“Words about love, loss, grief, PTSD, and jokes with no punchline.
Steps toward finding yourself and singing down the stars.”
RoAnna was kind enough gift me an ARC to celebrate their release this month of But Not Up Here (Poems About Remembering in Neon), along with taking the time to answer some questions for me about their writing process, this collection of poetry, and their plans for future writing projects. Enjoy!
A lot of your work is set within the city of Parole, a fictional city shown in the Chameleon Moon stories. What made you decide to diverge from this and publish poetry?
I’ve wanted to publish poetry for a long time, and it finally seems like my fiction is taking off and stabilizing in a way that lets me branch out. I’ve also been collecting and saving my poems for a long time; some of them in But Not Up Here are as old as 13 years. The emotion was also pretty raw for a long time, and I’m finding myself in a better place there too.
Then I got a few poems accepted to some really cool places (Koru Mag in July, Monstering Mag coming in August, and Three Drops From A Cauldron in October!), and that really made me feel like putting out my own poetry was an actual thing I could do. I also have some amazing and supportive friends who helped me believe I could do this – I especially want to thank/shout-out Alex Casso, who read But Not Up Here before I was even seriously thinking about publishing. They’re a gifted poet whose work I respect, and the encouragement meant everything. Their second collection, Love Letters To Nameless is coming out in August. (I did the cover art!)
So all of this combined. It just felt like a good time.
BUT NOT UP HERE involves a lot of personal stuff dealing with stuff like PTSD and grief. Was it difficult for you to be open about this sort of thing? Did you have to step away and take self-care moments while working on this project?
Yes to both.
These poems dig up a lot of vulnerable feelings. Like buried pain (very deep), loss, and slow healing. It was sometimes incredibly hard to feel these things again, as I do, whenever I write. I’m good at compartmentalizing (thanks, PTSD) and being emotionally detached from a project, but with some things, you can’t help but feel. In this case, I think that’s good. Even if it hurt.
But it was also extremely cathartic. There’s something amazing about realizing that your innermost thoughts, your deepest defining struggles and triumphs are… out there. People know about them, and they’re not locked up in your head anymore, echoing and going around and around with no resolution.
This collection shares what I haven’t shared with many people, ever. It’s made of secrets, and airing them for the first time. It was incredible and painful and huge.
I wrote But Not Up Here for a very significant person in my life, whose loss both traumatized and helped shape who I am today. I don’t know if I would have seriously pursued writing if it wasn’t for her. So you can thank her for Chameleon Moon, and anything else I’ve done that had a positive effect on the world.
The only thought scarier to me than sharing my words about her was the idea that she would be forgotten.
Someone needs to remember her, and people like her, amazing and important and gone too soon. I always will. And maybe in a small way, others will too.
I’ve heard readers say these poems made them feel heard, and less alone.
I can’t ask for anything better than that.
Last but not least, do you think you’ll ever do these kinds of projects again in the future? There’s this really strong voice that comes out when you write poetry that a lot of us enjoy.
That makes me so happy to hear.
Seriously, people reading and appreciating my poetry means… not more than them liking Chameleon Moon, but in a way, it’s even more personal and intimate. CM is personal too, of course, but it’s written in metaphor and allegory. The fire and barriers symbolize chronic illness and isolation/marginalization, sure, but we’re (hopefully) not literally living through that. The emotion behind CM (and Stake Sauce, for that matter) is just as strong, but there’s a curtain of story you see first.
My poems are just… reality. What I feel. With no fiction or metaphor. It’s just the emotion. The truth. It’s terrifying and life-affirming to know that readers can not only fall in love with the people from Parole, but see me, in all my scars and rawness, and love that too.
And I very much want to do more, yes. I don’t know exactly what my next project will be, but I’m so looking forward to the individual poems coming out later this year, and another collection would be awesome. When I do this again, I hope you all join me there too.
Comment below with your favorite poetry recommendations, and I’ll choose a winner from the comments by Tuesday to receive RoAnna’s latest release!