I am beyond excited that Kayla Sargeson is coming to town to read at Athens Word of Mouth, Wednesday, May 7th, upstairs at The Globe. I met her in 2009 at the Tin House writer's workshop. The poetry classes were small and scrappy so we bonded quickly, even across the two small groups. Word about Kayla traveled fast. But hearing her poem combining Frida Kahlo and masturbation sealed my fate as a fan. That and the fact that she was flirted with by one of my favorite living authors. Oh my, y'all. Here's Kayla.
I'm from Pittsburgh, where I currently live. I'm currently working on a project on the Human Barbie (if you don't know anything about her, look her up. She's a treat.) and examining gender/feminism/sexuality and its relationship to the body. I could talk about her for hours, but what I can tell you quickly is that as a feminist I should hate her and as someone who's into the body mod community, I give her props for what she's doing. For money, I teach composition at the Community College of Allegheny County, where I also work as a facilitator in their Learning Commons (kind of like a writing center). On weekends I'm the counter girl/shop rat at Jester's Court Tattoos & More and I work at my friend's hot dog shop called Krazy Dogz. I also tutor privately. For non money, I'm the poetry editor for the Pittsburgh City Paper, co-curator of the MadFridays Reading series, an Associate Editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and Media Relations Director for the Savannah-based record label Dope Sandwich.
Do you have any touchstone poems?
This is probably the hardest question on here for me, so that's why I'm answering it. I stand behind all of my poems, but there are a couple that opened up new doors for me, that were harder to write than others. "Dear World" is one of those poems for me. I remember its first draft was just a stanza with these clipped ideas. I wasn't sure it was even a poem, but the collective response was that my peers wanted more. I took it to my mentor Jan Beatty, who told me to just give myself room (and she suggested the gun section markers) and I just wrote. What I like about this poem is that I wrote it directed to one person, but it reads like I wrote it to the world. Sometimes my speaker's a little tricky.
"Reading Edward Field..." is another one. Not only did I write in the voice of a gay man, but this poem was an imitation poem of a Timothy Liu poem, whose style is so dissimilar to mine and such a prominant gay writer, so it was such a daunting task. I had to strip the feminine from my work so it rang true, and it was a challenge to write this poem in general.
"Ozzyspawn" is one of my favorite poems for sure, my ultimate favorite persona. I wrote that poem after this guy I had a flirty thing with told me that there were no good female artists. I got angry, wrote "Ozzyspawn," and dropped the guy.
"Topography, Us"--love poems are hard for me to write, so I write them as much as I can.
Do you have a particular response you hope to get from a listener/reader?
I just hope somebody feels something--I don't care what that something is, I just want it to be there.
Someone calls you a poet--how do you respond?
I have the word "poem" tattooed on my arm, so I better be okay with being labeled as a "poet." It confuses me when poets get weird about being called poets because poetry is the reason I get out of bed every day--I think in poems, I live in poems, it's what I do and who I am, so why pretend to be anything but?
What inspires you?
Oh god--pop culture, other people--I'm obsessed with the margins, with what lurks in the shadows, the things we can't say. I'm constantly looking for complexity and duality.
How do you deal with creative doubt?
I think everything I write sucks (at first) and I'm probably the craziest person I know. When I have those "oh my god what am I doing with my life why am I even doing this" moments, I just write through them. I've given up too much to live this life, so I'm not going to bail now.
What are you wearing ;)
my tattoos, duh :)
* * *
Kayla's first book, Mini Love Gun is available from Main Street Rag or directly from the poet if you come hear her at Word of Mouth.