An Interview with Bri Craig
by Poetry Editor, Jonah Meyer
“Still, I think if you can effectively lay out a moment in time, you can create something that is far more visceral and relatable than trying to stay away from the stories within your own experience.”
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (translated by Eric Selland). I haven’t gotten far, but Takashi Hiraide is also a poet, and I enjoy that his sense of poetry shines through on the pages of this unique little book.
What are you currently writing?
I joke that I am incapable of “sticking to a lane” when it comes to writing, and this is the reason I’ve bounced around different formats and genres so much. So, I’m in-between two very different projects right now. I just finished a psychological horror novella that is slated to be published in October. Next up, I’ll be working on a dark humor poetry chapbook themed around surviving different types of “world-ending” apocalypses.
Please share with us some details about your personal process for creating new poetry.
When I began, I wrote poetry as a way to reckon with “big emotions.” But I ended up disliking a lot of those poems, because when I read them, they would bring me back to the (usually negative) feelings of the moment. So now I prefer to begin with either an interesting image, or a story I want to tell – then I try to write the entire poem in one sitting. I find that if I leave a poem unfinished, it will never get finished. However, if I just see the poem to completion (even if it’s “bad”), I’ll have a much nicer time editing it later.
I understand that you are also a playwright. Can you share with us about your first published play, “Purple Ink,” and your ten-minute festival-selection piece, “Ham Sandwich Surprise?”
Happily! I actually have “Purple Ink” to credit for my entire writing career. I wrote the first draft of “Purple Ink” when I was in high school. Back then, I wanted to be a writer, but I actually gave up that dream to choose something “more reasonable” in college. So, I stopped writing, and it wasn’t until graduate school that I found that play again and remembered how much I loved writing it. I edited the piece between classes and sent it off to a few different publishers. To my shock, it was actually accepted to be published. I think this whole time I just never believed I was any good at writing, and this acceptance was the first time I thought differently. Holding my own published script in my hands changed me, and it re-ignited my dream of writing.
Plays are still one of my favorite things to write, as I love writing dialogue. “Ham Sandwich Surprise” (and now, “Funeral for the Cat”) are both plays I’ve written that have gotten the honor of being performed at a festival and it’s a very magical experience to see something you wrote being performed up on a stage. Words cannot describe how happy I am to have found my way back to writing.
What do you personally look for in a poem when assessing its quality? Along similar lines, what do you attempt to create—on the page and in the minds of your readers and for yourself, as a writer—when you put pen to paper to craft your own poetry?
I find that I’m really drawn to narrative poetry with colorful imagery. I’m naturally a bit nosey, so I love getting the intimate moments of someone’s life described with dazzling metaphors. Because of this, I’ve recently been working on framing a story within my own poetry, but that’s been a bit difficult because then you have to be willing to be a bit vulnerable. Still, I think if you can effectively lay out a moment in time, you can create something that is far more visceral and relatable than trying to stay away from the stories within your own experience.
Three interesting biographical facts or features of interest about you (non-related to creative writing)?
(1) I am a big video game nerd, particularly with the Legend of Zelda series. My cat is named Navi after the fairy from Ocarina of Time who always says, “Hey, Listen!”
(2) If I had to eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be French fries. In college my friends teased me that instead of a “swear jar” I could have a “French fry jar” and it would fund the entirety of my college expenses.
(3) I used to do aerial silks when I was younger, and I like to beef up this fun fact by overgeneralizing and saying that, “I used to be an acrobat.” I think it makes me sound cool.
Advice for other poets—perhaps younger poets who’ve not yet had their work published?
Treat each rejection like an accomplishment. I think it’s easy to believe that if your writing is rejected then it means that your writing is bad. But in reality, different folks have their own preferences in writing styles and approaches. What constitutes as “good writing” is often subjective. You cannot control how someone will respond to a piece you write, but you can choose to keep putting yourself out there. So, treat every rejection like an accomplishment, a mark of “I am still here, sending my writing out into the world, despite it all.”
Who are some poets and/or other writers whose work you are currently drawn to? What it is about the nature of their poems, or stories, which you find appealing? Do you have a current (or, all-time) favorite?
Andrea Gibson is one of the poets who I’ve been particularly drawn to lately. They just blow me away. Andrea has a gift for weaving complicated feelings into poems laced with personal anecdotes. In fact, my whole rant about storytelling in poetry from earlier is partially inspired by their poetry.
In the non-poetry world, I really enjoy the writing styles of Gillian Flynn and Celeste Ng. I’ve read everything from them both. They have excellent character work and attention to detail.
What projects are upcoming on the horizon for you? I understand you have a novel forthcoming? Do tell! And please also share where readers could find more of your work.
As I mentioned, I am just about to publish The Wailings: A Horror Novella, on October 2nd (just in time for spooky season). It’s about a young girl trying to escape a mysterious orphanage where all the children seem to lose their memories.
After the novella is published, I’ll probably swing back to poetry for a bit. I do have a full-length novel manuscript sitting in my folders right now, but it might be a little longer before she sees the light of day.
My plays, poems, and book are all accessible through my website: bgcraig.com
Browning or Bukowski?
I think both Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning made wonderful contributions to the world of poetry. Robert Browning wrote at the intersection of playwriting and poetry, which, as a fellow playwright and poet, I just have to admire writers who refuse to pick a lane. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was also a graceful poet and incredible activist in a time period when women writers were notoriously disenfranchised. As a woman and a poet, I want to acknowledge the role of those efforts, because I simply would not have the opportunities I have now without women like her.
But despite the remarkable and historic contributions of the Brownings, I must admit, I actually quite enjoy the bluntness of Bukowski.