Interview with Raylyn Clacher
by Hannah Bradley
How do these poems relate to or build on your chapbook All of Her Leaves?
In some ways, they seem to be the next step in the examination of relationships that All of Her Leaves begins. Whereas the poems in All of Her Leaves kind of operate in this closed, obsessive loop and lean into and feed off of each other, “First Date,” “How to Get Rid of Flies,” and “The Husband Go-Round” elaborate on the same themes but stand alone. I think of the poems in All of Her Leaves as being neighbors who all whisper and gossip to each other. I think of the poems published in the Arkansas International as being part of that same neighborhood, but maybe shouting across the ‘hood to someone they haven’t talked to before. They’re all having a similar conversation, but in different tones.
You responded to a question from "The Chapbook Interview" by mentioning your admiration of Sylvia Plath and how her images are so memorable to you. In reading your poems the image of spiders coming out of a popped balloon holds that same lasting quality for me. How do you know when you have found an image with such lasting power?
I guess I know that an image has some staying power when I become obsessed with the image. When I revise the poem, it cannot stand without that particular image.
Can you tell us a little more about the three poems that appear in The Arkansas International?
I think that all of my poems, no matter how fantastic they get, start as either a phrase or an image rooted in my daily life. For example, the lines for “First Date” began coming to me after listening to a story on NPR about the wildfires in California. The reporter was talking about how they were so short on firefighters that they were going from fire to fire without cleaning up. They were literally wearing the ash from the fire they had just put out to the new fire. I became obsessed with the idea of carrying “the ash of the last fire” into new endeavors. To me, it became the perfect metaphor for dating. We all talk about carrying baggage, but I don’t think that phrase accurately captures what happens. It’s like we’re all walking around, willing to throw ourselves back into the flames, so eager to leap that we don’t properly clean the evidence of the last fire first. The three red balloons in the poem came from an actual first date: a super awkward first date.
I admire the ways your poems evoke mixed emotions. At times they are humorous and at almost the same moment they are pensive or serious. How do you go about weaving these subtleties together?
I wish I had an answer for you on how I weave these things together, but I think that it happens unconsciously. Life can feel so absurd and serious at the same time; I think that is what filters through in my work.
What are you reading and loving now?
I wish I were reading more poetry, but my daughter is 18 months old, so I’m spending most of my time reading Dr. Seuss and Llama Llama Red Pajama. I’m curious to see if any of those nursery rhyme qualities end up filtering down into my work. I did, however, read and love Jennifer Givhan’s Landscape with Headless Mama and I’m dying to get my hands on Mother-Ghosts, Leah Sewell’s debut collection. She’s a poet whose work I’ve admired for years.
Raylyn Clacher's poems can be read in the print edition of The Arkansas International 2.
RAYLYN CLACHER is a poet, mother, and teacher living in Wichita, Kansas. Her chapbook, All of Her Leaves, was published by dancing girl press in 2015. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in journals such as the South Dakota Review, New Orleans Review, and burntdistrict, among others.