Kathryn Smith’s poem “Self-Portrait with Cephalopod and Digitalis Purpurea” is part of Issue 74 of the Bellingham Review. Subscribe or purchase a single issue through our Submittable page here.
What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?
“Self-Portrait with Cephalopod and Digitalis Purpurea” is part letter to my younger self, part exploration of the natural world, and part exploration of my own fears and anxieties and learning to overcome them. It’s also part of a conversation in poems I’ve been having with my friend and fellow poet Maya Jewell Zeller.
Tell us about your writing life.
This poem ties together so many of my questions and obsessions, though it’s rare for them to all appear in the same poem. The natural world is a common theme for me, and I spend a lot of time observing and analyzing and thinking about nonhuman animals and what humans can learn from them.
One thing that keeps me writing is having a network of poets to share work and ideas with. “Self-Portrait” came about from reading Maya’s work and responding to some of her images and ideas through my own lens. Her poetry is, generally speaking, more personal than mine, and I admire it for that, and with this poem I let her striking honesty guide me into a more personal territory of my own.
What are you reading right now?
For poetry, I’m reading Tyehimba Jess’ Olio. There is so much to admire in this book—the subjects he’s working with, the balance of meticulous formality with authentic voice, his care and attention to history. I’m almost finished with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah, and as research for poetry, I’m reading Modern American Spiritualism, written by Emma Hardinge in 1869.
What project(s) are you working on now, or next?
Poems about the American Spiritualist movement, and in particular the Fox Sisters, who were well-known mediums in the late 1800s.
Anything else our readers might want to know about you?
My first full-length poetry collection will be published this fall by Scablands Books, a great indie press in Spokane, WA, started by novelist Sharma Shields. The book is part fairy tale, part historical document, about (or maybe more inspired by) a family that spent decades in isolation in the Siberian wilderness.
Where can our readers connect with you online?
KATHRYN SMITH’s poems have been nominated for Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize and have appeared or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Duende, Southern Indiana Review, Redivider, the Laurel Review, and elsewhere. A mini-chapbook, Tracing the New Stars, was published in Rock & Sling in 2016. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Eastern Washington University and lives in Spokane, WA.
Photo by Don + Julia Photography