Carly Joy Miller is the author of Ceremonial (Orison Books, 2018), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2017 Orison Prize for Poetry, and the chapbook Like a Beast (Anhinga Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Rick Campbell Prize. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Poetry International, the co-director of the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press.
Here’s Quick Temper with Carly Joy Miller:
Why do you write?
I write in order to understand myself, which sounds selfish at first. Writing helps ease my mind when I’m feeling anxious or trying to work through some form of grief or desire within myself. When I’m not distinct on my colloquial answers to a feeling or situation, I turn to where my poems turn: toward the lyric. The texture of language helps me push emotion and thought into a place where I can grapple and hold everything outside of my body–let it have its space to sort itself out.
Who do you hope reads your work?
Of course the broad answer is everyone and anyone! There are many teachers, like Ilya Kaminsky and Sandra Alcosser, that I hope are proud of me and where the work is going. There are heroes, like Katie Ford, who made me cry when I learn they read my work. There are many, many poet friends, and many loved ones, that I hope pick up my book and resonate with something in it. But one of the truest joys is the surprise when someone reads my work and lets me know that it means something to them–my hope is always for that surprise of who the work may reach. I’m forever grateful for it.
Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?
Anger, in my case, is more about power, even when the poem strives toward tender. Many of my poems consider erotics with violence, which was pointed out to me at a Q&A, and when I was asked why, I answered, “Sometimes you have to destroy the lover to discover yourself.” Erotics–whether desire, longing, sex–can be a violence depending on how it’s wielded. I’ve been in many situations where I have been shut down as a voice, or realized what I wanted to say in a conversation later. The poems create a space, driven by sound, where I can allow myself to explore all the facets of power: To own my longing, seduction, and power; to allow something to shatter into clarity.
Angry book recommendations for angry readers?
Virgin by Analicia Sotelo. We, the Almighty Fires by Anna Rose Welch. Some Say the Lark by Jennifer Chang. I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson. If You Have to Go by Katie Ford (all of her books, honestly). Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang. Bluets by Maggie Nelson. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Poems by Leslie Sainz and Paige Lewis (whose book, Space Struck, I cannot stop clapping about). And I cannot cannot cannot wait for The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan.