Body of Water Anniversary Interview with Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis: Your debut chapbook Body of Water was published on November 2, 2018. Congratulations on its one-year anniversary! When did you first start to put this manuscript together?
Jeff Santosuosso: Some elements of that book are ten years old, while the most recent, the title poem, is about a year old. That gave me a theme. I generally don’t think in terms of a single-themed work, so that focus was welcome. From there, I browsed my body of work to find similar elements and to tell a story with the chapbook.
LD: In one or two sentences, can you describe the function of a poetry chapbook?
JS: Short story with no overt plot. A flip book of words.
LD: Can you tell me a little bit about how you found your publisher?
JS: I found the publisher via a message board, CRWROPPS and via a referral from another poet. CRWROPPS is a great tool for writers looking for submission opportunities and other things. Clare Songbirds Publishing House is a fine little outfit in upstate New York. They did not require me to presell any chapbooks, as others do, nor did they require a submissions/reading fee. Writers work directly with management.
LD: Your cover is absolutely stunning. Did you provide this image for Clare Songbirds Publishing House?
JS: I love it too! I’ve received many compliments on it and have forwarded them to CSPH. The artist is Angela Yuriko Smith. She did that on her own, presumably having read all or part of the manuscript. In any case, the result is stunning!
LD: What was the editing process like with your publisher?
JS: Easy. Simple email exchange, quickly reverted by the publisher. High marks for that!
LD: And has your relationship to these poems changed any now that they’ve been out in the world?
JS: Not so much, though I’m fascinated by the feedback I get, what reaches and connects with people. My son read one of them for a college public speaking course and recorded it. Gives me the chills!
LD: That must have been a very special experience, to witness that. Tell me what poem you think best represents this collection.
JS: Probably the title poem and also “The Blue.” The first because it’s personal. The second because it’s universal. I grew up about five miles from Walden Pond, read the book in high school and have always credited it with lasting impact on my outlook. That poem is very introspective, almost a mood poem for me. Separately, I was prompted by the poet and teacher Matthew Lippman to write a poem about the sea/ocean. (What? Yeah, that’s never been done before, I’ve got such a fresh perspective. Uh-huh.) Anyway, that poem is historical and global, a sweep of a piece, if you will. For me, then, the two relate to our personal, internal, finite relationship with water and our universal, external, infinite relationship with it. I’ll always have a soft spot for “New Jersey Nighthawks,” which I wrote on a ski trip when I was reading a lot of Kerouac.
LD: What are you working on now?
JS: Ha! Come to think of it, more than I expected: an adaptation of one of the books of the Bible. A collaborative poetry work with a good friend, inspired by another. A totally killer video collage of Anglophones from all over the world with their luscious local accents reading “Jabberwocky.” Oh, and a novel about tennis, second chances, and redemption that’s finished. What’s the definition of “finished”?
LD: Do you have any advice for poets who are putting together a chapbook manuscript?
JS: Look for a theme. Look for alignment between your theme and what the editor seeks. Have the book tell a story or have some arrangement, narrative or otherwise. Follow the publisher’s guidelines.
Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, Florida. His debut chapbook, Body of Water, was published at Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is Editor-in-Chief of panoplyzine.com, an online journal of poetry and short prose.
Lauren Davis is the author of Each Wild Thing’s Consent (Poetry Wolf Press). She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and her poetry, essays, stories, and fairy tales can be found in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Automata Review, Hobart, and Ninth Letter. Davis teaches at The Writers’ Workshoppe in Port Townsend, Washington.
Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe.
She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press and has published
three full length collections of poetry, most recently, “slight faith” (MoonPath Press, 2018).