Bio: Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of 21 books of poetry including Crow Carriage (Sweet Tooth Story Books) and The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and the editor of seven anthologies. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Kristin: Poetry was always something I was doing as long as I remember, elementary school, not sonnets, free verse. My very first poetry influence was a traveling storyteller who came to my elementary school named Rick Rogers. He wrote a book called Ballads and Tales of the Woods. It was songs and stories of the woods which he performed for us. I lived in a beach town of only 5,000 people. Rick Rogers came from a smaller and more rural environment than me. He taught me that an entertainer can have a voice bigger than their geography. He exemplified everything I hope to give out on my best day of telling stories and performing poetry.
I started writing sonnets in high school after being assigned to do so. My homelife was very rigid and prescribed in an unhealthy way, living with a very puritanical, abusive, religious family. I wrote about them and things that happened to me, but I didn’t really find my voice ironically until I submitted myself to another rigid structure which was the Shakespearean sonnet.
Once I learned that form, freeing myself from stylistic choices, I felt allowed to speak boldly. In fact, being direct was a necessity due to the brevity of the form. This was a godsend to a shy, repressed girl like me. It gave me permission to be utterly truthful and efficient in my language. One of the first books I wrote was Shakespeare for Sociopaths. It felt good to my own my influence with that title. The book is just what is says Shakespearean sonnets for sociopaths i’ve known and read about in the news – true crime. https://amzn.to/3gIESfQ
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Kristin: Certainly Shakespeare remains an influence as long as I write. I’m influenced by so many writers. I just recently reread a book that I feel influenced my writing a lot when I was younger which is “Beasts” by Joyce Carol Oates. My favorite book as a child was “Wuthering Heights” and I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew books. I have all the Nancy Drew books. The first novel I wrote, which was published recently by Daily Drunk serially and is available in print on Amazon is called “The Avalon Hayes Mysteries”.
It takes the teen girl detective trope through directing it at the teenage girl’s own small town, very complicated life. It felt good to pay homage to something that gave me such pleasure but modernize it a bit.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Kristin: I’ve always been writing, but for most of my life I was afraid to share my work. I don’t remember not being a writer, but I definitely remember the fear of putting myself out there.
Still I could not resist taking creative writing in college, and in that milieu I shared my sonnets. Th e content of my sonnets at this time time was very sexually related. Being in college in the early 90’s in the Deep South, pre 50 Shades of Grey, this was a very controversial subject matter to some of my students in my class. Though I wrote very bold, I was very shy.
My professor, she championed me. When people made puritanical comments, she stood up for me. She believed in my combination of an ancient form with very modern content. She offered me a partial scholarship to graduate school. Though I didn’t complete graduate school due to my own need to get out for once and for all from an abusive home life, I held onto the fact that this woman had chosen my writing to nurture.
Some of the poems I wrote in my college creative writing classes were published in poetic kinky memoir “The Meadow” published by APEP publications.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Kristin: I’ve been lucky to have some great mentors in the writing world. Everyone needs different things from a mentor. I am very self-driven as far as my writing discipline. Writing is something I do every day.
Publishing my work, reading my work did not come naturally to me. I’ve come to be known for my online readings but I never read a poem of mine out loud successfully until I started publishing in my 40’s. The only time I even attempted to read was in my graduate program where we were required to do so – and I ran off stage crying.
The person who ultimately brought me back to writing and ultimately publishing was a poet named Jeff Robinson. He was part of my local poetry scene I was involved with during college – lived at a commune which held regular readings. I never was brave enough to read there but sat in the back and scribbled in a notebook. Jeff performed his poems and we became friends. He was one of the people I shared my work with privately at the time and he always encouraged me.
He moved away and we lost touch for a long time. During this time, I became a stripper then a court reporter and always wrote but grew more reclusive and more detached from the idea of ever publishing. Then he contacted me out of the blue to tell me he was dying. We spoke on social media and the language was sparse and filled with errors. He had a brain tumor and it was truly a great effort to communicate.
He spoke to me without the patience I was used to about my writing. He inquired if I was still doing it and if I was sharing it. When I told him I wasn’t, he demanded that I had to do it. We were close to the same age and his life was coming to an end, and he didn’t have to point out that this could be me. I made a commitment to work towards publication.
I only had one publication at this point in my life which was the result of another person’s interest in my writing. I had written a sonnet with a shared experience with him. He was a published writer of erotica so he knew of opportunities in this milieu. He sent my sonnet without telling me to a submission call for an anthology published by Laura Antoniou. I was actually living at home at the time and had to use an alias when this sonnet was published, the only poem accepted in the book. My name in the book was my scene name, what people in the community called me in lieu of my real name, Scarlet.
I didn’t know exactly how to publish and had no writing community so I found one online. I joined a site called Scribophile. I was working on a novel that would become “The Avalon Hayes Mysteries” and also a prose version of what would become “The Meadow.” But while I was there I wrote a short story that was solicited for publication by SCAB Magazine and I started publishing sonnets which became very popular on the site and I was encouraged to publish online. Once I started publishing with various literary magazines, I found poetry on Twitter which has become a home, at times a dysfunctional family but one I cherish so much. It has changed my life.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Kristin: Place affects me immensely, I was just talking recently with my poet friend Justin Karcher, who is from Buffalo about this very thing – how we consider ourselves regional poets. This is not to say that our work isn’t meant for those who are not from where we are from- but just that we are tied to where we are from. You feel it in our writing.
I am a product of the Deep South. My family goes back three generations here. Pensacola is something I inherently understand and grapple with in my own way in my writing. It’s behind the times in ways that I have affected me growing up as an abused child, working as a stripper – I felt vulnerable to its deeply ingrained misogyny and patriarchal attitudes.
I had to deal with a lot of shame living here, and partly to deal with that I became very reclusive. But I wouldn’t leave because I am very connected to the longleaf trees and the bays and the Gulf and the beautiful white sand. I live in the woods, and the natural world inspires so much of my writing. Living here feels like a privilege to me. The water and the woods have worked there way into my creative works many times in books like “Were Mer, Girlarium and Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream”
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Kristin: This question makes me feel guilty like i’d imagine being asked to choose a favorite child. All my books obviously are incredibly meaningful to me (and I hope to some other people) because they monopolized my brain for a time in the way only a book or lover can. I would of course then say that your first book plays a special role in you life.
For me, this was Pink Plastic House. It was by far the hardest book for me to get published because I didn’t know how to do that. The whole process seemed mystical. When I tried to demystify the process, I ran into obstacles that broke my heart. I feel like publishing that book was a deflowering – to borrow a patriarchal idea. By the time it reached Maverick Duck which treated it and me with the utmost care, all my naive delusions about the poetry world had been taken from me.
I try to always be there for people who have questions, people new in the community because I didn’t have that.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Kristin: I love reading and watching movies. Both of these activities also inspire my writing. Living in the woods, I love to go walking and be alone with my thoughts. I write a lot of poems on my Iphone while i’m walking, too. I also love collecting socks and wearing them which has translated to a lot of poetry too. I have published a digital book of sock poems and photography and I’m working on a print deluxe edition of that now. I’m a Capricorn so I manage to turn a lot of things into work that start out as comfort or relaxation.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Kristin: This line I like a lot of mine from my new book “The Death of Alice in Wonderland” and the poem “The Dandelion and the Damned”
"The slenderest petals shriveled entomb, the delicate skull that fascinates soon." This book I wrote about aging and my womanchildishness and how the former affects the latter. I expressed a lot of fears in this book as well as a lot of experiences in a fairytale languagethat I found so pleasurable to live inside for a time.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Kristin: I have two books forthcoming in the next year. The first is coming this fall from Sweet Tooth Story Books. It’s a horror novel called “Crow Carriage.” This book tells the story of a nobleman/amateur doctor who performs experiments on girls from the neighboring village. Next year, I have a poetry collection on the subject of fire as a tool of misogyny used against women historically and in modern times. This book will be published by Really Serious Literature in 2022.
Other books & link from Kristin: