Marianne Chan’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Journal, Poetry Northwest, Indiana Review, BOAAT, Slice Magazine, among others. In 2015, she was the first runner-up for the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writer's Exchange Award for Poetry. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and currently works as poetry editor for Split Lip Magazine. Her poem “Dear Ozone Layer” will appear in the Fall 2017 issue of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, October 1, for special savings and discounts.
What was the initial inspiration for “Dear Ozone Layer," and did the inspiration change during your process of working on it?
Originally, I wanted this poem to be a sonnet, and so I wrote a sonnet. Then, I realized that to strengthen the poem, it needed to expand. So, I revised and revised, and now the poem has twenty-four lines and has broken all the promises the original sonnet made. This always gives me a bit of anxiety, as I am inclined to color within the lines, to obey the limitations I set for myself.
After some revisions, I realized that this poem—in terms of form and content—is inspired by limitations. We all enter the world with a set of constraints and parameters. When the parameters one lives with are damaged or changed suddenly, this is the moment at which one feels the greatest sense of anxiety, and this poem, part of a series of epistolary poems called “Dear Ozone Layer,” is all about that anxiety. What happens when the rules are broken, when the literal boundaries of the world are ermanently ltered? What are the consequences of a wrecked environment? What happens when a hurricane the size of Florida is at the foot of your bed?
The line “Holy O, hold me in your grotto” feels reminiscent of an ode. Do you consider this poem an ode?
I think of this poem more as a supplication or a prayer. I grew up in a devoutly Catholic family, and as a child, during moments of fear, we prayed to the Virgin Mary for help and mercy. The speaker in this poem does the same. She seeks comfort from the Ozone Layer, which, like any monotheistic God, has an omniscient quality and ability to protect.
Describe your poetry in 3 words.
More is more.
In poetry, I want everything. I want images to accumulate. I am fond of the baroque. When I was younger, especially, I enjoyed the process of writing long poems, and I admired Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler and Kenneth Koch for their ability to keep going, to include everything, to let the components of their world accrue inside a poem. Their long poems take detours and risks that smaller poems safely avoid. While I’m not writing eight-page poems like I used to, I strive to include rather than exclude material. I want every line to be an object one can hold.
Do you feel like your work as poetry editor at Split Lip inspires or influences your work as a writer?
Absolutely. Split Lip is a monthly online magazine which publishes one piece per genre per month, and in spring of 2018, we are releasing our inaugural print issue. Working as poetry editor for Split Lip has made me a more discerning reader and, therefore, a more discerning writer. It has given me the confidence to stand outside of my own poems and ask objectively: “Would I publish this if it landed in my Submittable queue? If not, why not?” Asking this question as I write has pushed me to take my writing to another level, to make my lines and images more immediate, and to ensure the vision of the poem is exceptional enough to engage readers. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded in doing this, but it’s something I strive for. Also, editing has helped my writing because reading poems only makes me want to read more poems and write more poems and see, hear, and taste more poems—and learn more about what makes poetry poetry.