Rappahannock Review Contributor Spotlight: Interview with
The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: Your chapbook Portraits was recently released by In/Words Magazine & Press. Could you tell us a bit about it?
JC Bouchard: Portraits deals mostly with epiphanies. It was my goal to create a collection that was grounded in the futility of relationships, personal developments, and supposed life-altering resolutions. Daily events and thoughts that are usually regarded as positive, such as travelling to a new country or deciding to end a toxic relationship, can also be the sources of anxiety, desperation, and loneliness. The majority of the poems attempt to express that kind of absurd duality.
The chapbook exists because of the co-editors Maria Demare, Chris Johnson, and Matt Jones. I only hope to work with such respectful and keen editors again in the future.
RR: The tone of “I Saw You” is fairly sporadic and anxious, summoning intense language and imagery conveyed through the rush of memories central to the piece. How did you go about constructing a cohesive, grounded poem that proceeds in this tone?
JB: Before, during, and after the writing I remembered the many arguments between my mother and her abusive boyfriend. I used these arguments as a model for what is ultimately a violent and surreal gaze toward an object of desire. I thought carefully how this man would be accusatory, possessive, threatening, yet almost loving all simultaneously, and used these characteristics to create an unsettling diatribe. However, the initial writing was very fast in stream of consciousness. It was only after several revisions that the images and memories began to form a specific meaning. I began to think carefully about emotional instability in regards to obsession and how this could be expressed in a dream-like, frenzied speech.
RR: We have seen in your work that you frequently play with the formatting of lines. What factors determined the form of “I Saw You”?
JB: “I Saw You” is unique in the sense that I rarely play with formatting, at least not to that degree. In one sense, I wanted the images to blend together to resemble layered emotional outbursts that accompany argumentative speech. With emotions like anger, desire, and obsession, thoughts are hardly ordered and uniform. In my experiences they are fractured, and I think the overall format reflects the speaker’s frantic wanting and delusional associations.
RR: What are you personally drawn to when reading poetry?
JB: My interest in poetry and individual poems changes all the time. For example, sometimes I am completely enamoured by poets like John Thompson whose ghazals fascinate me with their deceptively simple form and personal reflections. Other times, I become deeply interested in concepts and how language and form can be altered to intersect multiple modes of expression. Ultimately, there is no one specific thing that draws me to poetry. There are as many poems as there are poets. Generally, I feel ecstatic as long as I leave the poem feeling I’ve learned something new about either myself, the world at large, or poetry itself.
RR: “I Saw You” revolves heavily around the pronouns in its title. Do you write with the intent of a universal “I” and “You,” or something more specific?
JB: The pronouns “I” and “You” in this particular poem began to represent specific people in my family, but their associations changed as the meaning of the poem developed to represent a universal gaze. However, I hope the universality of these pronouns also applies specifically to a reader or set of readers. In other words, it is my belief that we have all been both the source and object of dominance, and so I hope the universal pronouns become personal.
JC Bouchard’s work in Issue 2.1: