We Ask Our Parents About Poetry
It’s with pleasure and some cleverly-timed winking that I introduce The Adroit Journal Blog’s new biweekly series, “We Ask Our Parents About Poetry.” Every feature, an Adroit Journal staff member will volunteer the innerworkings of his or her family life by interviewing parents and guardians about writing. And while the series’ fun, alliterative title suggests this series is focused only on poetry, the “writing” we’re asking our beloved parents about can include prose, prose-poems, the writing process—in short, just about anything. My own life as a writer lends itself to a dramatically fluctuating ego: with acceptances, there’s an internal scene, and with rejections, there’s an even grander internal scene. I know the support of family and friends is, therefore, as appreciated as it is vital—when I publish in a magazine you’ve never heard of, buddy, it’s still your love and support that keeps me going.
Now. Given all the niceties.
The actual instance in which a parent or loved one Googles your writing and reads it—has anyone ever walked in on you watching compromising videos? Ever towel-dropped by accident, or watched succeed you into the bathroom stall after you’d finished serious business?
In short, it can be (but isn’t always!) mortifying. Loved ones can’t always dissociate work from the writer. Everything could be taken for a messy reveal, and may the universe help you in the very likely event that your work draws upon real life and real people. Such as, but not excluding, parents.
So, perhaps not unfortunately, parents remain in the dark about the work of their children. It’s a kind of consensual, unspoken cluelessness. Which is why “We Ask Our Parents About Poetry,” brought to you courtesy of Adroit’s always ingenious Editor-in-Chief, Peter LaBerge, is such fun. It’s time to speak the delicately unspoken.
This week, we’re proud to present Poetry Reader Amanda Silberling!
Amanda Silberling is a two-time commended Foyle Young Poet of the Year and a Scholastic Gold Medalist in Poetry. Recently, her writing has appeared in The Fat City Review, Nostrovia Poetry, The Louisville Review, and The Los Angeles Times, among other places. In addition to her work with Adroit, she is an editor at Polyphony H.S and the Managing Editor of Winter Tangerine Review. Amanda is currently a high school senior in South Florida, and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, where she plans to study English and Creative Writing.
Amanda Silberling (Poetry Reader): How would you define poetry?
Lisa Silberling (Mother): Beautiful written work that flows, that does not necessarily need to rhyme, and has a purpose.
Ken Silberling (Father): Art made with words.
AS: How is that different from prose?
Ken: Umm, poetry is shorter, and more succinct.
Lisa: But what about The Odyssey?
Ken: Ehh, I’m not into The Odyssey.
AS: What makes a poem good?
Lisa: That you understand it.
Ken: It makes you think about yourself… Self-reflection.
Lisa: You can follow the story, and what the author’s trying to tell you, or express.
Ken: It’s somebody’s unique perspective on life.
AS: What’s your favorite poem or poet?
Lisa: (in jest) Amanda Silberling! Of course!
Ken: You know, I don’t spend a lot of time reading poetry.
Lisa: I don’t read poetry, but when [you and your brother] were children, I used to read Shel Silverstein to you, and I mean, I loved it. I remember being in the dentist’s office with your brother, and Shel Silverstein was the scariest… Okay, Shel Silverstein, when he was alive, and he had The Sidewalk… or something…
Ken: The tree?
Lisa: Yes! The Giving Tree!
AS: Those are two different things.
Lisa: Well, in the very back of the book, on the back cover, Shel Silverstein was a very ugly man. He was bald, he had a mustache and a beard– he was just scary looking, and I kept thinking, why in the world would you put a huge picture of your face on the back of your own book? I mean, he was scary looking! But I do like reading Shel Silverstein.
Actually, the first works that you and your brother ever read were Dr. Seuss! Because it rhymed, and it was easy, and if you knew “red,” you knew “bed.” It just gave you encouragement to read. But yeah, I personally don’t read poetry. Except Amanda Silberling. Occasionally Peter LaBerge…
Ken: Suess. Suess is the man.
Lisa: Yeah, he’s the man.
AS: True or false: The Adroit Journal is a charitable literary magazine.
Lisa: According to your college applications, yes.
Ken: I don’t know if you would call it charitable… Let’s just say… It’s art. Maybe it’s a not-for-profit, but is it charity? No. It’s giving the world the gift of art, and it’s giving young people opportunities to express themselves to a mass audience, but I wouldn’t consider it charity.
AS: It’s true. We’ve donated proceeds to the Acumen Fund, and last issue, we collaborated on a feature with the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights. We also did a Cuban Dissidents feature a few issues ago.
Ken: Well, that answers that question.
AS: Another Adroit question– how many issue of Adroit have been published?
Ken: Three thousand, two hundred, and forty-one.
Lisa: Hmm… Sixteen?
Lisa: What!? You’re slacking! (laughing) Who cares about school?
AS: This question is for Mom. Tell me about the time you fell asleep because of my poetry.
Lisa: Oh, no. Okay, so really, really late at night…
Ken: It was around 9 P.M…
Lisa: Stop! Really late at night, Amanda was reading me her poetry, and she had just flown home from the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, so I was tired… And I closed my eyes because I wanted to imagine all the images… and I fell asleep! So now she’s going to dedicate her first book: “To my mother, who fell asleep when I read her my poems.” I was just closing my eyes because I wanted to hear the imagery, but I was really tired. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
AS: For the last question, you’re both going to be looking at three poems. One of them is a poem by yours truly, one of them is a poem in the latest issue of Adroit— which is the eighth!– and the last one was written by Sylvia Plath. The names are taken off of each poem, and you have to identify which is which.
Lisa: Okay, Sylvia Plath wanted to kill herself right? Let’s see if that helps.
[Reading “Gold Mouths Cry” by Sylvia Plath]
Lisa: “… sunlight of a thousand years upon his lips…” Ooh, that’s pretty.
[Reading “Open Curtain, Closed Window” by Amanda Silberling]
Lisa: “Dee drowned in a bathtub…” Oh, this is definitely Sylvia Plath… Wait! “…dried out like sweet potato skins…” You love sweet potato! I don’t know, that’s a giveaway, right there!
[Reading “Topography of Not” by Quinn White, Adroit Contributor]
Ken: Okay, I’ve got my answer.
AS: What do you think it is?
Ken: I know it. Okay, I think Sylvia Plath is the first, Amanda is the second, and Adroit is the third.
Lisa: Oh my God, because “sweet potato skins” gives it away… So I think, “Open Curtain, Closed Window” is you… Sorry, girl. I am 100% agreed with your father. That’s what I think about the poems. Although, you could do “Gold Mouths Cry.”
Ken: Ehh, no, not that one. I thought that one was… bad.
Lisa: Okay, how wrong are we?
AS: You’re actually both 100% correct. I’m kind of shocked.
Lisa: Ahh! We know our daughter. The “sweet potato” was a giveaway for me.
Ken: I mean, quite frankly, I wasn’t too crazy about Sylvia Plath. I mean, gold, bronze… big deal.
Lisa: And “Topography of Not,” well, that sounded kind of deep, so it’s Adroit.
Ken: Yeah, that one was crazy…
AS: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
Lisa: Why are you asking us such hard questions?
This ruled. Really reminds me of discussions with my parents about poetry and my work. Both are receptive to it and super supportive but poetry ain’t their thang. Thanks to you and your parents for working hard on this. Checking out your poems now–good luck out there!