in the works and what other projects are you working on?
KM: I have one complete manuscript of prose poems right now. I have been working on it for years; it is actually the “something else” I wanted my MFA thesis to be. It just took a lot of time, a lot of patience, and many rounds of revision for me to finally know that. I am ready to send it out into the world, but I’m in the research phase now, trying to find a small press that is a good match for it.
I love to travel, so I am also working on some poems inspired by place. When I write, I prefer to have a specific project in mind, rather than just writing individual poems, so I am trying to figure out what these place poems will become in terms of a larger collection. But, for now, I’m just letting them sit beside one another. They look a lot like a map. A journey.
You can read the poetry of Kristina Moriconi in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/s14-kmoriconi.html http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/KristinaMoriconi.html
g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/