A Writer’s Expression: Moving Inward and Outward

Illaria Dana

Education Major

For artists, there is no choice but to create.

The explosion of energy must be tempered by craft. The tools to transform the raw materials of art into a work that can be digested by readers, viewers, and listeners are gained through experience. This process is deeply personal and one that every artist must navigate. There lies the contradiction: artists, like anyone, do not live in isolation; their work is personal and private, and at times public. But work is made in a world of people and returns to a Loved ones lost are immortalized. Grief is processed, taking on many stages. Love, like other changing things, takes shape. Objects become what they aren’t but, maybe, what they were intended to be.

Local poet Catie Hannigan sat to talk about making art and watching her life take shape. This is a portion of our discussion.

ID: You were an editor of the literary magazine for USM in 2013. What was your favorite part about being an editor?

CH: There were five of us, and the most fun that we had was at our meetings. It wasn’t a voting system. It was a discussion every time. It felt like we were deciphering  what was important and artistic, what needed to be heard. Sometimes we were convincing each other [of what was important]. It was a process of growing.

ID: Do you think that it gave you a good perspective as a submitting artist to have experience on the editorial side of submissions?

CH: Yes, it’s funny to me now. It seems so obvious, but there really were great pieces that we just couldn’t take. They are looking at a lot of submissions, and they might not always be the most receptive at that moment in time. It made me feel more forgiving about my own rejections.

ID: Do you want to talk about the work you’re doing now? Like your chapbook?

CH: I have a chapbook. It’s called What Once was There is the Most Beautiful Thing. It’s printed by New Michigan Press, housed in the University of Arizona. They have an online facet called Diagram, which holds an annual chapbook competition. I wasn’t chosen as the winner, but I was chosen as a finalist. Our chapbooks are being printed as a set and individually.

ID: What is a chapbook?

CH: A chapbook is usually a small book of poetry. Chapbooks are produced by the writers themselves to be given away to get their work out there. It’s become an art form too- making really beautiful books. Small presses, like New Michigan Press, have taken a liking to them. They’re easy to print and distribute. My chapbook is poetry, but it’s unique in that all the poems that I wrote, I wrote using a very small stamp. It’s similar to a void stamp.

ID: It’s interesting that you were making poems using something called a “void stamp.”

CH: Yes. The etymology of void… there’s a lot going on there. The underlying idea – it started with the word ‘shul’. I read it first in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost. It’s a Tibetan word. It means the impression of what once was there. A path is a shul – it’s an impression of feet. That’s the original idea – to write poems that were the impressions. I was tired of using so much language to explain something.

ID: What about your mentors?

CH: I think it’s important for mentors to give their students permission to just go for whatever it is they’re interested in, even if the teachers have no idea where their students are going. That permission can be enough.

ID: What access do you have of photography? Do you find inspiration from the Internet?

CH: Instagram led to was getting a film camera, a 35mm, and taking hundreds and hundreds of photos. That led to buying photography books, telling my mentor I wanted to write about photography. It may be the topic of my graduate thesis. It’s hard to make a black or white statement about what the Internet should or should not do. I felt my heart beat faster when I took a photo that I really loved. Catie Hannigan attends the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is working towards her Masters of Fine Arts in Writing. Her chapbook, What Once was There is the most Beautiful Thing, is available from New Michigan Press. You can see her installation at Sacred and Profane at Battery Steele on Peaks Island, on October 24th.


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