In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Michael Schmeltzer
In The Field is a series devoted to highlighting the writing life and artistic process of our contributors.
- Tell us about your poem in Volume 20. How did it come to be?
“Joy, Apoptosis” came out of a need to imbue my writing with some amount of joy and tenderness, something so readily found in my daily life but less so in my work. I wanted to tackle the challenge of balancing the sacred domestic with the dread sacred, to resign myself to the fact that the world can be both irredeemable and beautiful all at once.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
I honestly thought I’d become a statistician! I was an avid reader but thought creative writing was out of my reach.But my wife (girlfriend at the time) had read the absolutely worst rhymed and metered love poetry I wrote for her when we were undergrads and somehow thought there was value in them. She suggested I take a creative writing class and here we are. She was, and still is, my most important reader.
3. How has writing shaped your life?
Writing has allowed for a certain kind of focused care and intent to be put into my words and actions. People wield themselves and their words with such reckless abandon; I find the intentionality of writing to be a balm against harm, a way to not only understand our own impact but those of others as well. Whether poetry or prose, my life and its actions, I have tried to make each word count, each movement to mean something.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
I could fill notebooks trying to answer this question succinctly. In the interest of brevity, I’ll stick to poets. There are writers like Li-Young Lee and Louise Glück who have been touchstones for decades, poets whose work strikes the core of me. Then there are more contemporary writers and thinkers like Meghan McClure who is never far from my mind. We have Kaveh Akbar’s joy-centered activism and divine-minded writing, Paige Lewis’ open-hearted devotion to wonder and curiosity, Devin Gael Kelly’s penchant for transformative vulnerability, Stephen J. Furlong’s quixotic personality combined with a drive to do good, be good, write and review well. I’m in perpetual amazement and made humble when I think of these writers.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
I’m working on a manuscript of poems that balance domestic panic with joy and softness, poems with an anxiety-induced tenderness. I’m also working on a book of “craft” essays, ones that mix memoir and my cultural lens (I am half-Japanese and moved to America when I was nine) while looking at a particular aspect of writing.
Visit Michael’s website here.