Interview with A’Yara Stein

1/Hungry for Color involves, obviously, a great amount of color: “all wine and iris; indigo, charcoal, and sage” However, there’s just as much color in the lines devoid of exact hues: “Flung paint slashes the surface in welts” Do you find that your poems occupy the spaces between words (that is, can “welts” stand for “red” in cases where color isn’t even mentioned)?

Yes. As a discrete unit of meaning, “welts” could stand for “red”, a signifier in lieu of the signified; a something that stands for something else to someone in some capacity, as information communicated as a coded message.

Of course, the effectiveness of a substitution to convert the message depends upon the knowledge of the sender and receiver. While post-structuralism warns that “bottle” might have a strikingly different meaning from one person to the next (i.e. an alcoholic vs. a newborn’s mother), I would like to think that anyone reading this particular poem would have “red” or even perhaps “wound” in their mind as the signified of “welt”.

2/You’re capturing plein air painters, the sort of artists who beautify surroundings and show us what we want to see or their version of how things were. Conversely, poetry tends to show us things that are there that we didn’t see. Do you view your poetry as a sort of impressionism? Can you use words to render your version of events?

This poem was originally called Roughing Up The Surface.

I think poetry is able both show us what happened and show us what we missed. At its best, impressionism in poetry appears as images of inner and outer realities recreated in the personal vision of the poet that are expressed in a language others may enter.

The desired result of impressionism was to capture the artist’s perception of the subject rather than the subject itself. Artists of this movement wished to portray images as though someone might see something if they just caught a glimpse of it, versus a faithful, and symmetrical reproduction of reality.

Impressionist paintings tend to contain very bright, bold colors, and often to have very little detail; therefore I might resist calling it “Impressionistic”, as Impressionistic literature is often referred to as stream of consciousness literature, as when an author centers the attention on the character’s mental life, rather than trying to interpret them. Although if you use the term literary impressionism to describe a work of literature characterized by the selection of a few details to convey the sense impressions left by an incident or scene, portrayed from an explicitly subjective point of view on reality, then I would agree that this poem in indeed “impressionistic”. Most notably so in the lines “the twisting seaside verdure / olive, moss, midnight, the deep teal / of waters reflected in twilight sky” where I have the vegetation and the water merge via color and stroke. Missing from the published poem are a few lines I removed where I give the painters motives which I cut because I wanted the poem to be more implicit than explicit.

I wanted Hungry for Color to be not a study of the object, but a study of the impression it evokes, an exploration of the feelings it engenders: the stylized portrayal of inner-reality that has a life independent from outer-reality. A big part of making art is to be able to step away from the self a bit to “make something special” that is able to be shared by another.

3/Line breaks are an art form. Yours are stylistically long. Do you ever feel constrained by the page and wish you could continue? Have you written any poems that would read better in without that restriction?

Hungry for Color started as a formal poem, but dissolved to free verse. I simply couldn’t get it wrapped up in a box as I had originally intended and it has sort of scraggly medium to long lines. Precision of line and punctuation is not as prevalent a concern in this particular poem as it is in others I’ve written.

I do wish sometimes I could wrap lines around the page, or have them printed sideways in landscape/ portrait, but then perhaps it would be a bit too artificed (for me). Stylistically, I don’t in general, particularly like prose poems; I think of them as excellent prose paragraphs that I wish the author would write a lovely short story or novel around.

4/Sum up your work in apt in five words: go!

A metaphor for unfulfilled longing.

A’Yara Stein’s poems Hungry for Color and To Have and To Hold can be seen in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.

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