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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?

Clayton:
My poems are usually born in the dark. The act of writing, for me, is an act of transfiguration from darkness to light. Of taking the shades of the myself I don’t realize exist and forcing them out onto a white page for dissection. But that implies a sort of sterility inherent in the light, which is not what I mean. The dark is not always dirty, and the light is not always clean. Often, after a poem wriggles itself into the daylight for examination, the very act of dissection creates a whole new realization of darkness.

As for the second question ... yes and no. Of course they need one another. They cannot exist alone. A lot of my poetry is about cycles, and the cycle from dark to light is continuous and natural. Settling into a place of light or dark for a time means at one point there was a sinking, that in the future there will be a rising, and on and on. So that is my yes. But there is also the no. Sometimes we have to black out the curtains and forget the light exists. We have to settle into the shadows. A poem of shadows can be complete in and off itself. But then ... that settling is the first necessary step before the inevitable rise back to lightness, so maybe my answer is actually a firm yes.

Transom:
In your poem, the “woman’s bed” transitions from tranquil nest to stinging hive, a locus of potential harm. But where should we locate the principal threat—in the speaker’s furious domesticity, or in her struggle against it? What is the titular image of “shellac” meant to protect the speaker(s) from?

Clayton:
This is a hard question to answer. The threat in this poem comes from past experiences of trauma located in a bed. The threat is not physically present in this poem, but psychically remains. The speaker is struggling (unsuccessfully) not to allow the “stinging” past to enter into her current realm. One where no real threat is actually present, but danger is perceived even in the most seemingly comfortable and traditionally calming places. Where the real threat is memory, and the refusal to recognize the impact and weight of past traumas. The recognition that the refusal is what keeps it coming back in unexpected moments.

The “shellac” the speaker covers herself with is meant to protect against events she cannot yet face, but it cracks and crumbles. The shellac is a faulty shield, one that invites further trauma and re-enacting rather than facing what is underneath. The shellac is an attempt to protect the speaker from herself, from her own neglect to process what is swarming.