Chella Courington, Guest Editor of Poetry, Volume 4
We're very fortunate to have Chella Courington as our guest editor of poetry for Volume 4, which will be out in late November, and is titled "Stardust."
With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, Chella Courington is the author of six poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry appears in numerous anthologies and journals including Spillway, Pirene's Fountain, and The Los Angeles Review. To introduce you to this talented poet and teacher, here is an excerpt of an interview "Chella Courington: A Feminist, Fearless Voice" by Lit Jo contributor Gwen Dandridge in July of 2018. Gwen Dandridge: Has being a writing professor changed your understanding of what it takes to be a writer? Chella Courington: I know that I struggle like everybody else: today I’m not a writer, tomorrow I’m a writer. When older students come into writing class for the first time, you can just see the way they struggle to get their story. They can write a draft but those students are aware of good writing and use of language. I help to develop it. Playing with the language is so important. Narrative and story are important. Having the language work on a lot of different levels is important. Leaving gaps for the reader to fill in, not telling the reader everything. Gwen: What do most well-written poems have in common? Chella: They have heart and intellect. They get to those dark places and reveal. It’s uncomfortable but you work with it. That’s the beginning. A lot of it is aesthetic. I have a certain taste, I like a certain musicality and what is popular now is a cacophony of voice. Gwen: What is hardest thing to teach new writers? What is the easiest? Chella: The hardest is to get writers to go to that place they don’t want to go to. The easiest to teach is to just sit down and write. That’s why I always begin each class with free writing, just five or ten minutes, don’t edit…that’s the easiest to teach. If they get into the habit of writing, some things become a lot easier. Then when they sit down to a blank screen they don’t freak out. I have a tendency to obsess over every word and you just have to get past that. Gwen: What are the most common mistakes of beginning writers? Chella: I don’t think a lot of writers I see are readers. You have to read, even if you’re reading journals. You’ve got to read to understand whether or not you’re interested in pleasing an audience or just yourself. Realize you’re not working in a vacuum, you’re not remaking the wheel. There are writers who aren’t interested in audience, they’re writing for their own pleasure. But even so, you should be reading to get a sense of word, story, what’s going on. It’s informing yourself. Writers need to be readers. There are great online journals. It’s an alternative way of showing how words work, because if you’re involved in the language and the narrative, the technical things like structure work into your system. Gwen: Is there a subject you return to again and again to write? Chella: I write a lot about female sexuality, issues that women face. I think the personal is political. You have to balance the language and the message and I think that’s a problem with political writing, it sounds like a rant and it loses its appeal and freshness. I’m always returning to woman-centered stories. As I’m working through these myths, I’m looking at those women whose stories weren’t told because women weren’t telling the stories. For instance in Greek mythology, I can imagine Leda having a relationship with the swan. She could’ve had a satisfying relationship with that swan. I’m concerned with the marginal: female sexuality and point of view, concern with how women are treated. I’m a white, privileged woman. I haven’t been consistently overlooked, though I have been sexually harassed and abused. So I’m pretty careful about my voice. I don’t try to enter the voice of others.