The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: Your poem “Tucson in the Future” contains great language which speaks to the intersections of the physical world and modern technology, a convergence which has a rich history in the literary world. Is this theme consistent with the rest of your work? How is this intersection different today than, say, ten years ago?
Kayla Rae Candrilli: You know, I typically don’t write toward that intersection. “Tucson in the Future” was my first stab at bringing tech language or millennial language into a piece. I find most of my work exists in a purely physical, visceral state. That is perhaps why when the language of Siri came careening into this desert landscape I was shocked but also riveted by how sonically pleasing it was inside the space. It’s something I definitely have been paying closer attention to and I hope more of that modernity makes it into future pieces.
RR: The physical world is prevalent in “Tucson in the Future.” The poem describes the actions of “geodes” which “split / themselves to opalescence” and “saguaros,” which “somersault slowly down rock faces.” How does place affect the reading of this poem? How much research do you engage in in order to get to know a poem’s setting?
KRC: To be honest, I hardly ever write a piece that isn’t directly from experience. The landscapes that find their way into my work are landscapes I know personally, have hiked, or camped, or just generally run around in. That said, there’s always that feeling that memory will fail you and you’ll somehow be untrue to the space. So with every piece I write, a little fact checking is built into the later half of my process. And as far as how the setting affects the reading of the poem, I think I hoped it would feel dry, bone dry, but somehow lavish, reflective, glittery. That was the hope, anyway.
RR: Reading this poem out loud showcases the musicality of this piece; there is an acute attention to sound. How much does a concern for sound influence your writing?
KRC: I think sound has always been a big concern for me. I have to read a piece aloud so many times before I consider it successfully drafted. Now even, as my work drifts further and further away from realism, I find musicality and sound to be even more important than meaning making. The sound is the meaning and the spoken inflections build arcs.
RR: “Tucson in the Future” displays a self-awareness of our current historical moment. How does this self-awareness contextualize the title? In what ways does being a millennial impact your writing and your awareness of the world?
KRC: I think I have an equal amount of distain, awe, and reliance on technology. So to say “Future” in the title, for me, was meant as simultaneously fearful, tongue in cheek, and grateful. I love being a millennial. I’ll be the first to say it. We are adaptable, because we need to be. We are resourceful because, honestly, I don’t think we have much of a choice. And I think we learn and take in information at unprecedented rates and are able to spin it into good, if we are indeed “good” (whatever you take that to mean). In terms of writing in particular, I think I’m particularly happy the way my contemporaries put their work into the world and circulate one another. Social media has made our readerships wider, further reaching. It makes it feel collective in a comforting, inspiring way.
RR: As a current candidate in an MFA program, what advice do you have for current undergraduates considering an MFA in creative writing?
KRC: MFAs aren’t for everyone. But I can’t imagine where I would be if I didn’t choose to study this, to keep writing present and routine in my life. I knew (when applying) that I wouldn’t have the discipline to keep writing a consistent part of my life straight out of undergraduate. I needed the structure of an MFA. And now, just in my second year, I’m confident that when I walk out of the program I will have the discipline I knew I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In terms of the actual application process, don’t let it consume you. Do the very best you can and then throw your hands up and move on with your life. Don’t wait around to hear back, you will or you won’t—it really is a crapshoot. But don’t indulge or get yourself wrapped up in the stress of others also applying. You are a writer if you consider yourself one. MFA is certainly not the end-all-be-all validating factor. Remember that.
Kayla Rae Candrilli’s work in Issue 3.1: