Memory Chose a Woman's Body: Angela M. Carter on Poetry and Trauma

Angela M. Carter was born, and raised, in a Virginia farming town of less than 280 country-folk. Carter moved abroad, to England, for nearly five years and returned to sweet Virginia with a new-found confidence, and voice. Her first full-length poetry collection, Memory Chose a Woman's Body (unbound CONTENT) is a poetic journey that spotlights the effects of the silences endured after negative life occurrences, and openly describes the difficult roads she travelled on her way towards healing. Her publications include Vox Poetica, Premiere Generation Ink and many others.

Loren Kleinman (LK): Talk about your poetic journey.

Angela M. Carter (AMC): My journey, to become a writer, began extremely early in life. Poetry has never been a hobby to me; my poems have always been a world that I felt was mine alone, and there's a lot of solace in that. Writing has been a confidant, the reason of my survival, and the reason I was capable of carrying on when all I wanted to do was give up.

Even for a writer, it's difficult to explain the desperation that comes along with depression and feelings of shame. It's so deeply ingrained within some of us that there's no looking over it -- it's just a part of us. Writing, eventually, helped me to understand the vicious cycles I was a part of in my life. There were so many of them, which took many years to tear away at the walls I'd built in order to not have to face the past.

LK: What is it you love most about writing? What's the hardest part of writing for you?

AMC: The therapeutic aspect of writing absolutely amazes me, and I see that as the most positive aspect of my own experience with being a writer. But, as most say in job interviews, my strength is also my weakness. There have been 2am writing sessions that made me feel like I was a young child again, made me discover new recollections and made it so that old wounds reopened. With that said, the benefits highly outweigh the negative aspects. If you had known me 15 years ago, you'd understand the journey I've traveled, and how easily I could have ventured on a very, very long dead-end road.

The book speaks of all the side effects of abuse, depression, medication, family struggles and addictions. Writing surely can't take it all away, but I'm thankful to be at a place that I'm not ashamed or controlled, as much, by the past.

LK: Where do you get your inspiration?

AMC: I was protecting a hundred secrets, and the only way I could empty the heaviness was by writing about them, even if it meant making loved ones uncomfortable. That's my inspiration. Most would think that by writing the things I do, that my life would be more difficult, but this isn't the case at all. By writing frequently, I'm validating myself and having an open conversation with the old and new me. My inspiration is simply the freedom that writing causes. I write for me, but I'm so lucky that I have many supporters that follow my writing and have began a journey of healing because of it.

LK: Are there any particular books/authors that inspired you and continue to do so?

AMC: I am a fan of writers with guts! Mary Karr, Sharon Olds, Maya Angelou and Sylvia Plath are definite favorites. I realize that these writers are quite popular answers, but I believe that the reason is simply because they stepped over boundaries and are/were great at their crafts. Other writers I'm enjoying reading at this time are Jennifer Elise Foerster, Beth Bentley, Melissa Stein, Diane Gilliam Fisher, and Jack Gilbert. Each of these writers has brought an even higher appreciation, to me, for writing. I believe that writers have a responsibility to read and promote others' work. We are, after all, all lovers of literature.

LK: If you could write outside of your genre what would that be?

AMC: I suppose I'd love to be able to write fiction. There's something special about carrying someone into an entirely new world. I'm in awe of many of my fiction-writer friends that invest so much energy into their characters and descriptions. They create an entire world that even they live in until these stories/books are complete. However, that is also what confessional poets must do; we must take a moment that still haunts us, or has changed up, put it's leaves and deal with the roots we find once we bring those moments back to life. I will say, though, that the roots have never scared me as much as the leaves--sometimes we just need to remind ourselves how far we've come, even if it's not what we wanted to remember in order to do so.

LK: What's next?

AMC: Memory Chose a Woman's Body, was released this month, and I am in the process of booking readings and public speaking engagements, and am going to use every opportunity I can to talk about the triumph and realities of being a survivor. We are all a survivor of something, no matter where we are on the spectrum or how traumatic our events were/are. This book is about not being afraid to speak up, and being able to leave the conversation afterwards without feeling shame.

I don't have any shame anymore. I can't tell you just how powerful of a statement that is for me to be able to say. My hope is that my book will mean others will be at that same place, and see their worth. Sometimes when we are broken, just admitting it sends a message to ourselves; we are saying that we will do the same for ourselves that we would do for others. It may seem elementary, but it's something I was unable to do until Memory Chose a Woman's Body was written.