Interview with Creative Writing Competition 2012 Finalist, Susan A. Katz

Susan A. Katz has been writing and loving poetry all her life. Her work has appeared in The American Scholar, The Kansas Quarterly, The Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, besides dozens of other literary publications. As a finalist in last year’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition, her poem Born Twice was published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013. Here, Susan talks in an interview about her creative inspiration, passion for interdisciplinary art practice, and how publication in the Aesthetica Annual sparked new creative ideas.

A: What motivated you to write poetry?
SAK: I fell in love with poetry, literally, at my father’s knee. When I was a child, he would read me the poems of Rudyard Kipling and sing On the Road to Mandalay and play it on his mandolin. I discovered then that words were magical – they could take you places, show you things, and reveal secrets that lived within the boundless world of the imagination. And so, I started writing poetry and have been writing ever since.

A: Where have you found inspiration during your writing career?
SAK: My professional life has been blessed by some amazing people: poet Professor Dan Masterson, who became my mentor, my teacher and my friend. He taught me the nuances of metaphor and simile; the power of language. And, he encouraged me to begin my career in earnest. I joined Poets in Public Service, in 1975, and began teaching in schools in New York State. And, through Dan’s encouragement, began submitting my work for publication.

The second major person to influence my career was poet, philosopher and Editor and Founder of Bitterroot International Poetry Magazine, Menke Katz. Menke taught me that poems to be poems, needed the beauty of language coupled with the power of purpose. I worked for almost 10 years as Book Review Editor of Bitterroot, until Menke’s passing.

A: You’ve placed an emphasis on integrating different art forms in your career. Can you explain how this has occurred in your work?SAK: The music specialist and teacher Judith A. Thomas and I connected while I was working in schools and, finding kindred spirits in one another, we became collaborators, conducting writing and music workshops in the United States and Canada. We placed our emphasis on integrating the arts: poetry into music, music into movement. We collaborated on two textbooks chronicling the application of our teaching philosophy and our experiences in the classroom.

A: Are you collaborating with other artists at the moment?
SAK: I am working with composer Sharon Ruchman, who has composed music for 17 of my poems. It is an amazing project that is, in essence, very much in keeping with the idea of my poem Born Twice, which was published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013. All art inspires art and, if you are very lucky, your work is “reborn” through another artist’s vision of it. We are in the process now of recording and will be making a CD. I am also working with Sharon Ruchman on putting music and sound affects to a series of interactive children’s stories that I’ve written, also for a CD series.

In writing, I am currently putting the finishing touches on two poetry collections: The Limits of Light, an exploration of the relevancy of Greek mythology in modern life and, Dreaming Missouri, a collection of poems that deal with love and loss, and the relationship of people to people, people to places and, people to the experiences that impact their lives.

A: You now make jewellery and have your own business. As a jewellery maker as well as a poet, do you find cross over between these two creative processes?
SAK: I have an online jewellery design business called Earth Whorls, LLC, and I find the process of creating a piece of jewelry very much like writing a poem. The elements, of course, are different – stones instead of words but, the process, for me, is very similar. One word at a time becomes a line, a phrase, an image, a poem and, one stone at a time, becomes a celebration of the beauty and diversity of the natural world; becomes a necklace, a bracelet, earrings. There is in poetry and in jewellery design a sense of order, passion, and purpose.

A: What was your inspiration behind your poem Born Twice published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition 2013?
SAK: The poem, Born Twice was inspired by a conversation between my husband and son. They were reflecting on passages from a novel my son has written. They were discussing how thoughts travel from the brain and then inspire an action or reaction. It occurred to me that some very meaningful thoughts never find their way to fruition for want of fertile soil. And so, when a thought (the seed) finds fertile ground in my brain, a poem is, more often than not, the “flower” that inevitably grows.

A: Do you think the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition 2013 has aided your writing career?
SAK: Most definitely! In many meaningful ways! Born Twice, having been selected to appear in the remarkable collection of poems that made up the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013, was an inspiring and humbling experience. Without exception, I found the poems in the Annual to be beautifully and powerfully written. I am inspired by the collection.

A: What are your future goals?
SAK: My goals are, and always have been, to create. To reinvent, renew, reenergize my world and, hopefully, the world of others through my writing and now, through my newest creative endeavor, jewellery designing and crafting. I hope I have many more poems waiting to be “born” and, am very hopeful I will be able to turn my love of jewelry design into a successful business.

My project with composer Sharon Ruchman is both revelatory and emotionally charged. Sharon’s music, composed as her interpretation or, emotional response to my poems, moves me and allows me to experience my own poems in new ways. I believe all of the arts to be fingers on the same hand, when they start moving together, something magical is about to happen.

To read Susan A. Katz’ poem Born Twice along with the winning entries and finalists for the Poetry and Short Fiction categories in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition 2012, download the Annual here:

1. Maren C Raaum Gyllenhammar, Interrupted, courtesy of the artist and Aesthetica.