To celebrate the official print release of Our Beautiful Reward on March 16th (virtual release party Sunday the 19th, you’re invited!), I asked some of the contributors a few of the questions foremost on my mind. It’s been too long since we’ve run many interviews here, and I’ve missed it; getting to know writers and how they think and feel has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Reckoning for me since the beginning. I hope their answers prove as enlightening to you as they have been to me.
We’re posting one mini-interview a day til we run out—today it’s Juliana Roth, whose poem “Roses in Washington Square Park” you can read online here along with a bunch of her past work, all of which is thoughtful and excellent.
Michael: How do the tools of speculative writing help you to think and communicate about what’s being done to personal freedoms around our bodies?
Juliana: I feel that all writing is speculative writing–in that we are taking pieces and fragments of observation and alchemizing them in some way, to present some outcome or sort of epiphany. I think that opening up to what we think can be examined in literature allows readers and writers to explore new possibilities or consequences of current circumstances in a concentrated way. In writing Roses in Washington Square Park, I felt myself drawn to discovering the intentions of another artist and different modes of public interactions: audience with art, overhearing a stranger’s conversation, protest. In doing so, I felt myself make what feels like a wish for a world where boundaries around bodies are respected, understood. Because this isn’t a current reality at all times in the present, I feel it is in that sense speculative, but one that is possible. One that can certainly be more than a wish.
Michael: What are you reading and thinking about that helps put this issue in perspective for you?
Juliana: A lot of poetry. Poets like Ross Gay, Ocean Vuong, Ada Limon–those who really study the land, animals, and communities.
Michael: Tell us, if you’d like, about something you’re doing, outside of writing, to make the world a less hostile and dystopian place for human beings with bodies to exist in?
Juliana: I’m a professor of writing and I work with undergraduates. I teach a class called “Documenting Beauty,” in which they explore the “eye” of their watching, how they think, what they think, how they may resee preconceived notions. Spending a few hours a week studying these concepts together, and reading widely, I hope elevates the room, if only for that short time. Hopefully beyond.
Michael: Thank you very much!