Shena McAuliffe’s essay “Eleven on Poison” 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?
“Eleven On Poison” began a number of years ago when I was reading Donald Barthelme’s novel Snow White, sparked by the infamous poison apple, and Barthelme’s fragments and lists. I wrote a handful of fragments thinking about poison at that time. I think of them as mini-essays along the lines of William Gass’ On Being Blue, or Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, (which I hadn’t met yet, but now love). I kept returning to my meditations on poison, turning them like compost, adding another here and there, adding new bits to the mix. Over time, the meditations grew more personal and more contemporary, gaining new and different resonances.
Tell us about your writing life.
I write both fiction and nonfiction. I often write about idealists with blind spots—visionaries and scientists who glimpse undiscovered truths but are pulled off course by ambition and the limits of their knowledge. I’m also particularly interested in formal play—my essays and stories often borrow the form or text of documents as scaffolding, both relying on and undermining the authority of documentary forms such as journalism, textbooks, epistles, instructional pamphlets, and recorded history.
What project(s) are you working on now, or next?
I recently completed a draft of a novel set in the 1930s about a dentist and his wife who, after losing their young son to an infected root canal, travel the world seeking to escape their grief through unconventional means. I continue to write stories and essays that I hope will cohere into two separate collections soon, soon, soon.
Anything else our readers might want to know about you?
My first literary accomplishment was winning the crown of Miss Chili Pepper when I was about ten years old. While my triumph may have had something to do with the floppy hat, gigantic boots, and magician’s cape that I wore on stage, I attribute the win largely to the poem I composed and recited about my love for chili.
Where can our readers connect with you online?
SHENA MCAULIFFE’S stories and essays have been published or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, The Collagist, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Utah and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Earlham College.
Featured Image: “Poison” by Ricardo