“#28” is a poem by Cameron Finch published in the REVIVAL issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 5), released in fall 2017 (on October 31).
What inspired you to write this poem?
I love to write while listening to music. Music often creeps into my writing, whether it’s the musicality and rhythm of the piece, specific lyrics, a feeling conveyed, or snapshots of the song’s imagery. I remember I had just discovered the song, “Slow Life” by Of Monsters and Men. I sang it in the shower, while cooking, while writing. Basically, this song was constantly streaming in my head for about a month. It got me thinking about what it means to live a “slow life.” I am often trying to remind myself to “slow down,” which is difficult for someone who constantly creates projects for herself just to keep busy and active.
As I continue to practice “slowing down,” I’m realizing that this concept doesn’t necessarily mean stalling or wasting long periods of time. It can be as simple as listening to the hum of a bee, reaching down to rub your fingers against a plant’s fuzzy leaves, pressing your nose against a window to feel the zap of cold air, smelling the coffee before you drink it, giving yourself a micro-hit of a neck massage, lingering over the way you wrote your name in pen. Slowing down means taking apart all the cogs of life and acknowledging them one at a time. It is a very sensual way of being. It is very humbling. That is what I hoped to convey in this poem.
Why do you make art, and why write poetry in particular?
While I mostly consider myself a short story writer, I blur the lines between the two genres often. On many occasions, I don’t know what genre I’m writing until I’m done with the piece, and even then, sometimes it is difficult to know. I let other people do the labeling for me. That’s not as important to me. What is important is the feeling invoked and the sound of the language. Poetry gives me the freedom to climb inside images and stay there for several beats. I have freedom to express a feeling with a very wild image that doesn’t logically have to progress in time, as in a story. Sometimes I feel like I can take giant leaps in poetry. I can stand on a lily pad, and jump over a band of water to the next lily pad, and all I have to do is have the confidence that I can land sure-footed. In poetry, I write to myself, even when I’m writing instructional pieces, like this poem, “#28.” I hardly ever consider my audience while writing, which is why I’m always nervous when others read my work. Even when I receive good feedback, I always reserve a space in my heart to wonder and hope that I’ve made the lily pads big enough for us all.
In what ways do you think art and poetry are vital to society today?
Oh goodness… Art is fundamental for society in so many ways! For one, it opens up avenues for people to find refuge, connection, sanity, empathy, creativity, all the things that make us feel safe and inspired and drawn to strangers in unimaginable and empowering ways. I’m from Michigan, so just take the example of the Detroit Institute of Art. In efforts to save Detroit from bankruptcy, the prestigious museum, which holds masterpieces by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, not to mention the astounding “Detroit Industry Murals,” by Diego Rivera, was asked to contribute $500 million to pay off Detroit debts, even if it meant selling off paintings at auction. Instead, the museum raised more than $800 million, at least half of that from philanthropic foundations. Now the art museum is controlled by an independent charitable trust (not the city), the art collection is saved and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Detroit. Not only that, retirees can keep more of their income, thanks to the decision to keep the museum in tact. It is this example that supports my belief that art is truly powerful. Art is necessary. Art is for everyone. Art can save a city, can save a soul. Human beings have the most amazing ideas and they should be shared! Museums, non-profits, literary journals, bookstores, art education programs, etc allow these ideas to be publicly accessible. I am so thankful to live in a world where art exists in this way and I hope that the future of the art world only gets bigger.
Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?
Oh, I’m terrible with favorites, mostly because the list is always expanding, so keep in mind that this is an incomplete list.
Poets: Amelia Martens, Sylvia Plath, Mary Ruefle, Carolyn Forche, Pablo Neruda, Jamaal May, Ross Gay, Sarah Kay, Ruben Quesada.
Writers: Amelia Gray, Jesse Ball, Rene Denfeld, J.D. Salinger, Aimee Bender, Virginia Woolf, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Daphne Du Maurier.
Musicians: Philip Glass, Zoe Keating, Fleet Foxes, Emancipator, alt-J, The Beatles, Of Monsters and Men, Agnes Obel, Birdy, Bon Iver, Parov Stelar.
Filmmakers: Tarsem Singh, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Wes Anderson.
Other artists: Maira Kalman, Wassily Kandinsky, Yoko Ono, Van Gogh, Dale Chihuly, Michelle Dorrance.
What are you working on next, and what excites you most about the future?
I always have twenty ideas in my head at the same time. Right now, I’m in the revising stage of a few short stories before sending them out to publications and am currently experimenting in the illuminated novel format. I’m interested in considering the many ways that we engage with the written language: scribbled on napkins, in bulletpoint lists, post-it notes stuck on walls. I want to arrange a novel that makes use of all these “daily found” forms of writing.
The most exciting thing about the future of my writing is that it feels boundless.
Cameron Finch is a short story writer and poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Across the Margin, Dream Pop Press, Exceptions Journal, and elsewhere. She hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she likes to tap dance in place whilst waiting for the light to turn at crosswalks. Cameron is currently an MFA candidate in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and serves as the Managing Editor of the college’s literary journal, Hunger Mountain. Find her online at https://ccfinch.com.