Anne Cecile Surga

Anne Cecile Surga

Interview with Anne Cecile Surga, whose art piece, ‘Connected,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you create art, and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

Creation is a natural impulse, like an instinct to me. I did not actively plan on being an artist or on having marble as my main material, it kind of fell upon me as if the universe chose it on my behalf. And I have to admit this is the greatest path the universe could have chosen for me! To me, art creation is both a personal journey into self-discovery and a life-long discussion with the public. I think I try to create art that is bigger than me in terms of its impact, an art that can embrace the private, the intimate, and the public aspect.

What are the major themes found in your work, and why?

The main theme of my work is the definition of the self in the Western contemporary society, which is a reason why I like to create artworks that invite the public to question its own positions. Sometimes I am challenging perceptions of the world; sometimes maybe I am comforting one’s position. I do not consider myself a political artist but I have to admit my work is much influenced by what is happening in the world these days, especially situations that I consider unfair. For these reasons and because I am a woman, feminism is very present in my work.

Why is Literature/Art important?

To me art is the reflect of Humanity, which is why it is so important to learn, to appreciate, and to care for it. The entire history of Man can be read through artworks as it reflects every little changes of technology, economy, or philosophy and it is amazing to lose yourself into it. On top of elevating your soul, Art as well as Literature are mankind’s intellectual legacy and I believe our society would be making better or wiser choices if more people were studying these on a regular basis.

What are some of your favorite artists?

It is difficult to pick only a few favorite artists, so instead I would rather list the ones whose art has the greatest influence upon me: Michelangelo Buonarroti and Auguste Rodin for their mastery of handling the marble; Constantin Brancusi for his capacity of keeping the simplest, purest and fullest quality of form in his works; Mona Atoum for her socially committed work and her ability to do so in a very poetic way; and finally Louise Bourgeois and David Altmejd for their very different and unique universes and the visceral response it creates in me.

What book are you currently reading, and how is it?

From my Art Historian training, I kept the love of reading art theory books. Most of my readings are about artists’ biography, treatise about the art market or about specific art movements. I also read some psychology books and social studies in lines with the themes of my work, in order to keep on feeding my mind for my artistic research. The book I am currently reading is by Jacques Lacarriere “Au Coeur des Mythologies.” It is a great survey of all original mythologies across the world, which points out the similarities about how the first men try to make sense of the universe around them. I do recommend it to everyone with an interest in mythology and how cultures evolve.

What is your favorite piece in Issue One?

My favorite piece is “Mary With P.M.S” by Cinthia Ritchie, I found it so funny yet so sensitive and right to the point. The piece makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time, this is total mastery! Also I guess I particularly love it because it resonates with my own artistic approach.

What is on the horizon for you with your art?

As of today my two greatest upcoming events are: my first solo show, which will take place in France in September 2016, and the Belgrade Triennial to which I have been invited to as an artist, it will take place from December 2016 till Januay 2017.

www.annececilesurga.com Instagram: @acsurga Twitter: @AnneCe_Surga

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Tamara Drazic

Tamara Drazic

Interview with Tamara Drazic, whose poem, ‘Pigeon’s Mating Dance,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you write, and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

I write because I love being able to create people, places, stories, and whole lives that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Of course it isn’t always fun, and it can be incredibly draining, but I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t do it. I hope to make people feel something with my writing.

What are the major themes found in your work, and why?

Generally the themes in my work change with every piece; however, I do see two of them recurring in almost everything I write. One is feminism, and experiencing the world as a woman. The other is the concept of home, and the search for belonging. Both of these themes continue to show in my work as they are at the forefront of who I am. I am young a woman who is constantly self-analysing, and searching for my “place”, physically, socially, and internally.

Why is literature important?

I think there are so many different reasons why literature is important, but for me personally, it’s important because it deepens my experience of this world. There are so many constructs, ideas, philosophies, and even emotions that I would never have discovered without literature. It’s important because without it, I wouldn’t know anything about what it is to be human outside of my own experience. It would be like going through life with blinkers on.

Who are some of your favourite writers?

In no particular order,

– Haruki Murakami

– Vladimir Nabokov

– Donna Tartt (although I haven’t read “The Goldfinch”)

– David Sedaris

What book are you currently reading? How is it?

I’m currently reading “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” by Haruki Murakami. It has two stories running through it, each as intriguing as the other. Murakami has this ability to draw you along even if nothing makes sense. The characters are like people I’ve met out and about, the villains are extremely likable, and a talking shadow is totally believable. I highly recommend it.

What’s your favourite piece in Issue One?

It was so difficult to choose just one piece, but I’m going to have to go with “Experiments on Breathing” by Adam Gottschalk.

Where is another place we can find your work?

You can find my poem, “The Plant Outside My Window”, in Issue #5 of “Grouch”.

What’s on the horizon for you with your writing? 

I am currently working on a novella which I hope to finish before the end of this year. As well as that, I hope to continue publishing my quarterly literary magazine, “Spinebind”, and working as a freelance editor.

You can find Tamara at her blog, The Drazic Diaries and Twitter @drazicdiaries, and you can find out more about her lit mag at spinebind.com.

Grace Black

Grace Black

Interview with Grace Black, whose poem, ‘Cobalt Veins,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you write, and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

I once read a tidbit somewhere that said for a poet,“It’s best to remain a bit of a mystery.” However, I find it more accurate to say that we are mysteries unto ourselves. At least for me, this is the why. I write to uncover the complexities of the mundane, the emotion of the ordinary, the underlying feelings in the paradox of existence. I write because I breathe. I write because I cannot, not write.

What are the major themes in your work?

Overall malaise deeply seated in our pores.

Brevity. Even in longer form and prose, I employ brevity when possible. I believe more is said in what is left unsaid—if executed properly.

Why is literature/art important?

Art and literature incite emotion, and this is the essential fuel to create, igniting the passions within us.

Who are some of your favourite writers and artists?

Poets I’m quite fond of include Bukowski, Sexton, Plath, Edna St.Vincent Millay, Dorianne Laux, and many more. DeLillo is hands-down my favorite American novelist. He constructs a sentence like no other. Also, a fan of Russian lit—Dostoyevsky and Chekhov are among the top.

What book are you currently reading?

Zero K by Don DeLillo is my current bedside read (which has yet to disappoint) and a pile of other books that are on my nightstand. I have a nasty habit of starting too many at once.

What’s your favourite piece from Issue One?

The lyrical flow in “In Sepia” by Vincent Steed is engaging. “Breakfast” by Bruce Majors has controlled pacing with a lovely balance of what is left unsaid but heavy on emotion. Two stand-out pieces for me.

Where else can we find your work?

If you’re a fan of brevity my first poetry collection Three Lines: All That’s Left is available on Amazon. Links to my other work can be found on my website.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I am currently working on another poetry collection, but I also started a Lit Mag back in April.  Ink In Thirds has quickly become a genuine passion to curate. Collecting the art and words of others and formatting them into a bite-sized magazine each month is such a delight. The talent surpasses my expectations each issue. Submissions are always open, and everyone is welcome to submit.

Ashley Inguanta

Ashley Inguanta

Interview with Ashley Inguanta, whose poem, ‘Hollandia Farms,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

With this work–this work of writing and making art–I hope to honor the sacred, transformative connections of this world. This is what I (re)create for–to honor and to hold the energies that have come into my life as sacred. With this work, I hope to help people open. I hope to help people access, spend time with, and understand a very private and tender part of themselves deep inside.

What are the major themes found in your work, and why?

In my work, I explore how connection and abandonment shape that sacred place inside of us–that place only very special people, if any, will be able to access during our lifetimes. Connection–as it’s forming, as it grows, and as it changes shape–is a brilliant part of the human experience. Our lives are a series of relationships: The relationship between you and yourself, for example, or you and the land, or you and an animal, or you and your passions, or you and another person. Exploring these connections in my work is how I honor them, how I say “thank you,” how I honor the cultivation of emotional intelligence, how I honor love.

Why is art important?

Literature and art allow humans to understand that deep, sacred space inside of other living and non-living beings, and within that experience, literature and art help humans slow down, open, and access that sacred space inside of themselves. Literature and art help humans do good, necessary, and expansive work inside of themselves– (which, in my experience, is an under-appreciated yet extraordinarily brave and noble type of work). Literature and art help us understand what it means to be alive.

What are some of your favourite writers?

I can go on forever and ever with this question. I especially love the work of Francesca Lia Block, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, and Donald Judd. I remember reading Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca in college. I was isolated, had few friends at the time, and was in recovery. I read Girl Goddess #9 and I wished, wished, wished that someone would come to my window, want to love me–just like it happened in the book.

Mary Oliver’s work helped me both deepen my connection to nature and strengthen my faith in what is spiritual. I love how soft and strong Mary Oliver’s poetry is, how much it teaches me about prayer and honor. Her book The Leaf and The Cloud helped me take myself out of a 3-year period of mourning, of trying desperately to find a sense of peace that had left me.

Adrienne Rich’s work helped me harness my sense of love for another human. Twenty-one love poems in particular felt like a saving grace to my heart. When I read it for the first time, I remember thinking, “Someone wrote what I’ve always wanted to write, what I’ve always been trying to find the words for.”

When I visited Marfa for the first time this year, I saw Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete and 100 untitled works in mill aluminum. I felt like I’d been transported to another word of light and shape and possibility–and yet, I was still here. Donald Judd’s work helps me understand that this world exists in a space that is older and wiser and more powerful than construction, bulldozers. Judd did not build on new land. He honored the land in a way I strive to–by renovating and keeping the original aesthetic of the structure, not bulldozing, and by honoring nature by letting it be, by leaving the land alone.

What book are you currently reading?

Right now I am re-reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Edwin Bryant. It helps me stay healthy, reminding me that I can find an anchor, a focus, within myself at any time. I have also been reading about the yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines for healthy living), which are the first two branches of eight-limbed yoga. The yamas and niyamas remind me that the answers I seek can be found in non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and in non-greed; that the answers I seek can be found in cultivating purity, contentment, a sense of discipline, a deep and honest self study practice, and by surrendering to a higher power.

What is your favourite piece in Issue One?

“In Sepia” by Vincent Steed. This poem honors grief with precision and softness. It reminds me of something Mary Oliver would write. This poem is the desire to bring something back, the finite nature of concrete, and the ever-changing state of rain. The motion of rain. The hope of a rose. I tried to read this poem aloud and cried. It will always stay with me.

Where is another place we can find your work?

You can find one of my nonfiction pieces, “A House, A Girl” in The Rumpus. You can find some of my poetry in “Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women,” and you can find some of my photography in my collection “For the Woman Alone,” published with Ampersand Books.

What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?

My new book of poems, “Bomb,” is coming out with Ampersand Books in October. This collection of linked poetry explores the story of two women as they fall in love. As they fall in love, one attaches a bomb to the other using orchids, branches. Soft things make the bomb, hard things make the bomb. I will be working with violinist Sarah Morrison to record a version of this book, which we hope to have available on Spotify and iTunes sometime in 2017.

 

You can find Ashley at ashleyinguanta.com and echoanddime.com.

Glen Donaldson

Glen Donaldson

Interview with Glen Donaldson, whose piece of flash fiction, ‘Breaking Hearts Three at a Time,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

I write for the same reason that I read: as an escape from reality and to enter alternate worlds. The idea of being an ‘escape artist’ has always held appeal.

What are the major themes in your work?

Rampant weirdness and the blending of things that wouldn’t ordinarily be found together are two veins of thought and experience I seem to regularly mine when composing fiction.

Why is literature important?

As has been stated by numerous others before, literature helps us connect with our humanity. By the act of giving expression to often conflicting thoughts, emotions, fears, motives, systems of belief, hopes and dreams, not to mention the ever-present search for love and acceptance, we come a step closer to understanding and defining what it means to be human. Soul food indeed. For a glimpse into the horror of what a world without books might be like, Ray Bradbury’s 1953 seminal science fiction novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’ still makes for interesting reading more than half a century on.

What are some of your favourite authors?

My two favourite contemporary novelists are American author and writing teacher Jincy Willett (Winner of the National Book Award) and American horror master Thomas Ligotti  (‘My Work is Not Yet Done’).

What book are you currently reading?

‘I’m Talking’ (published 2014) is the autobiography of Australian singer Kate Ceberano.  It is written in a very easy to read style that makes you feel she is in the room talking directly to you.

What’s your favourite piece from Issue One?

I’ve read Assemblage by Wei Xiong three times already and most likely I’ll go back at some stage for a fourth go. It’s that good. Every single sentence is a feast and the expert prose is as rich as brandy and butterscotch trifle. Maybe richer.

What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?

A story I’m composing  at present features a character who’s fallen on hard times and resorted to selling-on stolen ink cartridges. Apparently printer consumables are in high demand among the light-fingered as, ounce for ounce, they’re more expensive than some illegal drugs.

Any prized quotes?

‘There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.’ — Jim Thompson (American author & screenwriter 1906-1977).

‘To gain your own voice you have to forget about having it heard.’ — Allen Ginsberg (American poet 1926-1997).

Lauren Bell

Lauren Bell

Interview with Lauren Bell, whose piece of flash fiction, ‘The Man with the Marshmallow Heart,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

Why do you write, and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

I absolutely love anything to do with stories and storytelling. My Mom always encouraged me to read from a very young age and this is something that has always stayed with me. Now that I’m older, I get to read anything which catches my eye, whether it’s a short story collection, a novella, a novel or graphic novel.

I find the art of storytelling fascinating, how the process starts off as a very solitary act but ends collaboratively, where you end up sharing your work with others. Writing keeps my mind sharp, my thoughts focused. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, some of them are quite fleeting whilst others are vivid and demand to be written down. It’s nice to be able to put pen to paper and finally explore and flesh out the ideas you entertain.

For me, the writing process is similar to baking, you take your raw ingredients (an idea, an image or a snippet of overheard conversation) and you work with these, constructing a narrative where the words will (hopefully) slot into place and leave you with a completed story. I enjoy seeing my ideas grow and become full stories.

As a writer, I think it’s incredibly important to view the creative process in separate stages, where one thing leads on to another and another and results in your end creative piece.

What are the major themes found in your work, and why?

When I write, I don’t really have a particular theme in mind which I feel the need to communicate but there are recurring themes which do appear subconsciously in my work. Amongst them are identity, a sense of belonging, relationships and the magical in the everyday. Actually, I do consciously try to incorporate this last theme into my work. I love most magical realism books and have always believed that if you look past our reality, the routine we all adopt in our daily lives, if you just scratch away bit by bit, you will be rewarded with something fantastical.

The themes which regularly occur in my work are aspects which we, as human beings, experience in our everyday lives. It’s nice to read about something familiar in an unfamiliar and magical way.

Why is art important?

All mediums of art are vitally important to me because it helps me to pour all of my creative energy into something worthwhile. Writing isn’t a chore, nor is it supposed to be; if I feel passionately about something or inspired, I pick up my pen and write what I think and how I feel, usually within a quirky narrative. I love things which surprise and turn normal everyday events, objects and scenarios into new and fascinating stories.

The appeal is taking your ideas and setting these in motion to create a final product that is entirely you, born from your own hand. I understand why people draw/paint/write music/make films – these are all outlets, ways of channelling the inspiration you feel, or encapsulating your reaction to something you have read or witnessed. They give you freedom and allow you to explore and interpret your ideas in whichever way you see fit.

Crucially though, art and literature are there to make you feel something, to move you in ways you may never have experienced before, and to unite people from all across the world. Art is used a means of communication, a way of getting your ideas across, of showing others what life is and what it means to be human.

 What are some of your favourite writers?

Ooooooh, this question always gets me! There are so many brilliant writers out there, it would be impossible to name them all. But, for me, Neil Gaiman embodies what it means to be a successful cross-over writer. He writes novels for adults and children, he writes graphic novels (Sandman being one of my favourite graphic novels ever and he writes film scripts (Beowulf). I’m pretty sure he actually writes more than this but what I love about his work is the wisdom present in his narrative. His narrators are usually insightful, intelligent and you feel comforted by their words. Gaiman has a unique storytelling ability which immediately seduces me and pulls me into his fictional world. His works often read like possible fairy tales and seamlessly interweaves fantasy with reality. I definitely think Gaiman’s work has inspired my love of magical realism.

Tied in with this notion is another favourite author of mine – Ray Bradbury, whose novel, Dandelion Wine, is, once again, one of my favourite books of all time. Bradbury is a master storyteller whose reminiscences of childhood memories in 1930s Illinois are a honey, all-encasing, and leaves you with a tender poignancy of former days much loved and greatly missed.

One author who I feel is ridiculously underrated for her wonderful novels is V.E. Schwab (aka Victoria Schwab) whose work is simply divine! Honestly, she is quite possibly the most consistent writer I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and in my eyes, has never written a bad book. They have all been bloody WONDERFUL! Her world building is unrivalled, her dialogue sharp yet witty, and you can never be completely sure whether her characters are good or bad. I always keep an eye out to see whether she is releasing a new novel, and if she is, then I’m definitely there. Schwab definitely deserves a lot more attention for her literary efforts – if you want a quality storyline which is fast-paced, engaging and highly memorable then look no further. (I also had the pleasure of meeting her in early August and I can tell you now that she is the best type of human being!)

Another author who deserves a mention is Ransom Riggs whose trilogy beginning with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an absolute delight to read. Riggs has created something rather unique and incredibly special with his novels about peculiar children with extraordinary abilities (e.g. an invisible boy, a boy who can re-animate the dead, a girl who can create fire, etc.) His world building is extraordinary and I am excited to learn that he is about to bring out a short story collection concerning the origins of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children.

Finally, and it embarrasses me to say that I have only recently been introduced to this author’s work, is Aimee Bender. Her short story collections are like nothing I have ever read before. Willful Creatures is quite possibly the strongest short story collection I have ever read where each story just gets better and better. Bender possesses a unique way with words creating a distinctive voice which pervades throughout her work. Her imagery is exquisite (I like to think of the mind as a blank canvas but once Bender has finished with you, the canvas has turned into a work of art), she forces you to think about what isn’t being said in her narratives and her characters are highly complex individuals. The situations she describes fall into the realm of magical realism, some of these are quite beautiful, others are downright strange but they all have heart, and you can tell that she has poured herself into each and every one of her stories.

 What book are you currently reading/read last?

At the moment, I’m reading three books which is an incredibly recent thing for me. Usually, I tend to just read one book and immerse myself in a single story at any one time, but in the last few months, I have joined Goodreads which has prompted me to embrace reading like never before.

First up is Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball which was recommended to me. This is an unusual concept since the book is composed of letters written by Jonathon Bender (the protagonist), excerpts from his mother’s diary and conversations between his dad and brother which all form Jonathon’s suicide note. It is deeply affecting, witty in places but ultimately, an incredibly emotional read.

Secondly, there is The Graveyard Book: The Graphic Novel Adaptation by P. Craig Russell who has adapted Neil Gaiman’s work, and created a beautifully illustrated companion to the original story. The artwork is simply incredible and the narrative is equally exquisite. I’m reading part 1 at the moment and already have part 2 staring at me from my book shelf.

Finally, I’m reading The Kind of Girl by Kim Henderson which is a collection of flash fictions documenting what it is to be a girl growing up in America. Most of the stories collected here are coming-of-age tales, and make you question your own childhood, how we learn and grow as adults, the implications we sometimes find ourselves in and the experiences which shape us as human beings.

I always try to have two books on the go at the same time (mainly because I have so many books to read and to read them singularly would take forever) but I choose them carefully. I never choose two books which are written by the same author or which share the same themes/subjects. Usually, I read a novel alongside a graphic novel to split things up a bit, giving me variety, or a novel alongside a short story collection. Sometimes, I do all three like I am now.

What’s your favourite piece in Issue One?

Breakfast by Bruce Majors really stands out to me as a work which is pretty simple on the surface but conveys so much when you take the time to study it. The poem reminds me a bit of William Carlos Williams’ work who I really admire as a poet. The images he describes are crystal clear and tell of a failing relationship. He doesn’t use fancy words, he keeps it nice and simple, and this is the reason it works. It’s a short but touching piece. Beautiful.

Where is another place we can find your work?

My stories have been published in print and online by several magazines. You can find my work online in The Pygmy Giant, The Casket of Fictional Delights, Spelk and Visual Verse. More stories can be found in print in magazines such asFlash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Firewords Quarterly, Bare Fiction, Breve New Stories and The Fractured Nuance. I am also a contributing writer for Storgy.

 What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?

I hope to start putting a short story collection together fairly soon so I’m currently narrowing down the stories I would likely include in my collection. I’m finding that this is a lengthy process since I have to choose stories which are linked thematically in some way. There has to be cohesion within a short story collection so that one story flows or links directly to another, and the sequencing of these is proving tricky. Hopefully though, one day soon, they will arrange themselves conveniently for me.

I also have an idea for a graphic novel which I’m mid-way through writing at the moment but it’s been put on hold for a bit – I should really go back to that.

And then there’s the novel idea which I have had in my head for quite a while now. Last year I wrote over 200 pages but then it suddenly died and I found myself unable to get back on track with it. I still have it and of course I will go back to it, but I’m changing the story all the time. When I next approach it, I hope to have the vast majority of the story all written down somewhere (which often takes the form of random but comprehensive notes) and can finally finish the story I have inside of me.

 

You can find Lauren on Goodreads.

Gert W. Knop

Gert W. Knop

Interview with Gert W. Knop, whose poem, ‘Darkness,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.

I have been writing short stories and poems since my 16th birthday. Those first few were printed in a school magazine. I liked drawing from a very early age. Here is one of the first photos I took with a simple box (Agfa Clack) at the age of 9 of The Russian Church at Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany:
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The major themes in my work are nature and people, because I am fascinated by both.

 

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My former wife with her children in Pula, Croatia in 1983.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite writers and artists are Hemingway, Neruda, Kafka, Kipling, Camus, Stevenson and Chagall, Van Gogh, Turner, Feininger, Gaugin and Bernard Buffet.

There are two books I am currently reading: Das Ostjüdische Antlitz by Arnold Zweig and Ein Fest der Künste by Paul Cassierer. Both books are interesting to read.

My favourite piece in Issue One is ‘In Sepia’ by Vincent Steed.

 

You can find Gert’s books on Amazon.