An Interview with Amy Leigh Cutler

The Understanding between Foxes and Light contributor Amy Leigh Cutler chats with Thomas Fucaloro 

Amy Leigh Cutler is the founder of the Timshel [Collective] artist colony and is a current graduate student at The New School in New York City. She is the author of Orange Juice and Rooftops (Eloquent Press, 2009) and the chapbooks American Woman and You Gentle Thing.

TF: So, Amy, you've been on the poetry scene for awhile. Any tips for some of our young poets out there?

ALC: Sure. I guess like anything that you deeply love, commit to it. Write every day. Keep showing up at readings, submit your work, and do not take rejections to mean that you are a failure. Look at them as part of the process. Do not think that winning a slam or getting a piece published is what will validate you or your work. Your relationship to your craft, your faithfulness in showing up, and your willingness to grow and change in life and in your work are validation enough.

TF: Your poem "Long After You Left for Virginia" starts off the anthology. Why do you not cry?

ALC: "Long After You Left for Virginia" is about an inconsolable longing of the human heart. The title of the poem is also the inciting incident. In response to "you" leaving, the poem begins, "I plant tomatoes / I plant tomatoes" which is both a physical response and, in its repetition, a sort of reminder to stay focused on a task and not think about the leaving. The third line, "I do not cry", is a sort of choked back cry in itself. The words are shorter, harder sounding, and restrained. So I guess I cannot say why I do not cry, only that every word in the poem is meant to hold back tears, and in the third line, the poem reveals the restraint and failure to restrain before slipping right back into the task meant to distract from longing, "I plant tomatoes."

TF: Your poem is literally four lines. How did that come to be? Did you chisel it down from a longer work, or did it just come out that way and you slapped a title on it?

ALC: This one came out four lines. The title came first. I spent a few minutes looking at "Long after you left" and then added "for Virginia". Once I had the title the poem came very quickly.

TF: You are in the New School MFA program. How has that helped or hurt your writing?

ALC: Being in the New School MFA program has helped me by using a common language to talk about when reading and discussing poems. It's definitely helped with a lot of the technical aspects of writing poetry. My memorization of poetry and the practice of reciting and performing has suffered a little bit though. Mostly because I’m concentrating so much on writing and editing, I've put some of the other parts of the craft on the shelf for awhile.

TF: Who are you currently reading at the moment?

ALC: I'm reading Louise Gluck’s essays on Poetry, and also some of the writers I just keep reading over and over. Charles Bukowski, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T.S. Eliot, and a few others.

TF: Where do you see the state of poetry in ten years?

ALC: That depends on where you mean. In New York City I think poetry will continue to thrive and be nurtured as a performance art, a high art to be studied, and a means of nurturing the souls of subway riders on their commute in under five minutes. It is outside of that environment where I am interested in seeing poetry reestablish itself and thrive. I would love to play a part in facilitating workshops and schools of poetry in places where people have stopped reading it. I would like to see it become an integral part of education, leisure reading, and culture.

TF: When's your next book dropping?

ALC: As soon as I start shopping it around to publishers, I guess. That's another thing that I've shelved for a little while. I've got all of these poems piled up and ready to go, and I can’t stop writing. But I need to take the time and have another book published. It's my least favorite part of the process, but it is integral to me if I believe that poetry matters and should be available to the public. I don't want to just be a consumer or an insular artist. I'd like to contribute my small "ill-formed child" to the world of poetry, and let it wind up on what shelves it will.

TF: Whats next for Amy Leigh Cutler?

ALC: Well, the writing. Always the writing. And maybe some far-flung adventure to the other side of the world. I'd like to study Maori literature in New Zealand and maybe facilitate a workshop for contemporary poets there. But we shall see. The world awaits me.

Amy Leigh Cutler's poem "Long After I Left for Virginia" can be found in our anthology The Understanding between Foxes and Light.

Amy reads at our book launch at KGB Bar on Wednesday September 25th 2013.