A Bit of Spellcasting: An Interview with Sonya Vatomsky
Rachel Charlene Lewis
Sonya Vatomsky is a Moscow-born, Seattle-raised ghost and the author of poetry collection Salt is for Curing (Sator Press) and chapbook My Heart in Aspic (Porkbelly Press). They are an assistant editor at Fruita Pulp, where they also review poetry. Find them by saying their name five times in front of a bathroom mirror or at sonyavatomsky.tumblr.com.
Rachel Charlene Lewis: Right now, My Heart in Aspic is on the top of my books-to-buy list. What was the driving force behind the chapbook? What would you tell anyone who is wondering whether or not to buy it?
Sonya Vatomsky: Oh, gosh, thank you! So, this gets weirder to talk about the further I get from it, but the genesis of the chapbook was me being assaulted, or rather me being assaulted and then having this moment where my entire sexual and romantic history got utterly recontextualized for me and I was just mad. It was the only thing I could write about for a long time. I like to think that my poetry transcends that, though. Most of my work, because I can’t help it, deals directly or indirectly with trauma and mental illness and power dynamics, and that’s definitely been a source of solace for readers who have similar experiences, but it’s also a spooky read for those looking for a bit of spellcasting before bed.
RCL: What is your writing process like? Has it changed at all over time?
SV: My writing process has not changed since I was a child. I write when I feel like it and I’m a very fast writer and I write until I’m out of things that feel necessary to say and then I abruptly stop. I don’t really edit or anything – if something no longer resonates with me, then I write something else rather than fixing up the old thing, which will hang around as a nice monument to when I felt a certain way, etc. I also have a lot of tattoos, most of which I’ve gotten with no more than two weeks of forethought, and I still like all of them. I’m not very embarrassed about my past, I guess?
You can read a little more about my writing “process” here, if you like.
RCL: To what extent do you think about your reader in your editing process?
SV: Not at all. I’m a jerk. Sorry.
RCL: Why do you publish your work? How did you get your start?
SV: I used to be a very private writer and then I found LiveJournal.
Basically, I love that traditionally underrepresented groups are able to get exposure through smaller presses/journals and self-publishing, and I love destroying that idea that there’s some kind of difference in “quality” between what’s on a bestseller list or in the canon and what’s being produced online, that some writing is “real writing” or whatever.
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint where my start is, exactly. It’s probably difficult for most people who grew up on the Internet, because you’re publishing everything. That’s not very helpful, is it? I guess the first time I was published in a, y’know, “serious literary context,” was last October when Sarah Boyle curated an essay series at Delirious Hem.
RCL: Why Fruita Pulp?
SV: Fruita Pulp is the best. I respect and trust Kyle (Harvey, the founder) a lot—he cares about what he’s doing and we’ve had conversations about what happens when an abuser is in your submission pile, for example, and we’re all trying very hard to A) not be terrible, and B) actively be good. We also don’t read blind, which is something that seriously stresses me out.
I’m also really into writing reviews for our issues, partly because reviews = free books for meeeee and partly because I want to amplify the writing of wonderful people doing wonderful poetry things as much as possible. Get in touch if you want your book reviewed—if I take a fancy to it, I’ll write something really gushy and we’ll both be too embarrassed to ever talk again.
RCL: What are you reading right now? What’s on the top of your to-read list?
SV: I read, like, six poetry books yesterday. I got Lisa Marie Basile’s war/lock, Kelly Boyker’s Zoonosis & Sarah Kain Gutowski’s Fabulous Beast: The Sow from Hyacinth Girl Press’ recent sale and they’re all phenomenal. I also finally read Sarah Xerta’s full-length Nothing To Do With Me, which is beautiful but also heartbreaking if you read it after her more recent work. And P. E. Garcia’s recent collection from Awst! Right now I’m almost at the end of Leah Noble Davidson’s Poetic Scientifica, which Sarah recommended to me and is fucking fantastic. Fiction-wise, I just finished Poppy Z Brite’s Exquisite Corpse, which I realize I’m, like, twenty years late on.
RCL: When you’re looking for online lit to read, where are the first places you go?
SV: Twitter. I used to read sites like The Hairpin and The Toast every day but I think I aged out of their demographic or something. As far as literary journals go, Hermeneutic Chaos, Pith Journal, and Menacing Hedge are ultra-lovely if you want to eat up an entire issue of poems and stories.
RCL: You’ve written in the past about the problematic nature of the lit world. Where (and how) have you found community within the mess?
SV: At the intersection of poet Twitter and weird Twitter.
Things that give a hopeless feeling: reading a wonderful poem & discovering the poet isn’t on Twitter.
RCL: What adult life skill are you still working on?
SV: Washing my hair regularly. Sometimes showering in general. I don’t like getting wet. (I know, I know, whatever—I’m European.)
RCL: Do you have anything you would like to add?