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Transom:
Many of the poems in this issue seem to coalesce around themes of darkness and light. In what ratio of shade or illumination do your poems thrive? Does a dark poem need light, and vice versa?

Sawyer:
I think it all boils down to the reader. You have to remember that, depending upon your audience, the people reading your work will already have their own experiences and beliefs, for the most part, set in stone. So when you’re talking about something as ambiguous as poetry, a writer’s emotional intent becomes, for me, an after-thought to the loose construction of language and imagery. Most times, poets aren’t allowed a tight narrative like fiction that guides you to an emotional grounding. In poetry, the reader is thrown into an intense, uncertain emotional experience, so it’s only natural that during the brief time you’re reading a poem, where it stemmed from—light or dark—can just become white noise. And as a writer myself, that’s completely OK. In fact, that’s what I love about poetry. Its ambiguity. The message becomes the reader’s interpretation.

I will say, from my own experiences writing the two versions of “Milk,” both follow the same story up until somewhere in the middle. Both follow the tragedy of losing a son, but they don’t share the same outcome as to whether or not the couple will stay together through their loss. I was intrigued by how a couple could deal with what happened and lead a relatively normal relationship and how another couple could deal with the same experience and be totally crushed by it. Therein lies the light and dark. They occur in the possibility of their relationship being mended. I leave it to the reader’s interpretation. But to say that a poem exists solely in darkness or light seems too easy of an answer to a complex question. I think a piece of writing is best played in both spaces. For example, what’s so tragic about the couple losing a son is that they seemed so eager to have one—to raise it and nurture it, to watch it grow—because it came from a source of light and love, not from un-want or a misplaced sense of necessity. That is the darkness. The light, like I said, lies in the possibility of powering through that trauma. But it’s always up to the reader. In the end, it’s always up to their mentality.

Transom:
Your “Milk” poems utilize metaphors of souring to describe an intimate grief: the loss of a child. We’re interested in the ways that sourness is private (an acrid taste in the mouth) and shared (the emergence of acrimony in a relationship). To what extent are these poems intended to be audible addresses to the “you,” as opposed to interior monologues?

Sawyer:
This one’s an easier question to answer! Both are intended to be interior monologues. However, both are different. In the first version, it feels like the event of their son’s death happened a while ago, while the second version is much more in the present. They’re also different in the actions of the father. In the first version, the monologue takes place from an observial standpoint. The father seems distant, observing the mother’s grief, but too crippled by his own loss to do anything about it except to know it. The other is much more involved. In the second, he still feels overwhelmed with loss, but his action of kissing the tear trailing down his wife’s cheek makes the experience much more shared and hopeful. Also, in the last line of each poem I use the word “sour,” but in the first version I use it in the past tense because he’s cemented in his grief. While in the second I use it in the present when it’s still fresh and able to be mended. So I think the first is more of an interior monologue (almost a memory), where the second is more close to the moment and to them as a couple, making it an interior monologue that interacts strongly/more physically with the “you” making it almost an address.