Interview with Sandra Kolankiewicz, whose poem, ‘Overboard,’ is in Issue Two.
Why do you write/create art and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?
I began feeling a crazy urge to write as a child. I wrote my first book at six years old, called The Ghostly Horse and Other Stories. As I grew, I relied on that same urge, which I labeled ‘inspiration.’ When I was nine, my father died saving my family in a house fire, and writing became a way of dealing with my feelings. More recently, fifteen years ago when my son was diagnosed with profound autism, I thought the news would kill me, and I wrote to survive emotionally then as well. Now, however, while I still think writing is a means of survival, I have come to realize that the creative energy is always out there and that I am participating in something eternal. The fact that I disappear when creating means I am involved in something quantum. My imagination makes it possible for me to be many places as the same time. I feel honored to be able to play with energy any time I want. I write from 5 to 6 every morning. Rather than waiting for inspiration, I just clear my mind and jump into the energy that is always there and available to me or anyone else who creates.
What are the major themes found in your work?
I consider myself a writer of domestic life. Rather than thinking of this theme as mundane and trivial, I see it very differently. When you commit to a home and a family, you are really putting yourself out there for better or worse. Beloveds die, families go broke, people deal with mental and physical illnesses. Commitment is a big risk: if you love, your heart will be broken. I used to think that domestic life was for the birds; now for me I know without it my writing would be shallow, and so would I.
What influences and inspires you most?
Every morning I wake up, make a pot of coffee, make lunches, and write. I grab whatever vibe is out there. Yesterday, for instance, I wrote about aging and death, how families struggle with trying to help their aging family members–or perhaps families do nothing at all and just ignore the elderly person’s needs. Perhaps I will hear a line from the radio or a thought will come into my head and I free write to explore it. Knowing that the energy is always there and I just have to reach out and grab a wave is comforting and inspiring. I don’t have to wait for the god’s to ‘blow inspiration into me.’
What not-very-famous writers should we check out?
I love John Guzlowski’s work. He is speaking/channeling the voices of the dead from the Holocaust and the refugee experience. His parents were not Jews; they were Poles in a Nazi work camp. He is gifted with a compassionate moral compass that allows him to explore the theme of human cruelty, yet somehow he remains open-hearted and not bitter. I can hear his parents speaking through him. In the current climate of disastrous war and refugees, he has a universal story. Blue Lyre is publishing a review I did of his most recent book Echoes of Tattered Tongues, which chronicles the refugee experience of his family–and echoes modern times. I also love Roy Bentley’s work. His poems are deceptively easy–meaning you can just relax inside them like in a big old arm chair–and he always has a zinger at the end.
What book are you currently reading?
I am rereading Duras’s The Sea Wall because I will be teaching it this winter. What a beautifully written book and so heartbreaking–written before she stripped down her style for the film scripts. If you want to know how horrible it was for the French to move to the colonies and fail in their dreams of success, this is a great book. Colonization was good only for the corrupt and for those with money–on both sides.
Any background info to your piece in Issue Two?
‘Overboard’ was one of those poems I wrote to survive the horrible news of my son’s autism. I am one of those who believe it was caused by the vaccines. We had this wonderful, smart, bubbly, happy boy. After his shots, he developed stomach problems, screeched all the time, and was like a drooling zombie. “Don’t forget to breath” was what my therapist told me at the time, and I just went with it.
Where else can we find your work?
I have two chapbooks and another chapbook coming out. Turning Inside Out is available from Black Lawrence Press. The Way You Will Go is available from Finishing Line Press–and they will be releasing another chapbook, Lost in Transition— in March. One of my favorite works is the collaboration I did with Kathy Skerritt in which she illustrated my novel, When I Fell. You can read more about When I Fell here.
What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?
I would really like to pull together more of my poems into a full-length book. Also, I have had over 50 short stories published, and I would like to see them in some sort of collection.
Got a quote you really like?
Lao Tsu’s “After ecstasy, the laundry” and
Find Sandra at her website.