New Note Poetry
Poet Spotlight: Rebecca Faulkner
Rebecca Faulkner is a London-born poet and arts educator based in Brooklyn. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals including New York Quarterly, Solstice Magazine, SWWIM, The Maine Review, CALYX Press, CV2 Magazine, and On the Seawall. She is the 2022 winner of Sand Hills Literary Magazine’s National Poetry Contest, and the 2021 Prometheus Unbound Poetry Competition. Her work has been anthologized in the Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021. Rebecca was a 2021 Poetry Fellow at the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. She holds a BA in English Literature & Theatre Studies from the University of Leeds, and a Ph.D. from the University of London.
We sat down with Rebecca to talk about her latest book, Permit Me to Write My Own Ending, through Write Bloody Press.
What inspired this new book?
Permit Me to Write My Own Ending had been percolating for years, but it took a pandemic for me to develop my voice and pull my poems together as a collection. I was furloughed in spring of 2020, and confined to a New York City apartment with two teenagers, as Covid-19 raged outside. To preserve my own sanity, I began the practice of writing a poem a day during lockdown, excavating memories from adolescence, combined with work exploring the emotional impact of war, historical trauma, motherhood, nationality, and identity; writing from and about landscapes dominated by patriarchal notions of the female.
What was the writing process for the book like?
Through the process of attending online writing workshops and eventually a writers’ residency in the summer of 2021, I was encouraged by friends and mentors to work toward the idea of a book. I wrote furiously throughout the summer and fall of that year, with a sense of urgency and determination, often beginning my day at 5 am so I could write before work and the kids woke up. I worked with an incredible editor to explore themes, flow and pace, and ultimately to gather my work into a manuscript, which I began submitting to publishers for book prizes at the end of 2021. I had no idea that submitting the manuscript would be almost as hard as writing the book itself! Write Bloody Press had always intrigued me, as they publish in both the US and the UK, (where I live, and where I’m from), and after being a finalist for their US book prize at the beginning of 2022, my manuscript was passed to their UK editors, who awarded me their 2022 book prize last summer.
We've noticed that your poems are narrative and use many storytelling techniques on top of poetic forms. The poem"Annotated Bibliography" from the book is one example, and we fell in love with it at the first line, much like the opening hook of a great novel. Any comments on that?
I’ve always been an avid reader of fiction and am a huge film buff. Narrative and storytelling techniques are hugely important to me, and this is definitely apparent in the way I approach writing poems. I see scenes play out in my head and want to tell the full story of the speaker, even if I’m only utilizing a dozen lines. I’m so glad that you all loved “Annotated Bibliography”! It’s a poem about a college break-up, and I wanted to conjure that in the form (a literal bibliography) as well as the narrative, with references to books and music the speaker was immersed in. I had been reading Renee Gladman’s Calamities around the time of writing this poem and was really struck by her focus on specific details from each day she describes. I was hoping to achieve this in my poem - banging knees on taps, biking hairpin turns, soaking wet socks, etc. I love the idea of writing short stories, and maybe one day I will - crammed with detail and expansive at the same time. Whenever I start what I think will be a story, it very quickly becomes a poem. But hey, you can craft small cinematic moments in a poem, too, so I’ll stick with poetry for now!
Your poem"Cemetery Crush" was in our Autumn 2022 issue. How do you feel about that poem now?
“Cemetery Crush” is a poem I have all sorts of love for, and I was thrilled that New Note published it last fall. I wrote it at the end of a long summer, and it’s brimming with that feeling of back-to-school ennui. There’s some language and imagery in it that I’m really happy with: “breeze blurs green then black,” “the dead are in my hair/when your palms crush/the petals.” I really wanted to evoke the energy and speed of being on the cusp of change. Adolescence can feel like the biggest rush; you’re invincible at the same time as teetering on the edge of death. The speaker knows this already, she is wise beyond her years, much in the way that she knows so little about the person she is meeting - “you're as vague as the avenue I crossed.” It’s great to revisit it now, and it’s also a poem that I love reading aloud, it moves with speed and urgency, just like the speaker does on her bike - destroying September with her pedals.
How do you feel about New Note Poetry as a whole now?
I love how New Note centers the music of poetry, and really appreciate the place of live-stream readings that you offer your writers and audience. So many literary journals focus only on the printed form, but to have the opportunity to have poets read their work is vital to the experience, in my opinion. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to be published with New Note, and look forward to listening to more incredible poetry you give a platform to.
What do you want readers to gain or walk away with from your new book?
Permit Me to Write My Own Ending is a collection of poems that focus on what I think of as different “battlegrounds” - the battleground of being a teenage girl; the literal battleground of war, as well as memory, trauma, and resilience. I hope readers can locate themselves in some of the experiences I bring to the page, and seek solace in poems that urge us to confront bloodshed and pull ourselves from the wreckage of patriarchal oppression.
Any final things to share?
Thanks so much for the opportunity to discuss my work. You can learn more at www.rebeccafaulknerpoet.com and pre-order my book, which comes out March 28 with Write Bloody Press!