Featured Artist Q & A:
This month Sacramento365 interviewed writer, professor, and poet Cynthia Linville. A music aficionado with a theater background, the Sacramento native has appeared in many publications and several poetry anthologies. Active in the River City’s local poetry and arts scene, Cynthia keeps busy hosting readings and reading with the group Poetica Erotica.
Read on to find out what inspires the prolific poet below:
1. You have lived in a number of different cities — New York, London, San Francisco to name a few — before settling back here in Sacramento. How have your travels influenced your writing?
Being in a different landscape, with different people, opens our eyes to our own assumptions. I lived in London as an exchange student when I was 23. I kept asking my peers, “You know what I mean,” and they invariably said, “no.” That caused me to take a step back and better articulate what I was thinking and feeling, bringing forward the value system underneath.
2. According to your Sacramento365 profile, theatre and music are in your blood. How did your interests lead you to become a poet and professor?
I am not a musician myself, but I attend many live music events and listen to a wide variety of recorded music. In poetry, the sound of the words when read aloud is akin to music — in fact, we call it “musicality.” At times, I even perform my poetry with a musician.
I also hold a degree in theater. Poetry is similar to theatre in that language is compressed. The audience doesn’t read the setting descriptions or stage directions, but only hears and sees what’s put before them. Poetry, too, is about showing rather than telling.
Being a teacher or professor is what many artists do to support themselves. Since I teach writing, I can share with my students my own processes in drafting, revising, and sending work out for publication. I feel it makes my teaching more authentic.
3. Who are some living/local writers you admire?
Margaret Atwood is my favorite author. I’ve read all of her novels and poetry. Viola Weinberg, in her foreword to my poetry collection Out of Reach, linked me to Atwood: “Sensual and full, [Linville’s] erotic poems echo poet Margaret Atwood’s motto, ‘You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.’”
Viola Weinberg, a former Sacramento Poet Laureate, had been inspiring me for 30 years. The same is true for my long-time mentor, Dennis Schmitz. I also enjoy the poetry of Sharon Olds and far too many others to list here.
4. You invented the poetry form, the Linvillanelle. Could you describe this form to us and how it came about?
The form is a poem in three parts. The second and third parts are repetitions of the first stanza with the lines in different orders. It is very loosely based on a villanelle. More details about it are here. This form emerged from a writing group session with Shawn Aveningo, Lytton Bell, and Jen Cake.
The poetry group, Poetica Erotica (L to R: Shawn Aveningo, Lytton Bell, and Cynthia Linville.)
5. You are currently working on your second book of poetry, Out of Reach. What are some of the major themes/topics covered in this collection? Any word on when it will be published?
My second poetry collection, Out of Reach, has just been released from Cold River Press. Like my first collection, it focuses on loss and nostalgia, but also encompasses what is beyond our grasp because it belongs to the future or because it is a might-have-been that never materialized. I call this phenomena “future-nostalgia.”
More poems in my second collection are based on the stories of others, stories that were shared with me or that I simply observed or even imagined.
6. You are the Managing Editor of Convergence: an online journal of poetry and art. What are the objectives the journal aims to achieve?
This journal pairs photography with text in a way that aims to shine a different light on both pieces, to create a deeper layer of meaning.
For example, here you see the photo “Doubled” above the poem, “Gray Matters,” a poem that discusses an interracial couple and how the history of racism overlays the present.
7. What do you find to be the most challenging as a writer (getting published, overcoming blocks, etc.)? How do you go about overcoming this?
Any good writing teacher or mentor gives the advice, “write regularly,” and writing regularly tends to be the biggest challenge. Poems can be published twenty years after the fact, but if nothing is written, there’s nothing to publish. I find that a writing group gives me built-in deadlines and a built-in audience for my work and also address another challenge, which is revising.
Cynthia at the mic. Photo by Robert R. Sanders.
8. Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers and poets?
Join a writing group. The Sacramento Poetry Center hosts an open, drop-in group at the Hart Center every Tuesday night. Read your work at open mics – there are many around town. Luna’s holds an open mic every Thursday at 8pm. Read and listen to others’ work to hone your own tastes and style. Send your work out for publication. Medusa’s Kitchen is a good place to start.
9. When you are not busy writing or hosting poetry reading groups, what would we find you doing?
I attend live arts events in midtown Sacramento and/or in the Bay Area every week. Sacramento365 is a good resource to find out about what’s going on. (Editor note: Blushing…)
10. What does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I have readings monthly to promote Out of Reach. I’m especially looking forward to performing with Victor Krummencher on August 23 and with Poetica Erotica in September, both at Luna’s. I also have trips planned to Joshua Tree, Los Angeles, and Sonoma County for fun and relaxation.
Keep up with Cynthia:
*Hear audio from Cynthia’s latest poetry reading with guitarist Victor Krummencher on August 23, 2014 here.
Interview by Sacramento365’s Content & Social Media Coordinator, Jamila B. Khan.