Monday, July 18, 2011

Interview Series #5: Anastasia Werner Guadron

Anastasia Werner Guadron has lived a life of words --- meaningful ones, carefully chosen. She is dedicated to poetry and pursuing creative endeavors, and she travels in search of inspiration. Currently enrolled in Lesley University's MFA Program, she can be found reading her work at various venues around the country and leading a creative writing workshop through Emerging Voices. One of her poems, "Vital Sassoon," was published in The Dirty Napkin. She is also the owner of Mightier than the Sword, LLC and the vegetarian food blog The Gourmet Vegetarian, which has been up and running for several years. Anastasia and I attended the same high school, where she directed the Writers and Poets Society and created the Celebration of the Arts, both of which I dutifully took over after she graduated and attended Hunter College in NYC. I have always admired Anastasia and am very pleased to probe deeper into her passions.
Quick Look
Birthdate: July 25, 1983
Living in: Brooklyn, New York
Originally from: Port Chester, New York
Website: http://thegourmetvegetarian.com
No-Alternative: Let's talk first about your poetry --- why is this your preferred method of self-expression? What does poetry mean to you? 
Anastasia Werner Guadron: I'm in love with the deconstruction of things. Like how little kids take apart household objects or Tonka Trucks or cut their Barbie's hair only to become electricians or mechanics or hairstylists. I've been obsessed with the depackaging of what we see:  how the pizza in the microwave is more than dinner. It's a metaphor for Mondays...a first date gone wrong...a new beginning. My means of expressing such obsessions is through poetry. 

What led you on the path to pursuing an MFA in Poetry, and can you talk about this experience, too?

I waited 5 years after graduating from undergrad. I lived a little. Moved out of the Bronx...into Brooklyn...to New Jersey. Tried on a few hats but still wrote. My work began to brim within itself. I was unfamiliar with new(er) poets. I craved community and education through experienced poets. 

Now, I'm in my fourth semester and feel forever grateful to the experience of the MFA. My person/My work has transformed in the way I create, construct, deconstruct and listen. 

What is your personal process when constructing a poem? How much of it is stream-of-conscious? I know you have a thing for old typewriters (and also for fixing and painting them) --- do you prefer to start writing on a typewriter, and if so, why? 
I would say I'm a rambler. I take my notebook out each morning and either sit at a coffee shop, on a sidewalk or a bench and just let my mind play. I try not to force myself into any subject matter because I feel like the self will create authentic topics organically. 

This doesn't mean I don't try to write about certain subjects. I still think it is beneficial to challenge myself to write about specific topics, but I think it is important to always be free-writing. 

I easily get writers block. I use the repairing of and the typing on typewriters to refresh my methods of writing. Any process can get mundane if you do it over and over again. You have to use greater physical force when writing on a typewriter and the sound of the keys create a natural rhythm. I immediately feel reconnected to the act of writing. 

How big a role does revision play in your process? And who do you turn to for helpful suggestions and critique? 
I hate the word revision so I say "play." Play is essential to the making of the poem.

Sometimes I literally cut a poem and fling the words in the air. I pick up the pieces and tape them back on the page in a new order. Even if this isn't the way the poem stays, the very act introduces me to bumps and brights that I hadn't seen before. 

My suggestions come from either my best friend (who never reads) or my best poet friend (who always reads/writes). One focuses mainly on the content: Do they understand what I'm saying? The other focuses on the nuts and bolts: What is each individual line doing? 

Who are your favorite writers? What do you admire about them?
Sandra Cisneros was the first writer who inspired me to write. Her language wasn't archaic or predictable. I was ignited by how she wandered in metaphor.

Now, I am head over heals in love with Tenaya Darlington and Richard Siken. Both of their work contains an authentic truth, a raw vulnerability alongside careful attention to craft. 
What are some common themes and subjects in your poetry, and do you ever intentionally try to stray from these?

I used to think one should stray from writing about the same topic over and over again. But if your pen is going there naturally, the obsession means something.  

I write about water quite a bit. Fluid (e)motions. Boats with broken sails. Mermaids and Moby Dick. Sometimes, I have no idea why...other times, I feel lucky to dream of shell bras and fish with wired rimmed glasses, so I just go with it. 

Let's talk now about your website, The Gourmet Vegetarian. Why did you start this site, and what purpose does it serve for you?

The website acts as another form of poetry for me. The act of creating a meal (especially when your choices are limited) invigorates me. I wanted to share this experience with others in a conversational tone. 

I cook for friends a lot and usually, they ask me questions about how the kale was cooked or what was in the carrots to make them taste like that. I realized people were curious about vegetables. The website isn't designed just for vegetarians; it's for anyone who is interested in incorporating more color to their diet. 

What are some things you've learned through the years of blogging about your vegetarianism? And do you feel like you're part of a greater community, either through blogging or through your interest in leading a healthy lifestyle?

When I first started my blog, I knew no one (NO ONE) was reading but the internet immediately feels large. So even though the realistic jerk in me believed that there was little value to writing about asparagus in thin air...the optimist spoke to the people 10 hits away from my page, who would accidentally click on my link. 

I know you're a pretty optimistic person --- do you have any personal mottos that help you when things get tough, or when you face writing rejections? And do you have any advice for new writers? 

My optimism is steeped in a dark sense of reality. My brother and I were fortunate in the struggle we witnessed (and partly experienced). I believe that we can all withstand more than we think.

New Writers: Play. Write on a sidewalk with chalk. Listen to strangers on a subway. Believe in the weirdness of the (your) everyday and be honest. 

Bonus! You've got a quite a number of (mostly hidden) tattoos. What about tattooing appeals to you, and which piece of personal art is your favorite?

Tattoos and Poetry are cousins or fraternal twin sisters. They may look slightly different and have opposite personality traits but their core is the same. All my tattoos are representations of myself. I think about them for months or years before I actually do it. Where it is placed, how it is drawn (with or without color), the day it is inked all create a wholeness...just like poetry. 

My favorite is the latitude and longitude of my father's ashes on my ribcage. It is simple in view but connects to the sailor in both of us. It breathes and expands as I do. 


(photos courtesy of a.warner.)

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