Welcome to my new series: Interview with a Poet. My aim with this series is to introduce you to a handful of the hundreds of talented poets I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – both online and in person – in recent years. Good poetry should be shared, and every poet has a story that can enlighten and inspire others. Here is Kris Bigalk’s:
Every poet knows that getting a solo book of poetry published is no easy feat, but Kris Bigalk wasn’t about to give up easily. The creative writing program director, mother and poet from Minneapolis, Minnesota entered “every contest under the sun,” worked on her manuscript constantly for three years, and spent hundreds of dollars on entry fees.
“At the end of that three-year period, I felt like I had nothing to show for it,” she says. “I had published poems in New York Quarterly, so one day I took a chance and politely emailed the editor. He liked the manuscript, and offered me a book contract. This was quite a surprise for me!”
Repeat the Flesh in Numbers will be published by New York Quarterly Books in March 2012.
Kris’s love of language and writing began at an early age. “I started keeping journals at eight or nine, to help process my emotions. What keeps me writing is the thrill of getting some words on the page and tinkering with them until they say something that I never knew that I knew,” says the founder and now director of Normandale Community College’s creative writing program—the largest Association of Fine Arts (AFA) program in the country.
What keeps me writing is the thrill of getting some words on the page and tinkering with them until they say something that I never knew that I knew. ~Kris Bigalk
Kris’s work has recently appeared in Rougarou, Silk Road, the cream city review, and other journals. She has chosen to share ‘Senor Squirrel,’ recently published in Pif magazine, with us, as it’s one many readers will identify with:
by Kris Bigalk
The habenero peppers were no accident.
I grew them
especially for you,
to watch you pluck a bright yellow bonnet,
turn it over in your hands like a topaz
or tourmaline, then sink your bicuspids
hard into the flesh, only to throw
it three feet into the air, your mouth
on fire with my revenge, tail stiff
and high as you raced for your burrow
as I laughed, counting the losses
I had suffered at your paws – tulip bulbs,
sunflower heads, sleepy mornings
interrupted by your family arguments
in the tree outside my window…
Me gusto, Senor Squirrel.
The back-story behind this poem is rather amusing. Kris’s family is engaged in an ongoing war with the two families of squirrels in her yard, and so far, “The squirrels are winning,” she laughs. “We have a total of at least eight squirrels, some red, some gray. They fight with one another and regularly decimate my flowerbeds and my vegetable garden. One year, I planted Habanero peppers, and Señor Squirrel is about what happened next.”
Kris likes to write with humor to draw in her readers and put them at ease at the start of readings. “My funny poems tend to be the crowd-pleasers, but I write an equal number of serious poems, and honestly, they are more fulfilling for me as a writer.”
Several of the poems in Kris’s upcoming collection began with a story or an off-hand remark she heard at a party. “‘My dogs are my kids,’ she said, and I said” is a poem in the collection that centers on how dogs are really not at all like children. It’s an uncomfortable fact that we live in a country where a lot of dogs eat better, dress better, and have better medical care than a lot of children do — and the poem draws attention to an ethical dilemma many dog owners had not really considered. When I read that poem at a reading, the huge range of reactions to the content of the poem makes it a new experience every time.”
As if Kris isn’t busy enough with her five children (a daughter and four boys, including twins!), running the largest AFA program in the country, tricking clever squirrels, and launching her March 2012 poetry collection, she’s just learned that two of her poems will be appearing in a fine art book featuring photographs, poems, and prose, entitled Open to Interpretation: Waters Edge. You can look for it at http://www.open2interpretation.com and learn more about Kris and her work at the following websites:
Author websites: http://krisbigalk.wordpress.com; http://nyqbooks.org/author/krisbigalk
Book website: http://nyqbooks.org/title/repeatthefleshinnumbers
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gps3WMR8doc&feature=youtu.be