I Am Frame
holding found edges,
into a picture of passable.
I simulate happiness
captured. I am metal.
my vision will shatter,
but my back does not
I am living
skeleton. I have many
faces, all sadly fragile,
The haunting green of overgrown
trails is my church. My daily
wanderings, almost prayer. I genuflect
without the motion of kneeling,
already appropriately diminuated
amongst their majesty.
I listen, with my eyes
closed, to their energy. Their very presence
defines alive. They permeate
my skin with every touch, brackish
bark breaking [through] unmarred skin.
I envy their stoic ability
to process toxic,
carbon dioxide. Their breath
[re]turning, an exhale of
A.J. Huffman has published eight solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. She also has two new full-length poetry collections forthcoming, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com
1. Lavender Wolves Literary Journal: The editors at Lavender Wolves Literary Journal have seen your work previously appear in other journals. Do you have any advice to aspiring writers who have not been published before who would like to establish their voice as a literary writer?
AMY Huffman: The best advice is never give up. The mantra that keeps me going, even after all these years, is ‘what one editor thinks is garbage, the next will nominate for a Pushcart Prize.’ And that’s almost the truth. This is a very subjective business, and rejections come with the territory. You just have to let them roll off your back as you move on to the next editor/journal.
LW: Do you think the internet has helped the poetry market, or hindered it in anyway? Why or why not?
AH: I definitely think the internet has helped the poetry market. The lower cost of online journals has definitely increased the number of opportunities for publication. Journals that used to be print, but are now going digital, are able to publish double, triple, even the number of poets in each issue. Further, lower start up costs, and less need for financial sponsorship, has increased the number of journals out there on the whole. And, of course, finally, the accessibility of online journals can only expand poetry’s readership. These journals are no longer locally-accessed, they are internationally available. This increase in the number of people that can access poetic works could never be a bad thing.
LW: How do you feel about rejection as a whole? Do you remember the first time your work was accepted? Conversely, do you also remember your first rejection upon submission? What was going through your mind during these pivotal moments of your literary career.
AH: I knew going into this field that rejection was going to be common and often. I’ve never been a defeatist, so I can honestly say I don’t remember my first rejection. Don’t get me wrong, there are some rejections that do stand out in my mind, most of those are from editors that wanted to “teach” me to write. It is unfortunate that some editors believe re-writing an authors work and sending it back to them is in some way helpful. And, in their defense, some authors might find it helpful. I’m from a school of thought that considers each of my poems a personal artistic creation. I wouldn’t walk up and paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa just because I would like it better that way, so I, personally, never appreciate someone taking my poetic idea and writing their version of that idea. I find such rejections offensive, but usually just make a note not to send my work to that particular editor again. Truth is there is nothing worth getting too upset about in this business. Your work is just that: yours. The writing is the most important. And I know there are those out there who aggressively disagree with that statement, it’s what I believe. I write because I have to. It’s part of who I am. The publications are just icing on the cake.
Sadly, since I’ve been doing this for over 25 years, I honestly cannot remember my first publication either. That has more to do with my failing memory than that publication’s impact on me. I can tell you from more recent firsts – my first acceptance of an entire collection of poetry for example – that there is no feeling in the world like that moment of validation. It’s mind-blowingly indescribable – even for a writer.
LW: What prompted you to write this piece that was accepted? What sort of inspiration did you draw from it as a result of producing this piece?
AH: “I Am Frame” is part of a metaphorical series I am currently working on wherein I put myself in place of the inanimate object named – in this case a frame – and try and pull identifying characteristics from that inanimate object that juxtapose themselves with the characteristics of human existence – more specifically my existence.
“Dendrophile” is part of a collaborative collection I am currently working on with my long-time friend, April Salzano. We are each selecting specific psychological “philia” addictions to explicate through our poetry. This will be our fourth collaborative collection we have worked on, but not our last (we a few others we are currently working on together).
regarding inspiration in general, I am a strong believer that nothing is out of bounds. Everything inspires me—from the dust that continually accumulates on my ceiling fan to the bizarre interest-generating blurb on the local news commercial to what I had for dinner last night to the death of an old friend. There is no limits to what can inspire me to write poetry, and I have no doubt that that is how I’ve been able to keep doing this for so long.
LW: Who are some of your favorite poets, and why do you consider them to be your favorites? Of those favorites, which poet influences you to write the way you do and why?
AH: This is a tough one. I try to read as much poetry as possible, in every poetic genre possible, and that makes it very difficult to choose. Obviously, as a female author, the female greats have definitely influenced me over the years. Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson. Their fascination with death and dying most definitely drips into my darker poetic works. I admire Charles Bukowski a great deal. His work is so raw and honest. It’s like a frying pan to the face. I love that. Most recently Brenda Shaughnessy has become a favorite of mine. Her ability to render such vividly surrealistic images of everyday life and love is intricately divine, and extremely enviable.
LW: At this stage of your career, you have established yourself, but all writers want to accomplish more. What sort of plans do you have moving forward? Or do you have aspirations that you still would like to accomplish in a professional capacity?
AH: Obviously, I’d like to publish more full-length collections. That is, of course, the goal of most poets. On of my ongoing goals is to publish in as many different journals as possible, and I am fortunate to say that the list grows exponentially each year. At the moment, I am about to reach a short-term goal. I am 73 poems away from publishing my 2000th individual poem. That’s a major mile-stone for me, and I am very excited to be inching up on that one. Additionally, I have been working on a novel for the last few years. The main goal is to finally finish that novel, and then of course, a more distant goal would be to eventually publish that novel. Finally, almost two years ago, my friend and co-author, April Salzano, started a small upstart press called Kind of a Hurricane Press. Our goal in starting that press was to help other authors gain some of the success in publishing that we have both been lucky to have had over the years. We currently have five online poetry journals, an online flash fiction site, a poetry review site, and an online chapbook site. We also do six print anthologies a year. One of my professional goals is to keep expanding that press. We want to offer our fellow writers as many opportunities as our time and financial situations can allow.