The Bear Review staff recently added two new members: readers Savannah Bradley and Barbara Varanka. Both have ties to the University of Missouri Kansas City MFA program; both are poets. Rules of last-name "alphabeticization" require we introduce Savannah first. Savannah lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and has work published in Barrow Street, Bear Review, and Moon City Review. Rather than rattle off other tidbits second hand, we thought we'd give her (and Barbara) the floor via five questions. We hope you enjoy.
Co-editor, Bear Review
How did you come to poetry? What was your journey?
I didn’t start writing poetry until I was a sophomore in college. I was in my first college-level creative writing class, and the first couple weeks focused on writing poetry. I was actually dreading it, I swore I could only write fiction. The truth is, I wrote tremendously terrible stories as a child/ young adult and I still do. That is what I learned through that class, and I discovered that it felt more natural to write a poem and to spend time in the space that poetry opens and allows. Poetry has helped me understand myself better. It allows me to think the way that I do, allows me to constantly go back and forth and change my mind and obsess and indulge and shout.
Outside of your work with Bear Review, how does poetry fit into your life?
I am currently an MFA student at UMKC focusing on poetry, so a lot of my time is spent thinking about poems and their strange, wondrous little functions. I like to make sure before I do any homework or go to work I at least read a few poems. If there was nothing to stop me, I would just sit at my desk all day and read. One of my favorite things to do as well is read poems out loud to my cat; I like to think he loves it as much as I do. I’m constantly scribbling lines of poems in my journal, and images and moments throughout my day that have struck me and I want to remember for my own poems later.
Describe your creative process, either when writing or when working in another medium.
I try to write a little bit every day, but I’m extremely particular and precious about writing and I need to feel like I can be wholly in it. I’m also very hard on myself, and I struggle with remembering a poem does not have to be (and is not ever) perfect on a first draft. I want to make myself proud and do well, and sometimes that can really get in my way. I usually have my journal open next to me when I’m writing to look for certain threads between my fragmented entries and see if there is something there I was unconsciously saying. I also like to pull out all my favorite collections of poetry and flip through, read bits and pieces, stack them in high piles beside me — essentially I overwhelm myself until I burst, then frantically type away letting myself say all the most wild and crazy things I want. I get a lot of my ideas while I am driving, in the shower and from my dreams.
If you are engaged in the making of other arts, how do those pursuits inform your writing?
I consider cooking to be an art, and it’s something I love to do when I have the time for it. I’m not very good at memorizing ingredients; I always need a recipe near me. I love reading recipes, though; I like to see all the different ingredients listed out, how much of each and the steps that list out all the particulars. They’re kind of beautiful in that way. I guess that’s what a poem is like too, there are all these elements you are trying to put together to make something work, taste good. You can put two things that seemingly don’t go well together and actually get something great, or you can do too much or too little. They both take practice and care.
What do you look for in a submission?
I love being surprised and left a little breathless. I want something that is going to get stuck in my head, just a little line that I carry around for a while that makes me feel how the piece feels. A poem that has a distinct voice and atmosphere is something I usually feel drawn to, something that makes me feel a range of emotion and feels challenging as well.