Amanda OaksWhen a poem is written what is its intention? Is it intended to be distributed and read among peers, to be published and shared with the general public, or is the poem an extension of the poets true voice and therefore meant to be read aloud. When words are typed they have a certain look and feel, but the sound remains a mystery. When read aloud, a poem can take on a whole new life, it almost becomes a living an breathing entity, moving through time and space and meeting the audience with intention. When writing you may be able to clear your head enough to hear internally what your poem may sound like, but the reader next door or half-way around the world may not hear it the same way. One poet who is taking some steps to have her voice heard is Pennsylvania based writer and editor Amanda Oaks.
Amanda is the founder and editor of the biannual print journal Words Dance, and has published a couple of chapbooks through Verve Bath Press. Among those chapbooks are the handcrafted and beautifully done "Love Notes" and " Balancing on the Brink", she has also been published in numerous literary journals and sites.
Recently, Amanda took some time out to answer our questions and record a few of her newer pieces for us.
Orange Alert (OA): I have found a few sound files of you reading your poems, instead of simply having them printed. How important to you is the sound of a poem?
Amanda Oaks (AO): Recording my poems was & still is a learning experience for me. Poetry, for the most part, was a spoken art for ages. I feel that the sound of a poem is pretty vital to it’s meaning. Sometimes the sound of a poem is as crucial to it’s meaning as the words printed on the page are. The way the words roll off the tongue, which ones are stressed, the beat, the list is long as to why. This plays true not only with my poems but in my reading of other’s poetry. If stumble across a poem that cracks my skull open, I reread it out loud because there’s no doubt my other senses missed something. Still, the depth you get when you hear a poet read their own work is precious & if you’re lucky, earth-shattering. If I find a poet who’s work I admire I’m always eager to listen to them by some means.
OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
AO: I would say Richard Brautigan is pretty high up on the list. Anais Nin,some of the men but mostly the women from the Beat Generation, Neruda to Bukowski, Plath, Olds & Cummings to name a few. Though the core of my inspiration comes from my peers. The main reason I started Words Dance was to have access to such work. I wanted to help spread the work around that I was reading in publications that I had been in. Besides being so moved by it, it at times was the trigger for my hand to be against the paper & writing.
OA: What is your opinion of the current state of poetry? Is it thriving in an internet era? Is it being watered down by an overabundance of outlets ( i.e.blogs/myspace/lit zines, etc)? Is there an audience for the modern poet?
AO: Oh dear, one day I am floored by the sense of connection the internet has given poets, others times I feel it to be the switch that sheds light on big egos, child-like drama & needless competition. Although we don’t always have to agree on things I feel like we should at least support each other, which is what is going on most of the time with a few exceptions. I cherish the relationships I’ve developed through the small press. There are some bright lights out there, you just have to search for them, be it people, publications or presses.
OA: Your latest chapbook, "Love Notes" is handmade with lace and a vintage button. It seems like a lot of time and care was put into the finished product. How important is the presentation of your poetry to you?
AO: I’m very proud of Love Notes. I had this vision of what I wanted the book to be in my head & I am thankful that I achieved it. I had a few of years worth of short verses that didn’t want to be worked into larger pieces, so I compiled them. They are just what the title suggests, Love Notes. Some may find the lack of misery to be dishonest but I promised myself long ago to be more of a hopeful romantic than a cynic & that works for me most of the time, be it when writing or in life. As for the importance of presentation, it’s not necessarily important to the poem itself or to everyone but to me it is. My intentions were & still are very modest. I enjoy making books, especially for poets that I enjoy as poets & people. Many of the presses I love, Centennial Press & sunnyoutside to name two, take pride in the poem & have turned it into something visually pleasing, a piece of art— I love that.
OA: Being both poet & publisher, how has this affected the way you look at
a poem, be it yours or another writer's?
AO: Well, being a "publisher" certainly hasn’t helped me in catching errors in my own work. It hasn’t changed the way I read poetry outside of submissions either. The only time I go into "publisher" mode is after the first draft is printed.
OA: What's next for Amanda Oaks?
AO: My family is my number priority, always has been. I’ve been extremely fortunate in that respect, the family card that I was dealt aces out a good lot of the time. Kurt, my fiancé & I are getting ready to start our own little family of three soon. We have a little one due this autumn so I’ve been steering most of my energy toward being a good mama & partner. This has put a good many of things in the back seat but that doesn’t mean that I’ve totally kicked them out of the car. Issue #11 of Words Dance should be out this month (I said that last month!) no really, it’s nearing completion & it rocks a whole lot. Sometime soon, this summer, Rose of Sharon Press will be releasing a joint chapbook of mine & John Dorsey’s, "dreams that would drown most men". S.A Griffin & David Smith do an amazing job over there, you should definitely check them out. To be honest, I'm a writer when I am. I haven’t written a poem I’ve liked in months. I tried for awhile & everything seemed so forced. I am not above putting the pen to rest for a little while, it’s much better than writing contrived shit. I can’t do that to myself or the people who occasionally read my work. I have faith the magic will return, patience is the key to most everything.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
AO: Yessum! But I quit cold turkey when I found out I was expecting, coffee along with cigarettes. Much like wine & literature, I am not a coffee snob. Cream, preferably Vanilla flavored, no sugar & I’m good. There are no "coffee spots" where I am currently living, middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. I’ve had my share of them other places I’ve lived though, one being Webster’s Bookstore in State College, amazing locally roasted organic coffee, the best.
OA: Who are some of your favorite musicians currently? Do your listen to music while you write?
AO: Music is my mistress & I’m a slut. My tastes range wide & I welcome suggestion. Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart, The Mars Volta, Midlake,Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Miss Derringer, Gomez, Cocorosie, PJ Harvey & The Beatles of course, the list is so very long. Yes, I always have the headphones on while writing unless I’m writing outside.
For more information on Amanda Oaks your can visit the Words Dance website, and to puchased any of her chapbooks and some other interesting items you can visit her etsy site.