A Conversation with Rosie Stockton, Poet and Alum

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Rosie Stockton, (they/them/theirs) is Alumni from the Creative Writing Program, 2017 who is currently pursuing a PhD at University of California, Los Angeles. They (RS) take a few moments to chat with current blog writer/admin staffer, Christina-Marie Sears (BH). We discuss their work, current practice, and time at Eastern Michigan University. Proudly we share this news:

Rosie Stockton’s recent work: Permanent Volta won the Sawtooth Prize and will be published soon by Nightboat Books.

This conversation began via email and continued with a real-time interview. We had a lovely chat, and hope that you will find this post informative and as enjoyable as our meeting.

BathHouse: What is your daily practice like? Do you write in solitude or do you enjoy a community or peer relationship with other artists?

RS: I write alone and journal alone. But I love writing with other people.

Poetry is grounding and ritualizing for me.

One of my daily rituals is- I get up and I journal. It’s not narrative. Journaling for me is a stream-of -consciousness and image-focused practice. I have a really active dream life and I just wake up and write before I even look at my phone, but of course on some days that doesn’t always work.

We laugh.

BH: The vitality and somatic grounding of your manuscript is so vivid and engrossing. What kind of effect or reaction do you wish to stir in the reader? Or is that not a consideration?

RS: When writing, I’m not thinking about the reader at that moment.” They elaborate, describing some pivotal experiences with Professor Rob Halpern at EMU- Daily practice was kind of drilled into me.

They go on to share that this Poetry manuscript developed out of their Master’s Thesis project, with Carla Harryman, Language Poet and Professor, advising. However, the draft from the thesis was one of four sections of this final manuscript. And RS has made many revisions over the years.

Permanent Volta refers to a kind of eternal revolution.

Towards that end, I wonder:

What can poetry accomplish?
What does it do and how does it contribute to literature?
To society? To social action?

Poetry is a sensory organ.

RS: Poetry possesses… a different type of knowledge, according to Aimé Césaire, it’s poetic knowledge. The poem knows something that I don’t know. I ask the poem what it needs to teach me.

BH: Do you work with formal structures in poetry? Do sonnet forms and the like impact your work?

RS: I worked (for some time) on the form of the sestina. That was like a machine. The way it churned the language– defamiliarizing it. (Additionally, )

Putting two semantic fields together creates new content and obscures meaning and generates new meaning.

Deeply political and aesthetically innovative, while RS writes alone, she also enjoys community. RS co-facilitated Writers’ Bloc for several seasons. In this program, Professor Halpern and workshop leaders such as Stockton have a close, creative relationship with writers who are incarcerated at Huron Valley Women’s Prison.

RS: In terms of her work with the Huron Valley Writers: this work, writing (in community) tackling prompts with women in the workshop, allowed me to take vocabulary, cogent thoughts, different elements from disparate areas of my life, and create something new.

Additionally, RS notes the importance of non-conscious additions within their poetry. They express interest in accessing latent though and latent feeling. (Deconstruction and alteration) is an important process for my creative thinking.

Breaking sentences allows for new sentences.

Enjoy this excerpt from Rosie Stockton’s Manuscript, Permanent Volta.

“EXCESS”

Your sestina exceeds the bar and I sip. Windy with adjectives, my view of thunder. In
that notebook, what are you writing in that notebook. In the notebook, that book with
notes, which order are the words, which words slight the order.

You need a word for waltz, and I said breeze, breeze or slide, march or breeze or slide.

I sip your excess, your sestina in my notebook, the breeze it says be careful, be careful
with the sestina, the sestina in your notebook.

Where I wonder and I sip, where you got that sestina, what machine gave you that
sestina. You can write a sestina, I demand, you can really write a sestina. In your
notebook with thunder, I sip windily. I waltz to think of your order, the words in the
notebook, my careful sestina.

Your breeze is marching excess, it is slow and pauseful. Always with the pauses, you are
thunder in my bar, and I sip, all excess. All excess and pause. And pause and pause. Be
careful says the sestina, marching along, with all that excess in your notebook, with that
machine that waltzes on.

No pause for the machine, only windy prediction, be careful of that word, or that order. Excessive sestina, bent over the bar. It is writing, writing thunder and care. I sip excess, I
sip carefully, my excess. Windy with order, my excess.”

Rosie Stockton is a poet based in Los Angeles. Their first book, Permanent Volta, is the recipient of the 2019 Sawtooth Prize, and is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2021. Their poems have been published by Publication Studio, Monster House Press, Jubilat, Mask Magazine, and WONDER. They received their M.A. in Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. They are currently a PhD Student in Gender Studies at UCLA.

Here’s more information on Writers’ Bloc

POETRY FROM INSIDE WOMEN’S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY

“Since 2011, The Writers’ Bloc has been nourishing personal and collective evolution through the writing and study of poetry inside Women’s Huron Valley Prison in Ypsilanti. Through the study and practice of poetry, the Writers’ Bloc has discovered that we can transform our relations to ourselves, to one another, and to the social conditions of incarceration. If social justice depends on creating new forms of solidarity, then the Writers’ Bloc writes for social justice from behind prison walls, turning otherwise negated forms of social relation into the stuff of living solidarities. In doing so, we make the prison walls porous, while imagining and enacting new horizons of social and political possibility.”

This statement, emailed to Graduate Students as an announcement of EMU Honors College Star Lecture in the fall of 2019, supports and contextualizes Rosie’s interview comments about the individual writer and the community and sociability of poetic writing. At this event, Prof. Halpern presented and discussed the work of The Writers’ Bloc, and included the project’s facilitators and past participants, as well as the voices of poets inside Women’s Huron Valley.

Works Cited

Received by Rob Halpern, TOMORROW! Star Lecture Featuring the Writers’ Bloc at Women’s Huron Valley Prison, 18 Nov. 2019.

Stockton, Rosie, “EXCESS” a poem selected from their book manuscript, Permanent Volta.