But so often the things I say become a hurricane, even when they started as a simple breeze.
I am, Chaos and Catastrophe
On April 2, 2018 (and at 19 years of age), Emma Lidewig released her sophomore poetry collection titled Chaos and Catastrophe. Having had the pleasure to read Emma's first book and now reading this one, the growth of her as a writer and as a woman is evident. While reading this collection I felt a sense of empowerment, not only as the reader, but I felt it for her as a writer. Each page of the book felt like another proclamation of Emma's strength, growth, resilience, and determination.
In part two of the April Spotlight Interview, Emma discusses her inspiration behind Chaos and Catastrophe, why she decided to include trigger warnings in the beginning of her chapters, and her intentions for book number three.
Why did you choose this title for your sophomore poetry collection? Was this the only title you considered using or were there others? Provide some insight on this title choice.
I think I’m one of the few in this, but my titles usually come before the rest of the book. With Chaos and Catastrophe the first thing I had was the concept of the six (originally seven) Greek women I wanted to use and how each chapter would tell their and my story in a sense. Then came the title, then the title poem, and then the rest of the book. The title refers to one of the poems in the second chapter which is about a witch bringing destruction to everything around her. I think it’s in a sense a bit of an explanation of the rest of the book since I think it’s all a bit chaotic and written in a very chaotic part of my life as well.
Describe your break down of chapters/characters. What do each one mean and convey? Where did you get the idea for the titles of the chapters and what made you want to break the collection down into these parts instead of just making it all one piece?
I am not very fond of the idea of writing a poetry book and then just making it a collection of random poems. I like to work in a theme or multiple themes and then make it a whole. The six chapters are named after women in Greek mythology, (Deianira, Circe, Persephone, Ariadne, Eurydice, and Pythia) and each chapter contains themes that are very prominent in their stories, but told through my eyes. At school I used to spend eight hours a week taking classes on Latin and Greek language and culture and it has captured such a large part of my heart. I can never get enough of reading and learning more about it. I have included Greek Gods and characters before in my works, but previously only in single poems. This time I decided I wanted to make them the most important aspect of my work.
A few of the chapters you include trigger warnings. This is the first time I have ever seen this in a poetry book and I appreciate the thought you took to do that. What made you think to do that? Why did you think it was important for you to include a warning?
This goes back to a poem I wrote about eating disorders. When I posted it on my Instagram account, there was one girl that messaged me that it had hit her really hard and that she wasn’t prepared for reading it. I also once posted a piece that somebody interpreted as a suicide ideation even though that wasn’t my intention when writing it. It has made me more aware of what my words and poetry can do to other people, and how they can be negatively affected by it even when that is not what I intended. I put in the trigger warnings because I want people to be prepared for certain heavy topics that might be present in my writing and I want them to be able to skip a chapter if they feel unable to read it at the time.
This collection has a sense of fight, strength, determination, and perseverance in its pieces. Describe your frame of mind when you were writing for this book. What mental and emotional states were you in? What was going on around you that was influencing these poems?
Usually I write a poem when I feel like writing that specific poem, then that poem either feels right or wrong for my book. If it feels right, I also immediately know in which chapter I have to place it. So I always feel a large range of emotions while putting together a book because every poem is written at a specific point in time for a specific emotion. The emotion I felt the most writing this collection was a feeling of overload, a feeling of everything being too much. The past year has been the most hectic in my life and that chaos shows in my poems and style of writing.
Which of the poems in this collection was the hardest for you to write? Why?
This is the poem I referred to earlier. In the sixth chapter there is a poem called Queen In The Afterlife and I’m gonna have to go with that one. I wrote it over a year ago and posted it on my account as my first eating disorder related content. I remember that I wrote it after seeing a post that spoke about eating disorders in a very negative and degrading way, and it brought back all the painful feelings I had felt when I was younger that I hadn’t felt in years.
Which piece in this collection are you most proud of? Why?
Once again, I will have to say that it is Queen In The Afterlife. It was the first poem I wrote on that subject and until this day still my favourite. Not because it is necessarily the best poem in the collection, but it is the one that opened a new door in my poetry.
How long ago were the poems from this collection written and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you write all new ones or are some poems that were written awhile ago and have already been posted on your social media?
I think a few of the first poems in this collection are written about one year ago and the last ones around January, so they spread over quite a large amount of time. A few of the older ones have been posted on my social media at least once. There’s a lot that I don’t think are fitted for a platform like Instagram though, and those are all book exclusive.
Did you self publish your collection or did you go through a publisher? What was the process like?
I self-published, like the last time, on Createspace by Amazon. It’s quite easy to do it there and if you go through a regular publishing house it could take months upon months to even hear back from them, let alone actually publish your book. For now I am satisfied with the way I’ve done it. It’s easy, and quick, and pretty self-explanatory. I am considering contacting a professional publisher for any future collections partially just out of curiosity and partially because I would really like the dedication and extra security that a publishing house brings.
Do you think a large social media presence is necessary for one to release a book? What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and releasing their own collection? What do you wish someone told you before you started your process?
I don’t think that having a large following is necessary at all. You can publish a book at any time, at any age, at any number of followers. The first book I published was when I only had about 500 followers and now I have 10K but to me it hasn’t made that much of a difference. The important part is that you start with a story, a theme, or just poems that you like and that you want the world to read. Don’t worry about the amount of people that will read it.
How has social media influenced the release of your book? Or has it at all? Has writing and releasing a book always been a goal/dream of yours?
Writing and publishing a book has been a dream of mine ever since I started writing as a child. The only thing is that until a few years ago, I had never expected it would be a poetry book that I would publish. In that way social media has influenced the release of my book for sure, because it’s how I got into writing poetry. Besides that I try to promote my book on my Instagram of course, but other than that it doesn’t make a difference in the actual book or the publishing of it.
This is your sophomore poetry release. How did writing for this collection differ from when you wrote your first? Do you feel like you as a writer has changed or grown? Were there any similarities in your life and creative process between writing your first book and second?
The main process was quite similar: writing poems, collecting them, placing them in chapter, designing a cover, and all that stuff. But I think that I’ve evolved a lot as both a writer and a human being, so naturally my words are different now than they were two years ago when I started my first collection.
What was the hardest part of this process for you - writing the poems, editing, creating a cover, publishing, printing, promoting, etc. Why did you find this the most difficult? If you release a book again in the future, what will you try to do to avoid going through this challenge again (if avoidable)?
The hardest thing I always have while putting my work out there isn’t the creating or the creative process or physical labour that comes with it. It’s the emotional aspect of things. I always wonder whether my book or poetry is actually good enough to put out there, if it’s whole, if it’s truly finished, if people will actually want to read it. I usually overcome it, because there will always be people who won’t like my work, and I am not going through this entire process for them. I am doing it for all the other people who do wish to read my words and buy my book.
Did you have any help with your creative process or the editing and self publishing processes? What did this support system mean to you and what would you like to say to them now that the book has been released?
I have quite some family and friends who are always very supportive of my poetic pursuit and they’ve read the book, commented on it, pointed out the typos and all that. And as always I am so thankful and grateful to have them. They mean the world to me.
What is next for you? Do you wish to write another book or are you going to take some time off?
I definitely wish to write another book of poetry one day again. For now I think I’m taking a bit of a break in actively writing one though. I’d much rather focus on a book of prose right now.
What was your number one goal with releasing this collection? Did you feel you achieved that goal?
I am not quite sure actually. I think the goal for me is to just write it, to get it all out and to put a final stamp on it that says finished, so I can move onto the next part in my literary journey.
Who was the first person you gave a copy of this collection to? Why did you choose that person to be the first eyes to your debut release?
There are six girls to which I dedicated this book and all of them got a first copy with a special note in it. As I explain in the dedication, these girls have been a special light in my life, and to thank them for that I wanted to do something special.
What does this book mean to you? When you look at the cover and flip through the pages - what do you feel?
I feel quite a range of emotions. Some poems are no longer who I am now, some still hit really deep whenever I read them. I write a book and compile the poems because then I can read it back later and remember who I was when I wrote it and how much I’ve changed since then. It’s a way to record my life, especially the literary side of it, and to meanwhile share it with the world.
to purchase Chaos and Catastrophe
to check out more of Emma's poetry, follow her on Instagram!
a special thank you to Emma for allowing me the opportunity to interview her and get a behind the scenes look at her latest book release. If you wish to be spotlighted like Emma, having had a poetry collection of your own recently released or you have one being released soon, click the button below to send me a message. Please be sure to include the release date of your project!
love & light,