My name’s Ciera Durden—nice to meet you, reader. Hope you’re doing well. I’ve lived twenty years of my twenty years in Georgia, with eighteen in Augusta and two in Athens. A very well-traveled writer, I assure you. My day “job” is being a student at the University of Georgia majoring in Japanese and English, though it hardly feels like a job—more like a four-year intellectual romp and rapture. We’ll see what it leads to after the happy trip is finished. Aside from that, I really don’t know what to say about myself. I’m a 5’10” lesbian, a graying brunette twenty-year old who drinks too much coffee, and a terrible cook. I like studying religion, language, sexuality/gender, and really anything else. I have a horrible memory. I hate driving. I write because I have to. There’s a really wonderful desperation to it that I feel is probably the best gift I’ve ever been given. Because there’s arguably no reason to do this—to sit in a room or stomp through the streets stringing words together and getting a high out of it but I do and it is such a strange and fulfilling thing.
Do you have any writing/revising rituals?
Even if it isn’t necessarily a spoken word piece, I tend to read my stuff aloud as I write. I want to feel the language on multiple levels. Plus I often overuse my words—I get too excited and create really long phrases and sentences, so reading it aloud sort of puts me in check. If I run out of breath before I finish the thought, that’s typically a strong indicator that I need to revise it.
Also, since I mostly write on the computer, I’ll also copy and paste a lot to try out different versions of the poem/prose piece. Mix and match different endings to try to find the best whole.
Do you only write poetry or do you practice literary polygamy? (No judgement.)
I mainly do poetry, though I really love writing out little vignettes as well—strange scenes that are saturated with description, even if they never go anywhere. I know it’d be “wiser” to write prose if I want to be published (which I do) but I’m terrible about finishing a piece. I certainly don’t think I’ll ever write the next Great American Novel.
Do you have a particular response you hope to get from a listener/reader?
Tears or money would be appreciated. No, kidding—in all seriousness, it really depends on the piece. In general though, my secret wish is for my poetry to do to my listeners/reader as my favorite poetry does to me. I want it to shake them, to make them moan, to make them flash back to a memory. I want it to matter. It feels really arrogant to type that out, but it’s true—I want it to matter. But also I want it to be useful to the reader, somehow. I’d like for my poetry to be a hand reaching out, at times, stroking the reader’s face. Let it be an embrace.
What inspires you?
People, interactions, small phrases I hear, my sad (lack of a) love life, the shower, the bed, death, strange joys, eating, depression, song lyrics. I would say “everything” but I haven’t had a traffic cone or window sill inspire me yet. I’m primarily a confessional poet, so nearly all of my work comes from my personal experiences, though I do branch out occasionally. And by branch out, I mean I’ll write something like… a possible future situation and how I would respond to it (example: writing about being married, writing about the idea of separation/divorce, etc.). I’m a very self-oriented writer.
How do you deal with creative doubt?
I try to ask why I’m feeling the doubt, or what exactly that doubt is focused towards. If it’s a particular poem, I’ll often leave the piece alone and come back to it later, or just straight up erase the part that’s been giving me trouble (or squirrel it away for another piece) and try a different approach. If it’s my overall craft, I try to force myself to not write about a specific theme/use a particular writing mechanism for a while. Like recently I realized I focused a lot of the possible power of a poem to be centered on repetition and counting—I had to verbally repeat a phrase (i.e. the ‘thesis’ or driving point of the poem) or create a sort of list format in order to explain and give strength to what I was trying to convey. There’s not anything really wrong with this in a single poem, but after doing it repeatedly, I felt like I was cheating by creating a safe formula. So I forced/am forcing myself to shake it up a little and be more aware of the diversity that can (and, arguably, should) develop in one’s style.
Ciera Durden - Rituals