Interview with Janelle Segarra

1/You put punctuation to novel use in both your poems, choosing to open a line with a hyphenated suffix in Cave Woman and ending with an ellipsis in Sweet Vine Bitter Grape. One lends a specific cadence to your verse, the other elongation. Tell us a bit about your choice to include these facets in your work.

I admire writers who tend toward a polemical or confounding approach to wording, relinquishing traditional armature in favor of a more fragmented literary technique, for example the purposely digressive polarity at the point of transition in Cave Woman.  The reasoning behind the line opening with a hyphenated suffix in Cave Woman is to emphatically establish duality. To essentially stop the reader in his or her tracks, a glaring signification that something has shifted here. It is the desire to be conspicuous rather than sub-textual. A compound thought. The finality of thought and simultaneously the continuation of thought in a different vein. A sort of deconstructive process which moves from the atmospheric to the introspective and remains there even though seeming to revert back to the physical with words like “slink back” and “slump down”, this is not at all physical but completely internal.

The ellipsis in Sweet Vine Bitter Grape is a sort of surrender of will without definitive closure in the actual syntax; but for the reader, an opportunity to improvise or superimpose. An intended structural omission or suppression of thought so that you might takeover with your own. The ellipsis here is a passing of shears, a pruning of thought allowing for fuller growth.

2/In Cave Woman, you begin with a very specific setting–“This chosen grotto”–then move to a more general area–“various corners”–eventually leading to abstraction–“slump down into / negative space” Did you intend to write about place or was this more of an organic byproduct of a larger goal?

The latter.

3/Your imagery strikes a visceral tone–“sores for eyes” and “all comes rotting down / face-plate and skull”–but your themes are subtly personal. Are these conflicting ideals part of a dialogue between you and the readers? Is there a single message you hope they take from your work?

I think that this poem seeks to falsely employ the very mask or facade it speaks of dispelling, or being stripped of. At the same time it truly does wish to put off the stealth. Literature is often a dichotomy of cover and expose. No, I hope there is never a singularity taken in anything, literature or otherwise. I hope that people will always find layers of possibility or create layers where they seem to lack so that they may continue to derive more, constantly more from life, from self.

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

In five words? Let’s see…


Janelle Segarra’s poems, Cave Woman and Sweet Vine Bitter Grape can be seen in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.

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