A chat with poet and writer Kristin Garth


US writer Kristin Garth has a Medium sitewhere she hosts a number of impressive poems that focus on gender dynamics, misogyny, romance, psychopathy, BDSM and more. A chapbook of some of her poetry, Pink Plastic House, will be published by Maverick Duck Press in 2018.

How are things? What are you up to?
I’m doing pretty good. I’ve had some work solicited so I have been doing that, and my Medium work. How about you?
Good thanks. Is it always poetry? Have you tried writing fiction or memoir?
I have written an unfinished BDSM romance and a weird novel about a young teenage (18) year old stripper.
Your work strikes me as being a little Lady Gaga, based on what I know of her iconography at her gigs etc, inasmuch as it seems to feature lots of sex and death! Your poetry occasionally deals in both – your talk of the body etc, and you don’t shy away from misogyny and abuse. 
I’m doing an Amazon Kindle short fiction collection at the moment. You ought to put a Kindle book of poetry together at the very least!
I am so afraid of Amazon just because I’m very tech averse — a tech dummy. I’m on Medium, and it’s very very easy there. Good for a person like me who wants to create and publish but doesn’t know how to do computer stuff very well at all. I make audios and stuff too and that was tricky at first but I really like it. And I love Lady Gaga. That is such a flattering comparison.
There’s a fear of loss of control on some platforms, alright. Are you submitting elsewhere?
I am not really able to send anything until after Christmas anyway because this other editor has been tapping me out — I’ve sent him something almost every day and posted a poem on Medium every day. And trying to get ready for Christmas.  So I will be happy to wait until I can catch my breath a little.  I thought the lit world would slow down at Christmas but I’ve had two editors ask me for last-minute work. It’s a good problem to have.
Yes, I am the same with my blog being easy. Any random thoughts, I will just put them on here. And yeh, it would be a good problem to have, being in demand. I love that, when people are pressing you for work. Although I hate deadlines because I send something off and often – even a week later, it’s like after a dinner party where you’re saying “This is what I should have said to that guy!”
Oh yes. I agree. It’s the first time someone really solicited me for work — like as much as I could send in ten days. 🙂 So it felt like an honor and also very stressful. I don’t want to let anyone down.
I am in the middle of reading two books from colleagues – one of them is JD Estrada’s, the other Lucinda E Clarke’s. I am such a slow reader. Never any pressure from them, but still.
I have a chapbook coming out in February.
Ahhh. Brill.
Yeah. Print. Microchapbook only 24 pages, poems. But I want to do another that is all about BDSM. This one is about a lot of things. It’s called Pink Plastic House.
I had followed quite stringent formatting guidelines for my novel, but I’ve learned you don’t have to really worry about it for Kindle formatting. But back to you and my original point. See? See with the BDSM? Sex and death in your marvellous work.
Yeah. I’m with you. Totally. And true crime. But yeah. Most of my stuff has been online so I’m not sure if Amazon would be the right way to do it and the literary magazine/chapbook people don’t care about that. And I like having paper books. But I may do one some day on Amazon, but if they don’t let me use work that I’ve already had published I would have to devote a lot of time to making a book length amount of new material.
I see you’ve published a poem here that isn’t quite as dark as some of the other stuff.
My most innocent poem ever on Medium. About the Wizard of Oz. I have a few sweet ones.
That’s great that the imprint doesn’t care if your work’s been previously published. Broadly, many of them do, right? It’s unfair. You can enter as many films as you like in as many festivals as there are, for example. The same is probably true of song contests. They don’t really have to be previously unpublished, or for their eyes only – but short stories and poetry, publishers and contests usually demand first-publication exclusivity.
Ha.  🙂 Yeah, it’s a weird world, and all the different lit mags even have different rules. So you never know for example who accepts Medium work until you ask, et cetera.
You have elements of sexual abuse in your work too. I am sorry if those aspects of your work are personal in nature, but it’s an incredibly brave act to articulate it through writing.
Thank you for saying that about the sexual abuse. It’s something I am pretty comfortable talking about after many years away from it you know…and therapy. But it fucks me up still all the time in a lot of ways and I get angry. Writing helps me a lot.
I’d like to think that I can understand at least in some respects. I think too that I don’t have the bravery to write about such trauma – I’d have to couch it in some other form, like having a concentration camp survivor character, or something like that, when it’s in my writing, if at all. Sometimes trying to emotionally resonate through fiction is a challenge. Unrelated to all that, I’ve been told I struggle with voice. But I don’t necessarily agree with that. Lots of writers retain the same style, others do different styles. I think your own work can be very stark and raw, and it’s a surprise to be shocked, as a reader, maybe even a little offended, in a good way.
I’m way too literal. 🙂 I think that you just have a different style than a lot of people do. I have had people hate on me for what I write too. My BDSM stuff is usually positive. I have some dark ones — I mean they are dark but they are therapeutic mostly I think. But I have some villainous dom ones. One here on Medium is very sweet. With whips.
I see! You’ve got a sense of ownership, an awareness of the male gaze which you can sort of subvert – not to a female gaze, but I mean taking control of that male gaze. I very occasionally read work by women and no man could write it. I don’t think that’s true of any other dynamic or POV when it comes to writing – I could pretend to be whatever, regardless of appropriation. But it’s difficult for me to write from a woman’s perspective about certain things, and that’s not from lack of imagination. It’s sort of mind-blowing, and I see it in your stuff.
Oh my God. You are flattering me so much. I was a stripper so I lived off the male gaze for five years.
I will say it happens rarely, where I feel I couldn’t write something coz I’m not a woman. Bianca Bowers, Louise Beech and yourself are writers with whom I experience it to varying degrees. They’re three, offhand, I can think of. The thriller writer Val McDermid is a fave of mine and I don’t really get it with her but she can write some real psychos and crime fiction doesn’t really count. And Ming Holden is an unbelievable writer, and I don’t think I’ve experienced it with her stuff yet, although she’s certainly moved me to tears, and I’m sure she could do so more than easily.
My first-glance analysis of this piece of yours suggests that the man appears to be in control but then the reader ought to ask “But who the hell’s writing the thing?” For me, the voice is female.
I’m so glad you like it. 🙂 I loved writing that one. It was a romance. Those poems are very light and fun to me. The man character was a man I knew. And there is a power exchange in these situations. Things evolve, or can evolve, like any romance.
You’re another writer whose work could be actually studied in the universities. Did you take literature in college?
I dropped out of grad school to strip. Creative writing MA — but I never finished it. My BA was in English! And thank you.
I think there’s a strong implication of the casual there though, speaking of the romance element. It doesn’t read like conventional romance. You’ve a subtle and discreet profundity in a lot of your work.
Wow. Discreet profundity that is quite a phrase. I would not be able to come up with that.
Haha. People say “Will you be my agent?” I am all “Excuse me, I’m a writer too you know,” batting my eyelashes.
Ha. 🙂 An agent? Wow. Well you are obviously a writer. And such an encourager too.
It’s good writing though, Kristin. I think sometimes I am an asshole about criticism. And I do need to work on that.
You’re not an asshole. But sometimes people don’t ask for a critique. Because I am submissive, people tell me to do things — some are good, so I do them. Next they start telling me write a poem about this. Write like this. Maybe not a sonnet. And I draw the line and it makes them angry.
This happens. I agree, and if it ain’t broke. And your work ain’t broke.
Well thank you. I try to just do it and hope for the best. I’ve had some detractors on forums where I used to critique stuff and post stuff, but mostly fans.
I do think again that the most critical thing I could say of your stuff is that some of it couldbe read as submissive. But, again, you get into the whole area of “Well, who the heck is the writer? She’s the one whose poem we’re reading. So to an extent, she’s controlling things. She’s asking things of the reader, she’s making us think.”
I’m totally submissive. 🙂
Yes. But you’re extremely articulate for a shy scribe and I’m not saying that to butter you up.
Ha. 🙂 Well typing is easy. You know? But I know who I am.
I think even shy Americans have a confidence that us off-worlders wouldn’t have, to be very catty about your eloquence! They can tell us how submissive they are in great detail. 😀 That’s a joke. I am delighted you can message like this.
Where are you?
I am in Ireland.
Ireland cool. I mean I am not so shy on the computer … much more so in real life. Writing, I am bold. 🙂 As you can see in the poetry.
Your Twitter handle is @lolaandjolieLolaAndJolie  – what’s the handle about?
Jolie was my stripper name. Lola was my cat at that time who passed away. She had feline leukemia. I need to write a sonnet about that. Because everyone asks about the Twitter handle.
I am sorry.
And I kept it like a tribute.
Why a sonnet?
All I write are sonnets. They’re all Shakespearean sonnets. Well I have written a couple of villanelles when I guess I was a rebel. It’s my medium I work in.
Rebel scum! 🙂 Jeez. I didn’t even notice.
I just feel totally comfortable there with the form and then it makes me feel safe to talk about complex things. Bad dark things in my safe space. My chapbook is actually called Pink Plastic House:  Three Stories of Sonnets. And they are organized in rooms. Like a dollhouse.
And the sonnets? Allyour poems are sonnets? I didn’t spot that.
Well I use a lot of enjambment and try to make them sound fresh. You aren’t the first person to say that. I have done that, and done some less traditional line breaks. But a lot of them have enjambment or short sentences to break them up do you don’t realize it is a sonnet.
I don’t even know what enjambment is, Kristin. I’ve heard of it but I forget. I don’t write poetry.
Most sonnets end a line like a sentence. Not a rule but just the way it is.
Yes. I looked it up – kind of like run-on lines.
Enjambment is when you go onto the next line. It makes it sort of break the rhyme a bit and sound a bit more free verse. Modern but it still works as far as the rules of the sonnet go.
Yes, it’s great. I’m now of the view that the reader probably takes far more from your work than you appreciate. You have poems about rape that you describe as being about sex addiction, for example. And your choker poem was less than romance, and all the more powerful for it.
I hope they do take more from it. I’m glad you see them like that. And I agree. A woman can put herself in a bad position because of addiction — she has been raped yes. But she knows she will put herself in another bad position.
So you’re adopting a position of defence for this woman? You’re not justifying rape when you say it’s about sex addiction to any extent. I actually would try to justify some of the actions of my psychopaths in short stories. So I get all that. But you aren’t like that in real life?
Kristin on Medium
Yeah. I’m not— I have written from the points of view of psychopaths before. I just did a true crime one that is very dark, from the POV of a serial rapist murderer. People advise me not to explain my work, to let it speak for itself, and here I am explaining my poetry.
Yes but you are eloquent in your explanations. There was a playwright in Ireland who was asked “So what’s your play about?” on its opening night and he replied “I don’t know. I haven’t read the reviews yet.”
Ha. I think that is a valid point. You so learn things about the work from other people for sure. Maybe things that are unconsciously there. And I like that.
You’re probably right. But there are plenty of artists who are not analytical too, right?
Oh sure. Most people are not self-aware.
But you know what you’re writing. You’re not some outsider artist or even Banksy – you do have the innate talent, but you know what you’re doing and you can stand back from it and discuss it.
Gosh. I didn’t really think about it like that. But I love psychology. I have another friend who was abused as a child and has been through therapy and is a writer too and he is the same way. I think it goes with that territory. Like you get an honorary psychology degree.
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