Rappahannock Review Contributor Spotlight:
Interview with MG Roberts

The poetry editors, Rappahannock ReviewLooking at some of your other works we noticed that you play with experimental form. What inspired the form you used in “All Fatfalls for You?”
As you have evolved as a writer, how has your style evolved?

MG Roberts: I’ll begin by combining the first two questions:

My whole life I desperately wanted to be a part of something, to belong. Is this experimental? I don’t know. All writing is a form of experiment, no?

I’m very interested in the ways one can be sited or situated by/in/through grammar. How marks of punctuation can serve to erase, refute, insert notions of self and belonging into larger conversations that extend page. It’s ironic that through the study of preference and avoidance, at least syntactically, one could/can—I— find such comfort. It’s ridiculous, really. But here I am, “All Fatfalls for You”.

I began my MFA with the notion that I was going to be Faulkner with a vagina. But the more theory I studied, the more women I read I began to realize I wanted to write something else. I wanted to write outside the lens of linear narrative. Can I say that without sounding stupid? Does that make sense? Did I just say that? I’ll try again. No, I wanted to write my mother’s story, my story, a story about endlessly arriving—which has nothing to do with a directrix and or symmetry.

The linear has always failed me as a structure, perhaps because my story is excessively watery or ill fitting like a cheap pair of pants. How to patch up its violence? Write through its hole. For the past 3.5 years I’ve been producing the anthology Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets for Kelsey Street Press, Edited by Timothy Yu (2015). So I’ve been thinking a lot about the Asian American avant-garde and grammar as a way to situate one’s self. I suppose my writing is always trying to do this: to connect, to belong.

The colon is a doorway that invites, lists, introduces, separates time, clauses, and denotes proportion.

: = “is” and :: = “as”

So the use of the double colon found me.

RR: Many of your titles do not appear to have an overt connection to the body of your poems. How do you approach giving titles to your works?
The language of your poem “All Fatfalls for You” is powerfully chilling. What inspired you to write such an enthralling piece?

MGR: I’ve also combined my answers to questions 3-4

Sometimes an omitted phrase or word returns as a title or I visit the works of Paisley Rekdal, my Kundiman Poetry Saint, whom I often refer to when thinking about juxtaposition and voice. The truth is I’m very bad at giving poems titles. I’ve usually referenced other works in my journal as inspiration and or to attribute later in the writing process. Title-o-mancy? “All Fatfalls for You” is entitled after the line, all rage to rag, all pratfalls fast to fatfalls for you in her poem “Dear Lacuna, Dear Lard:”

A fat-fall is a collapse that occurs because it can no longer be prevented from falling [apart]. When everything fails there is always Bhanu Kapil:

What happens when this domestic life grows suspect? When the grass reverts in its granular drag to the subject of architecture: the failure of a house to believe in its occupants?

(Incubation: A Space for Monsters)

Yes, this poem is very sad. It was hard to write about such failure. A marriage is hard work and can be disappointing, heartbreaking even. But I didn’t get divorced this time, but there is no poem that celebrates that.

RR: In your poetry, you seem to use more experimental forms. What advice would you give new writers wanting to do similar things with their own work?

MGR: What does a writing that challenges teleology look like? I was born in a place that didn’t inherit the logic of the Pythagorean theorem, what happens when a² = c² because someone told you so? I want to do that. What? There are so many possibilities, you can email me and we can talk more: emgee_roberts(at)yahoo(dot)com.


MG Roberts’ work in Issue 2.3: