Involuntary Rabbits: An Interview with Abby Coleman

Abby Coleman chats with Thomas Fucaloro

Abby Coleman is a poet and artist living in Brooklyn. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at The New School and a teacher for Writopia Lab NYC—a national community of young writers ages eight to eighteen. Her poem "Involuntary Rabbits" can be found in our latest collection The Understanding between Foxes and Light.

TF: So Abby, tell us some of your aesthetics of writing and how you apply it to your poetry?

AC: I love writing that creates a world I've never seen. It allows me to exist in a temporary place and think without restriction. I try to apply this to my own poems when I transform the reality of an experience. Writing mostly from truth, I take a piece of an actual event in my life and write it in a different place, or from a different emotion.

TF: In your poem, "Involuntary Rabbits", form seems to be something you like to play with. Why so boxy? Does it allow you a way in that free write doesn't offer?

AC: The first draft of "Rabbits" was lineated and it didn't work at all. I don’t break anything now until I’m satisfied with content. I’ll free write, (well actually I justify the margins, but I’m not conscious of where it breaks) and decide whether or not the lines are strong enough to exist alone stacked on top of each other, or if they need each other, therefore in a box, like a gift for the reader to unwrap. I feel like broken lines need to be powerful alone and I don’t always feel that way about my work because it’s prosey.

TF: “One by one I extract heads or pieces of heads” is one of my favorite lines in this poem. Is this based on a true story, or is it just your mind creating it?

AC: It is based on a true story. The home in which I grew up sits on a trove of skulls I often played with as a child...Okay, that’s not true, but once in high school when I was mowing the lawn, I ran over baby bunnies that had burrowed into the ground. Horrified, I extracted each tiny rabbit to inspect for injury. Luckily, I only gave them a haircut and anxiety problems for the rest of their lives.

TF: You turned me onto the poet Zach Schomburg, and he has completely transformed how I look at poetry. Tell us what he has done for you.

AC: I was fortunate enough to take a class with Zach when I was an undergrad at Hendrix College. It was those three weeks with him and three of my peers that solidified my dream to “be” a poet. He introduced me to contemporary poetry and the absurd, changing the way I wrote, read, and thought.

TF: You are studying at the New School for your MFA. How is that going? Have you noticed a change in your poetry?

AC: It’s going. Not so much a change, but a refinement. I feel like I’m more confident in my voice and style in a way that I don’t think I would have found without the program. Sometimes I can defamiliarize too much, to the point where my poems black out. Thanks to The New School, I feel more aware of how to prevent that.

TF: Who are you currently reading?

AC: Paul Killebrew, Oliver Sacks, and Sam Lipsyte. Zach Schomburg, always.

TF:  What’s next for Abby Coleman?

AC: The Beyoncé concert. And a full-length collection that hopefully will exist somewhere besides my head, my laptop, or my cats’ eyeballs.

 Read Abby Coleman's poem "Involuntary Rabbits" in our anthology The Understanding between Foxes and Light.

Abby will be reading at our book launch at Pacific Standard, Brooklyn, on Wednesday September 4th.