Contributor Spotlight:
Interview with E Kerr

E is featured with their hand in their short, blonde hair. They are wearing a short sleeved, collard, button up shirt. Behind them is a building surrounded by nature scenery.

Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We love the personal and direct voice in “I Am Neither Your Daughter, nor Son.” How did you decide to open the poem with the address to a “you”? How does the opening stanza inflect the speaker’s struggle for identity in the rest of the poem?

E Kerr: The choice to address the “you” in the beginning of the poem represents a direct acknowledgement of another person. The poem starts off by the speaker saying “I know you’re going to find this, so when you do…” and then goes into disclosure about aspects of their identity. The “you” is ambiguous in that it could be read as the mother figure, who appears later in the poem, or another person who is trying to find something out about the speaker. The speaker knows they are going to be “found out” and therefore decides to address the person searching. However, after this first stanza the speaker is hesitant in disclosing their identity and trauma, hence the way spacing is used.

RR: We are engaged by the way the poem is formatted. Can you talk about the use of space? How do you approach visual space and form on the page?

EK: This poem, visually, is different from a lot of the other pieces I’ve written, in that it doesn’t “follow” a traditional and defined structure, such as a villanelle, or sonnet. When reading the piece, the spacing creates ambiguity as to where the lines are being spaced or broken but also prompts the reader to wonder if the spacing is actually an erasure or reduction of another text. Visually, the poem seems as though something is missing, or being taken out, which helps portray the speaker’s difficulty with disclosure and their hesitancy to talk about their traumatic and identity related experiences.

RR: When drafting a poem, where is your starting point? Do you tend to see your poems as individual projects, or small parts of a larger whole?

EK: A lot of my poems start from a line or an idea that pops into my head. Then, I usually just go with it and write something and revise it over time. Recently, though, I’ve been fascinated with using fixed forms. Both traditional forms, like the sestina and the heroic crown of sonnets, and nuance forms created by contemporary poets, such as Jericho Brown’s duplex, have been woven into my collection of work. I’m currently working on a manuscript that seeks to explore gender and identity in/as poetry. As a member of the trans community and an inhabitant of queer spaces, I’m working on a collection of poems that explores what it means to inhabit a gendered body and queer spaces through self-consciously queer poetics. I’m trying to articulate what “queers” texts and bodies, as well as to represent my own queer experiences. The goal in the project is to collapse the distance between form and content, between the speaker and the poet, by exploring my own experiences and identities, through a personal, “queer” poetics, mythology, and theology.

RR: Can you speak more on how you use multimodality in your work to process and explore topics of trauma and identity?

EK: Within poetics, I think that the interaction between the form/structure of a poem and its content can benefit exploring trauma and identity within the work itself. I like to use different strategies within the realms of form and structure to find new ways to express to the reader what it is this speaker is trying to say. I also am a very visual person, so a lot of the work I do appears in both visual and literary manifestations. I like to pair my poems with artwork, using techniques such as collage, sketches, painting, etc. I think the multimodality of the work directly correlates to how trauma and identity manifest; the representations of trauma and identity in my writing and my artwork are as close as I can get to my even more material traumatic experiences and identity expressions.

RR: Are there writers or artists you would recommend that explore similar concepts of identity and trauma?

EK: I really enjoy reading from contemporary poets who use traditional received forms in new ways to explore their own identity or trauma. A few of my favorites include Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Meg Day, and Jericho Brown. I see my poems as being in conversation with the work these individuals are doing.

E Kerr’s work appears in Issue 9.2 here.