Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Interview with poet Millicent Borges Accardi

Poet Millicent Borges Accardi joins me today and we’re talking about her new chapbook, Only More So (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2016).

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of four poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Poetry). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for poetry, Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation, “Money for Women.” Her poetry collection Only More So was a finalist for the 2018 Phillip McMath Post Publication Book Award (University of Central Arkansas) and Injuring Eternity rec’d Honorable Mention in the Latino Book Awards. She’s led writing workshops at Keystone College, Nimrod Writers Conference, The Muse in Norfolk, Virginia, and at the University of Texas, Austin. Her non-fiction can be found in The Writers Chronicle, Poets Quarterly, and the Portuguese American Journal. Featured readings have been at Brown University, Rutgers, UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island College and the Carr Series at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. Books include Woman on a Shaky Bridge (chapbook), Injuring Eternity, Only More So and Practical Love Poems (forthcoming).

Welcome, Millicent. What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
Poems can encapsulate one moment or a lifetime. I like getting ideas for a poem and letting them germinate and percolate and then capture the words together on a page or a screen. It’s a way of moving through space and a way to change the world.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
“Buying Sleep” was loosely based upon a story my husband told me about a vacation to the desert when he was a kid and not getting along with his older brother.

My brother leans over
in the cabin bedroom
that we shared once
a year and says to me
--now mind you
this is the brother I have
hated all my life--
he leans over the bunk bed.
Yes, he got the top.
He leans
into the springs
like he’s an old car
all 12 years
of him, and he
says to a boy half his age,
a boy tossing and fearing
outhouse snakes,
and the awful windy
silence, the calm of the desert
and the unfed
spring of the fear of Father
for still being awake
when the rest
of the sane world is not.
Now this brother leans over
and asks in the sweetest voice possible:
“Wanna buy some sleep?” In the darkness
I nod and, then, realizing years later
say, “Yes,” aloud and so he begins.
He gathers up a cocoon of sleep
in his hands and tucks in my feet,
my ankles, my legs, my torso
and then zips it up tightly under my chin
almost as if he loved me.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
While I experiment with forms, I like free form poetry the best—generally, my writing comes out as it happens in my brain, so I avoid trying to mash it into an artificial form, but it’s a good exercise and a fine challenge to try formal poetry. It’s like learning a new language.

What type of project are you working on next?
I’m working on a collection of poetry, based on fairytales or fada as they are called in Portuguese—using fairy tales from Azoreans who immigrated to California. None of these stories, that I know of, have been shared in outside of The Azores or Portugal in book form since they stem from an oral tradition of storytelling.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
Never? Um. I guess I always have written since I first started reading books, carting home Little Women and Nancy Drew from the Alamitos Branch Library down the street.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
I guess a unique way is to read and USE books as your reference, rather than Googling key words.

And what that means is reading as a form of research?
Gather around you, your favorite books, by contemporary writers, then separate writers whose work YOU think is similar to yours and look at their Acknowledgements. See where their poems were originally published and subscribe to those journals. See where your favorite writers have completed residencies and what awards they won, what degrees they earned and see how these credits might fit into your own writing practice and how this information could be helpful in submitting your own work to journals, publishers, grants, fellowships.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
After years of “day job” work where I tested software and designed training courses for pharmaceuticals (like Pfizer and Amgen), I got hooked on using these purple lab books as writing journals. They are small and light-weight and yet they have numbered pages and thick purple leather-looking covers. So most of my poetry gets written into these books first and then, translated onto my laptop.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Elizabeth Montgomery. Actually I wanted to be a witch, like she played on the TV show Bewitched. After that, then I wanted to be Emma Peel (from the British show The Avengers). I used to run home from school to watch reruns, pretty much the only time I got to watch television.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I curate two reading series:
  • Kale Soup for the Soul (Portuguese-American writers reading work about family, food and Luso culture)
  • Loose Lips (dedicated to bringing a diverse array of the best contemporary poets to Topanga and to provide audiences and authors with a poetic forum and community. Our commitment is to deliver literary events which are edgy, spiritual, inspiring and at times irreverent)


Thank you for being here today!

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