A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Christina Strigas

with Christina Strigas:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Christina:

Writing has always been my go-to. It all started with journal writing in high school, which turned into writing poems. During one particular English exam, the teacher asked us to read a poem and analyze it.   I must have finished in record time and felt so mindful writing down my interpretation. After class, everyone was saying, “What was that poem about, man?”  I listened to everyone complain, and that’s when I realized that I was different; that’s when I realized I understood this poetic language better than my friends and classmates. Suddenly, my friends were making requests for poems, and I wrote poems every day during class. Can you write a poem about my boyfriend? I just broke up with my boyfriend? Can you write me a poem I can give him? Friends and acquaintances would give me scenarios, and I would recreate their love into a heartbreaking poem. If I would look back at those poems now, I may have a few somewhere in an old shoebox in the garage, and I would probably gag at how infantile and cliché they were, but at the same time, they were the poems that started this love affair with words so I can’t be too tough on myself. What kind of weird gift was this? Did I think to myself?  This knack for writing poems for strangers. I wrote so many poems and then typed them out.  During typing class, I recopied most of Jim Morrison’s poems for the fun of it. I suppose he was the first poet I adored. Listening to those albums, his poetry readings, and reading his lyrics changed my life. They made me see the world differently. It was a portal into the sky that a select few could grasp. Once I started college and discovered the vast aisles a library contained, I spent hours recopying poems onto lined paper. I sat on the floor under the Poetry section and knew the books off by heart. I recopied Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Shelley, Virginia Woolf, on and on…

Then one day, nineteen-year-old me walked into a second-hand book store across from my university. I picked up The Selected Poems of Anne Sexton for a couple of bucks and fell in love with her writing style. Her poetry awakened something in me. Her poetry book is always close by me at any moment.

I started a blog in my thirties and started to share my poems online, which also helped me get out of my shell and share my work and ideas.

www.christinastrigas.com

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Christina: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and T.S. Eliot are poets that keep influencing me. Margaret Atwood is a goddess of writing. She keeps astounding me with her novels and poetry books. Atwood is the G.O.A.T. She can weave stories like a magician. She can write poems that clench your guts. Hers is the type of writing that keeps me grounded and makes me strive to achieve better daily.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?

Christina:

I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. My parents were hard-working Greek immigrants who came to Canada, struggled with the two languages and built a life here. I grew up in the city and moved to the suburbs when I was in elementary school. Living in the suburbs kept me focused on school and reading, but I have always been a free spirit and wild at heart. The city was full of life; we stayed up late; played hide-and-seek in the Montreal alleys with cousins and neighbours, and created fond memories that make me nostalgic. Moving to the suburbs opened up a whole new world for me; friends from other cultures and the abundance of sky and land to ride my bike and play outdoors without fear. I loved reading outdoors under the trees in my backyard for hours. I learned to enjoy the moments and breathe. It was a twenty-minute drive to Montreal;  this made life always exciting. I studied English Literature at Concordia University, worked as a barmaid in Old Montreal, and taught adults part-time until I finished my degree. I learned so much about humanity by being a bartender at my boyfriend’s pub and living the nightlife. We had live bands nightly at the pub, talked to all kinds of people from all walks of life, stayed up late until the sun came up, and lived every minute. My environment, my city, my culture have always played a role in my writing. My novel’s locations are in Montreal. My poetry book, especially my latest, Love & Metaxa, includes poems about the city, life, family, love, death, being Greek, being raised in a Greek household and relationships with loved ones.  Also, what it means to be a mother, daughter, wife, lover, and granddaughter coming from an immigrant family.

Here is a photo of some of my journals on my bookshelf in my writing room.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Christina: My family trips to Greece evoke memories that sometimes turn into poetry. In my novels, I like to research cities. In my novel  Crush, I wanted it to be in St-Tropez. I had never travelled there, but I have researched it intensely. Half of the novel’s location was in Montreal the other half was in St-Tropez. The familiarity of my city makes it easy for me to write. Travelling to different countries opens up my creativity and the artist in me.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Christina: I have been writing since high school, but when I was thirty-nine years old, I published my first novel. It’s a long story how that happened, but essentially, I met a spiritual counsellor who did a tarot reading for me and told me that she saw me signing and writing books. Up until then, it all felt as if I would keep my writing in my drawers, but after that pivotal moment, I felt as if I had more stories inside me. I partnered with her to start chronicling her stories and wrote three books about her life through a first-person narrative. I wrote those three books over a couple of years, but writing them made me realize that I can be a writer and publish my work.
Another pivotal moment was in 2015 when my niece took my phone and opened up an Instagram account to share my poetry. At the time, I did not realize that her action would lead me to make connections and publish four poetry books.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Christina: If only I knew how to relax; drinking coffee in the morning during the summer when I am off of work and catching up on all my writing projects is my way of relaxing. Oh, wait, did you say relax? I like to meditate, take long walks with my dog, read books, listen to music, and enjoy moments with family and friends. The only time I can truly relax is when I am on a beach, preferably in Greece, and reading books with no concept of time. I love spending time with my family and reconnecting. My recent hobby is painting. I am painting acrylic on canvas using various techniques/ My writing room has become a painting studio in one corner.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Christina: I recently self-published Love & Metaxa, my latest poetry book. Now, I am working on a poetry book with Alexandra Meehan and Jacquie Prebich. I have another poetry book that I need to edit, and I have a novel that I have been working on for a couple of years now. As you can see, I can’t relax. My mind is constantly on fire.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Christina: My favorite poems are “All My Pretty Ones,” “ The Double Image,” “Us,” by Anne Sexton, but I honestly can’t pick a favorite. I would also include“Daddy,” by Sylvia Plath, and “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. Shakespeare also changed my life once I read the love sonnets. Let me add Pablo Neruda for the beauty of language he uses to describe love.

favorite artwork “I Love the Kiss by Gustav Klimt”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Christina: Alexandra Meehan has helped me the most with my writing. She is an excellent editor. Alexandra Meehan edited my poetry book, Love & Metaxa, but beyond her editing expertise, she and I are poetic soul mates. We can discuss and analyze poems and poetry for hours. She reads my poems and can dissect them or tell me how to improve them. Some of my poems are so long, once I get into my stream of consciousness, and Alexandra can chop up poems and tell me that I have two poems written instead of one. When Alexandra Meehan began editing my poems a few years ago, I finally realized how much I needed to improve my writing and become a better poet. She has made me see that poetry is all about showing and not telling. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her editing skills and her friendship.

Links:

From Avalanches in Poetry writings & art inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019) How Leonard Cohen Kept Evading Me by Christina Strigas

https://amzn.to/3ztMiuz

https://www.iambapoet.com/christina-strigas

Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Ryan Norman

Bio for Ryan Norman

Ryan Norman (he/him) is a queer writer from New York living in the Hudson Valley. Ryan enjoys swimming in mountain lakes and climbing tall things. He is a contributing editor of creative nonfiction with Barren Magazine. His work has appeared in From Whispers to Roars, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Hobart, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. His micro chapbook I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A BOND GIRL is forthcoming with The Daily Drunk July 2021 and his chapbook CICADA SONG is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press November 2021. You can find him on Twitter @RyanMGNorman or ryanmgnorman.com

(c) Maggs Vibo

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences? Q2: Who is your biggest influences today?

Ryan: I first started writing when I was in elementary school. My first memory of writing is holding a little booklet I stapled together called, “Looks Can Be Deceiving”. Pretty cynical point of view there, little me. But it really wasn’t that bad. It was just about nice cats and mean cats. I started taking writing more seriously in high school, and that’s when I discovered Plath. She is my forever influence.

Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume II: 1956 – 1963: Plath, Sylvia:  9780571339211: Amazon.com: Books
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?

Ryan: I grew up in a medium-sized city in New York. We lived near the woods and spent a lot of time in them. A lot of my work involves some aspect of nature and usually are set in the Summer; I think that growing up playing in the woods really affected my interests and things I notice, hence writing about nature often. Home has played a large role in my writing, but traveling hasn’t sparked any thoughts in me. I’ve written two poems that I can remember off-hand and they’re both in my chapbook Cicada Song

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Ryan: I can’t think of anything in particular. My first published poem happened in 11th grade and since then I’ve been a poet. I did have a high school English teacher tell me I should go to school for writing, but instead I studied Psychology and Occupational Therapy. It was good advice though. I probably should have listened.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Ryan: It may not come as a surprise, but I like to hike and sit next to the river when I need to relax or clear my head. And of course there are always video games. Will I ever complete Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Probably not. But I will find a tree to climb.

Q7: Any recent or upcoming work you’d like to promote?

Ryan: I do have two poetry chapbooks coming out this year. I’ve already mentioned Cicada Song, which is coming out mid-November. Pre-orders for that begin July 28th from Finishing Line Press. For those interested, Cicada Song is about navigating the often dark and threatening landscape of today by examining the role of mental health and relationships. And I have a digital chapbook called I always wanted to be a Bond Girl that comes out July 30th with The Daily Drunk. This one is more about taking what you want despite the consequences, and if the title doesn’t give it away, this is a pop collection centered around James Bond-ness.

Q8: What is one of your favorite lines from one of your poems, or favorite lines from others? Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Ryan: My favorite line actually comes from an essay I wrote called Parking Lot Neon published in Hobart Pulp and the line is, “I like the anonymity of speaking into the holes at the drive-thru. Watching my words pop up in fragments on the screen.” And I think it would be really fun to say I started that piece in a workshop, but I workshopped it in my Notes app. But I did take a workshop that really helped my writing. It was held in an un-air conditioned carriage house in Brooklyn, and it was one place. I would say that has impacted my writing the most so, thank you Leslie Jamison.