Contributor Spotlight:
Interview with Amanda Roth

Bio photo of Amanda Roth

Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We’re drawn in by the way “Cardinal Directions” ties together motifs of cardinal directions, bird imagery, motherhood, and feelings of being lost or stuck. How did these ideas and images come together for you in the poem?

Amanda Roth: 2019 and 2020 were particularly isolating years for our family. Our second child was born two months before we moved across the country, and then the pandemic started! For a while, it felt like the cardinals that arrived at our backyard feeder were our only friends. Around that time, I started writing a lot about loneliness, postpartum body image, and birds. Eventually, I started braiding those small pieces together into this piece and saw a really lovely one-sided conversation emerge.

RR: What influenced your decision to deviate from the order the cardinal directions are usually presented in when ordering the sections?

AR: I wanted the structure of this piece to contribute to the feeling of being lost or stuck. By rearranging the order of the cardinal directions, the piece is reminiscent of a spinning compass. It was also important for me to end the piece on North—with the migration of the cardinal and the possibility of movement for the speaker.

RR: You’ve mentioned a strong focus on motherhood in your work, both in your bio and previous interviews. How do you feel that your own experience with motherhood has impacted your writing?

AR: I’ve enjoyed writing poetry since high school, but honestly, I never did much of it. When I became a mother in 2015, I was working as a freelance photographer and struggled to use that particular medium to process things like hope, identity, and mental health in this new stage of my life. Writing honestly about motherhood became therapeutic, as did reading work by folks like Karen Russell, Doireann Ni Ghriofa, and Julia Fine. Now, much of my writing focuses on the dark underbelly of motherhood—the loneliness, the overwhelm, the fear that comes with raising tiny humans in the current political and environmental climates.  

RR: We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the publication of your book, A Mother’s Hunger. Are you working towards another book?

AR: A Mother’s Hunger was a whirlwind of writing. It was the first time in my life that I was writing daily and it felt like a dam had burst. I knew exactly what I wanted to say; I just needed to catch that flood. When the book was finished, it took me about six months to find my voice again.

This next book feels much slower. Currently, it is a collection of poems and essays on embodiment, legacy, hope, and the climate crisis. It also has a really diverse cast of animals in it —cardinals, snakes, and a LOT of insects. At this point, I’m trying to listen to it to see what it wants to be, rather than forcing any ideas onto it. I don’t know when it will be finished, but I love where it is taking me.  

RR: What is a book or poem that you feel has impacted and influenced your writing?

AR: Gosh, it feels like every book I read seeps into my work in some way. Two of my recent favorites are Traci Brimhall’s Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod and Brenda Shaughnessy’s The Octopus Museum. Both poets have this tight, evocative, surreal style that borders on essayistic. Since finishing their collections earlier this year, I’ve noticed some of my work experimenting in similar ways.

Amanda Roth’s work appears in Issue 9.2 here.