Poet Of The Week

Han Raschka

January 10–16, 2022

Han Raschka (they/them) is an up-and-coming writer from Wisconsin, but don’t tell them that. When not wrangling their three dogs or drinking far-too-expensive coffee, they can be found taking workshops through the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute, where they are a scholarship recipient. Han will attend the University of Wisconsin to study creative writing beginning this fall. Their work is forthcoming in CERASUS Magazine and has previously appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Sixfold, Eunoia Review and elsewhere. Last summer, they were named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Carlie Hoffman’s workshop The Excruciating on poetry and suffering.

birdspeak

 

crow’s feet

claw my throat

at any attempt

to move forward

grandmother’s words sting

Do you tell people you’re suicidal for attention?

this time it’s woodpecker beaks

holes drilled into larynx

voice whisked away

like sunflower seeds

in the dead of winter

when i cannot move my lips

i hum a chickadee song

same song from age 17

burning clothes in the woods

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee

birds sing back

Chick-a-dee-dee

if i listen hard enough

it sounds like a prayer

mother’s words carve into chest

You can kill yourself if you pay for the funeral

this time it’s vulture bills

picked apart heart

exposed rib

i spoil in the sun

they continue to feast

i ask the bluebird

if flying feels like falling

Tu-a-wee

i wait for response

she looks at me

Tu-a-wee

if i listen hard enough

it sounds like

This is not your fault.

 

Brooklyn Poets · Han Raschka, "birdspeak"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I put together this piece after realizing there was some pain in my life I wanted to let go of. Mental illness can be hard for people to understand, especially those from different generations. The destigmatization of mental illness is still ongoing, both overall and in my life. I wrote about these two instances of my illness not being understood by those close to me, and it helped me move on from the hurt those memories caused. I love my mom and my grandmother, now more than ever, and I’m grateful I wrote this poem and processed how I felt and made it known.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a full-length collection. My goal for the longest time was to be published before I was twenty-five. I had a poem published this past December and one upcoming in January, and I turn twenty-four in February. Now I have a new goal of getting a collection published before I turn twenty-six. I’ve got this manuscript I’m really proud of, that I’ve worked on for two years. I’m really excited to hopefully see it land somewhere good.

What’s a good day for you?

It depends on where my bipolar disorder is at. Sometimes a good day is a day I can manage to get out of bed. Sometimes a good day is a day I felt productive, where I accomplished everything I set out to do. A lot of the time it’s somewhere in between those two, a day where I take care of myself, but accomplish something too, even if it’s as small as making a meal for myself or taking a shower.

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

Right now my home is Boston. I love Boston; it’s a beautiful city. I’ve only been here for a few months, and it’s been an adjustment period, but I’d like to think I’m doing well on that front. My heart’s home is in Wisconsin, though, where I grew up. I’ll be moving back there to Madison sometime in August to continue my schooling. Boston is both smaller and bigger than my hometown of Stevens Point, if that makes sense. More people, less space. I love my neighborhood here in Boston, though; it’s such a lovely area with lots of parks and good food spots, which is a must for me.

Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I’ve never been to Brooklyn, actually, but I’m hoping to visit NYC for my birthday this year! I’ll give an update on my impressions afterwards, but Brooklyn has always seemed like an artists’ haven, where those who create go.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?

Community means being supportive of and uplifting your fellow poets. It also means being honest with each other about what can sometimes be incredibly personal work, and having the wherewithal not to take it personally. I struggle with that last part sometimes, as I write very personal poetry, and it can be a bit of a bruise to hear critiques of it, but I’m getting better. My poetry community is actually on the exact opposite coast, in the Bay Area of California. The pandemic opened up this opportunity to take courses through the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute, where I met some people who have absolutely changed my life. Through them I’ve found community.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Not technically from Brooklyn, but I think you all claim her regardless, Marianne Moore. Her work is so beautiful, it feels like music.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

Without a doubt, my biggest mentor and personal cheerleader has been Paul Corman-Roberts. I had no idea when I first took his class at SFCWI that I would be gaining such an incredible mentor and friend. He has always pushed me to be my best and to believe in my work. He’s always one of the first people I tell about any poetry accomplishments, and without fail he will tell me how proud he is. It’s incredibly refreshing to have a mentor so willing to teach me all the ins and outs of the writing world; without question, I wouldn’t be where I am today with my writing if not for his guidance and support.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

Unit of Agency by Richard Loranger. I cannot recommend this book enough. Prescient, blood-pumping, raw poetry. Reading it felt like a jolt to the head that I VERY much needed. Richard is a master of the craft, no doubt.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

This might make me a pariah here, but I am so, so underread when it comes to Whitman. Like, detrimentally so. I recently acquired a collection of his, and I’m excited finally to dive into his work.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I only read one book at a time, because I’m a fairly fast reader. I also mostly read poetry, and books of poetry usually aren’t super long. I also kind of just read what comes to me. I’m always getting books, used and new. I very rarely will say no to a book. I’m a big fan of physical books; I have a somewhat large collection that grows more every day. I just love books.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I’ve dabbled in this a bit, but I’d like to try a really long sequence of connected poems. Frank Bidart does this really well, and I’ve been inspired by him to try it. He writes twenty pages of poems that are all part of one big poem. It’s incredibly cool.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Coffee shops are some of my favorite places to write. The smell of the coffee brewing as I’m huddled in a corner with my laptop and a latte—nothing gets me more in the groove than that.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

I would love to go to the Brooklyn Museum. Art inspires so much poetry, and I’d love to be surrounded by it.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate gentleness,

And what I promised you softly,

For every broken me as good at loving you.