Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We’re intrigued by the formatting in “Lately My Memories Look Like Craigslist Missed Connections.” What part did form play in your writing of the poem?

Isabelle Ylo: I unironically love the Missed Connections section of Craigslist! Nothing else compares to the raw honesty and desperation of a Hail Mary call into the internet void. For a while, I had been saving screenshots of my favorite local missed connections posts with the goal of creating a poem out of them. But it was hard to find traction—whether they were funny (“I waved at you and you almost wrecked in the intersection at a red light”), flirty (“Stacy, where’d you go? I miss checking you out.”), or sad (“I didn’t make it over last time, I’m sorry about that. Wondering if you’re still around.”), they just weren’t my own story to tell. After going through a breakup, I suddenly found myself with all these memories and nowhere to put them. I wanted to reach out, but couldn’t. Everything clicked—now I was the person calling into the void.

RR: “Lately My Memories” offers a unique perspective into reflecting on past relationships. To what extent does personal reflection come into your writing?

IY: I tend to walk around with a perpetual and urgent sense of nostalgia. It’s not enough to simply remember that something happened—I want to carefully preserve the emotions associated like I’m encasing a Jurassic mosquito in amber. Revising feels like those sliding block puzzles I’d play as a kid: arranging and rearranging until that magical moment when the poem finally captures the exact feeling that prompted me to start writing it in the first place.

RR: When you sit down to write a poem, what’s the first thing you do?

IY: In the early stages, I try to jot down as much as I can—it’s easier to have more ideas than I need, and then cull from there. If I’m really struggling, my go-to is to run through the five senses: what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched. After that, if I’m still struggling, then my initial idea probably wasn’t good enough for a full poem in the first place, and that’s okay too. My half-finished ideas get sent to a nice farm upstate where they can live with the chickens and cows.

RR: You mentioned in your bio you started writing in a poetry workshop class. What advice from that experience have you carried into your writing process?

IY: I had the most amazing poetry lecturer ever, Julie Price at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has a great sense of humor and a way of storytelling that brings life into even the most mundane of happenings. She never talked about her own poems in our class, but of course I Google-stalked her name and found some of her work online. What immediately struck me was how much the voice in her poems was so authentic to how she spoke in real life. I learned that you don’t need to put on some artistic “poetic voice” to start writing—your own voice, flaws and all, is enough. (And Julie, if you’re reading this…sorry for stalking you!)

RR: Have you had any notable Craigslist experiences of your own?

IY: When I was a kid, I made my parents drive me into the city so I could buy a fifty-gallon fish tank off of Craigslist. The family selling the tank had recently lost their pet goldfish – their son had won the fish at a county fair, and that little goldfish kept on living (and growing) for over a decade. Another time, I sold my knitting yarn stash to a man on Craigslist. He was stoked to find my listing because he wanted to give the yarn to his wife. He happened to run a scrap metal business, so when he came to pick up the yarn, he also offered to take any extra metal off our hands. I love the unintentional intimacy of a Craigslist sale that occurs when you pass on a fragment of your life to a total stranger for $15.

Read “Lately My Memories Look like Craigslist Missed Connections” by Isabelle Ylo.