September 6–12, 2021
Lizzy Sobiesk is a poet based in the Hudson Valley of New York. Her work has previously been published in mawth magazine. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in English with a specialization in creative writing at SUNY–New Paltz. This past spring, Sobiesk was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Darrel Alejandro Holnes’s Writing Revolutionary Love workshop.
What Shouldn’t I Be?
I am home.
Here I rattle.
War-felled. Albatross necktie. Straight-lipped.
ISO: house-burning safety kit.
It’s not all about me. But I grew two-sided.
Clarion-called and preyed.
Doe-eyed and lane-marked.
What shouldn’t I be?
tails is a bloodstream,
tails is a sewn-shut seam.
Help me down the stairs—
I’m tripping on a word’s spine.
Soldier. Solidus. Coin.
The wrong water-into-wine trick.
The oil-slick side effect.
I live as a fate-footed fool.
I walk as a ghost-saddled shot.
I’m trying to bail
bad-guy blood out
of my flooded home.
I’m talking Shining-level.
Yours, mine, and ours.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
This poem actually began in Darrel Alejandro Holnes’s Writing Revolutionary Love workshop. Part of the assignment was to integrate a song into the poem and, after carefully listening to some of my favorite songs, Sampha’s “What Shouldn’t I Be?” resonated with the assignment for me. His song deals with the constant struggle of dealing with others’ expectations while trying to be as true as possible. As I wrote the first draft of this poem, the song played on repeat about fifteen or twenty times, all with the line “What shouldn’t I be?” echoing in my mind. From that, this poem was born!
What are you working on right now?
For the past four or five months, I’ve been buckling down and trying to get back to the basics in poetry. This has included going through books of poems and breaking down the elements at work. Over the next few months, I hope to continue my studies and also begin putting some more of my poems out there.
What’s a good day for you?
A good day comes in many forms, which is the beauty of life! My favorite days usually involve spending time with my friends or family and/or writing something just right and riding the high of that feeling. However, sometimes a good day is embracing the mundanity of living and being happy about a delicious cup of coffee.
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, home is with my parents in the Hudson Valley. I’ve lived here since graduating college in 2019 and I am grateful to have a soft place to land. However, the pandemic propelled me into the same isolation most people have experienced and I’m just starting to feel like a real person again. Therefore, I think I’ll now be able to embrace the environment outside my house a little more.
Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.
Yes, I’ve been lucky to visit Brooklyn a few times. Two of my favorite friends from college (hi Sofia and Tara!) are currently living there. I haven’t been able to visit since before the pandemic, but I hope to visit them again soon!
As part of a workshop in the city, I visited Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and was enchanted by the selection of books. There aren’t too many bookstores dedicated only to poetry, and so being able to look around was a treat.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?
My poetry communities have been crucial to my development as a writer. Over the years, I have found community mostly in workshop classes where I often develop an intense feeling of camaraderie with my fellow poets. Even if we don’t speak consistently after the workshop ends, that support is still pervasive. I recently began a new workshop class and hope to expand my poetry community even further.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Angel Nafis is an outstanding Brooklyn poet. Both her spoken word performances and her written work are awe-inspiring. I think her poem “Ghazal for Becoming Your Own Country” is one of my favorite ghazals.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
Airea D. Matthews has been such a positive influence in my poetry and life. She is an absolute genius and so generous with her wisdom. A few years ago, in a text exchange, she said, “Knowing is helpful. But remember: maintain who you want to be.” That has stuck with me ever since.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
I was recently wowed by Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s M Archive: After the End of the World. Recently, I have been extremely interested in speculative poetry and M Archive appeared on a few recommendation lists. The book was thoroughly brilliant and disturbingly relevant. One of the many powerful lines: “they really thought they knew what home tasted like. what healthy was.”
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
So many! Some of these include Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Aracelis Girmay’s Kingdom Animalia and Nikki Giovanni’s huge collected poems.
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?
My reading process changes from genre to genre. For most poetry books, I like to go through by reading a few poems every night and really sitting with the work. If it’s a book I own, I am prone to underlining and making notes in the margin. Most of the time I plan what I’m reading in advance, but sometimes fate has its own plans. I have a lot of trouble reading digital texts and I often opt for physical copies when possible.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
I would love to write a good villanelle. I have never gotten along with traditional form in my own writing, but I love Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” and Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I guess the art of losing at villanelle-writing isn’t hard for me to master.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Most of the time, I like to read and write at my desk. However, if the weather is just right and I can bear to leave the house (to be fair, this isn’t that often), there is nothing more fun than reading a book on a bench under a tree.
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. My friends also showed me Butter & Scotch and Ginger’s Bar, which were both tremendously fun spaces. I hope that in the future, with more vaccinated people and less of a threat from COVID variants, I can discover more of Brooklyn.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate every half-life,
And what I dream as a stable end, you may see as decay,
For every daughtered and dead organ ahead of me as good as calls for you.