Honest, personal and powerful, Emily Gundlach's poetry rings like a bell. She took some time from her busy life to introduce herself.
"Here I am, world! I moved to Athens from upstate NY in July 2012 and never looked back! Ok, so i looked back a few times - but NY sure is pretty in the rear view mirror! Currently, I am a second year MSW student at UGA, concentrating in Nonprofit Management and Community Development. As for the rest of my life- I'm just living it, day by day, trying to figure out where I fit in, in this world...
Touchstone poems - sadly, I am not as well read as I'd like to be. I cut my teeth on slam poetry, so I'm partial to that style - think Andrea Gibson or Derrick Brown. I've always loved Robert Creeley's "I know a man" as it seems to hint at a darkness just beneath the surface and serves as a metaphor for something bigger than that poem. I also love the imagery in "Work" by John Engman.
Writing/revising rituals. This is something I'd like to change, really. I'd like to become a bit more disciplined with my writing. As it is now, I typically wait for inspiration to strike and then find myself scribbling notes madly at 3 am or texting phrases to myself in the midst of a crowded restaurant. I am, without fail, and not for lack of trying other styles, an autobiographical poet. Everything springs from what I have experienced. I don't feel true "ownership" of my poems, I don't feel like I am creating brilliant imagery, I like to think of it more as learning to really listen to the world and getting what I hear down on paper. The best poetry comes from something inside me that is not really me. Is this getting a bit flighty? Probably. But it's the best way I can describe it, words coming through me, not from me.
I have written short stories and essays in the past. I enjoy writing - it's what has carried me through school! I enjoy a well crafted phrase or image. Currently, all I write are papers on community development and program design and the occasional poem.
On the desired response from a reader. I want to touch people. I want to reach past the facade that we all wear, mostly out of necessity, in our every day lives, and touch the core of people. This is where the interesting conversations happen and this is where real connections are made. If something I write can guide someone in the midst of turmoil toward light or a solution, even better. Using my experience to convey hope to someone else is what creates meaning out of the wreckage of my past. As I have said before, it's important to tell our stories. My story is not any more important than anyone else's, I've just been given the gift of being able to tell it. My aim to be honest. Always tell the truth. I think that's especially important in poetry.
On being called a poet When someone calls me a poet, I have to admit, I feel a bit like a fraud! Like I've pulled the wool over everyone's eyes! Me, a poet? I just like to write. I have been fortunate to have been in the presence of truly inspirational poets and have read literary works of such staggering genius, that I feel I cannot be placed in the same category as these "real" writers. Does it flatter me? Oh yes, absolutely! I hope to one day "feel" like a poet all the time - right now, I feel like an occasional poet.
On creative doubt. Learning how to deal with creative doubt is not something I have mastered yet. Right now, I feel too busy to spend much time doubting - or writing. Being busy is an excuse, of course. I find being around other writers, hearing other people's work to help with creative doubt."
* * *
Perfection and Its’ Keeper
I carry a knife in my purse so that I can carve out imperfections when I find them
This is not a metaphor
I hope that you are perfect for your sake
but mostly for mine
Sometimes I grow weary of cutting away the insignificance that creeps in to my life.
I watch mirrors and reflective surfaces as I walk by
waiting to catch a glimpse of ugly on my face
And I write this in fragments as I am distracted by the monotony of life
and I write this in fear that revealing the darkness within
will be called ugly
will be called imperfect
will be called not good enough
and there, under perceived judgment, I will wither and die.
I carry a knife in my purse and I imagine that when I am perfect, I will be happy
When I am perfect, I will be glorious
When I am perfect, I will loved and loving
and I will be everything that I dream of and yet am not.
I will be enough.
I carry a knife in my purse and in the past, I have turned it on myself
I have carved out the ugliness in my arms, reaching for the poison that flowed through my veins,
cutting away the dead feeling that crept within me
and I created scars that only served to advertise where I have been,
that brought into daylight what was done in the dark
and so I covered them with tattoos of flowers
and I called them beauty.
I wait for a man to tell me “you are perfect because of your flaws
you are beautiful because of what lives within you and the life you lead now”
I wait for a man to tell me “you are enough, you are complete
you are so complete that I am complete when I am with you.”
But what is this but more dependence?
What is this but more addiction?
What is this but more searching for something that is not me
and becoming less of me
and accepting less of me.
I carry a knife in my purse and sometimes I am angry
and sometimes I fierce
and sometimes I look at the world with a ferocious gaze
and I say fuck being perfect.
This knife point will not cure me
this man’s gaze will not lessen or increase me
this world will not burden me
I will walk upright and brave, I will carry with me my ugliness
I will show it to the world with fierce pride in where I have been because
I don’t live there anymore,
I will not be afraid.
And I will let perfection die underneath this knife
I will cut away the beliefs that have choked me for too long
it’s time to start breathing
it’s time to start living
It’s time to start using the weapons I have carried with me for so long,
the way they were meant to be used.
So let me be imperfect
and let me be free.
* * *
Emily is a regular reader at Athens Word of Mouth, 1st Wednesdays of every month at The Globe, 8 pm.
When I was little, I used to get overcome when I saw something I thought was beautiful. Once I ran down the hill above my house where we were working in the tomato patch to run back up with my camera to take a picture. I've lost the picture but kept the burning-lung gasping relief of getting back into the clearing and seeing the rainbow still there, holding its pose.
This picture shows me at 5 after pulling one of the roses that bloomed beside our cement block playhouse. It seemed so huge and fragrant and impossibly wonderful, I asked to have my picture made with it. My cowlick was in full flare, I'm sure I smelled like a puppy from playing outside. But that very moment had to be caught.
It is hard sometimes as an adult to feel such uncomplicated joy. But not tonight. For the past several years, I've been running in the yard in a different way, looking for things, writing them down, playing, working at the poems in my book. Now they are a thing, a real book. As tangible and exciting as that rose. Tomorrow I go into a room and share it with my family and friends and maybe some new friends and readers.
I am going to forgo all the tormented bullshit creative folks put themselves through and just offer it up like I've done before. Just hand it out and say, "Hey, can I show you something?"