Nancy Anne Miller: Poet of the Month on “The Missing Slate”

nancyanne.headshot_1_29_edit_jpg-2_-2Bermudan poet Nancy Anne Miller was chosen poet of the month this January on the online journal The Missing Slate. The interview (published on 24 January 2016) reveals the effect of Bermuda on her writing both as subject and as forming her aesthetics. She also refers to other Caribbean poets, such as Kei Miller and Vahni Capildeo (see below). My favorite line from her interview with Afshan Shafi is: “For those of us writing about islands, there has been the thrill of naming what has been unnamed for too long, putting the complexity of island life into serious verse for the first time.” Here are excerpts; read the full interview here (or through the link below):

Nancy Anne Miller has lived in Connecticut and England, but her poems are informed and shaped primarily by her birthplace, Bermuda. As she explains to Afshan Shafi in the latest instalment of The Missing Slate’s Poet of the Month series, “being surrounded by an ocean, on an island where one could never be more than half a mile from the sea, gave me this profuse and profound sense of the force and power of a cyclical movement.” [. . .]

The first thing that strikes me about your poetry is your use of lush heightened imagery.  Does the use of the metaphorical hold more weight with you than the declarative? Do you think this is a result of your formative education, surroundings, or is it just an intrinsic inclination?

I have a real intention with my use of image metaphor. Firstly, I want to break down linear intentional poetry or what Woolf would refer to as the masculine sentence. I’m interested in feminizing language by creating a circular movement throughout the poem. I intend to disrupt the idea of the poem moving towards a climactic end. I want image metaphors to make the poem radiate out across the page, shimmer with many meanings. I am certain being surrounded by an ocean, on an island where one could never be more than half a mile from the sea, gave me this profuse and profound sense of the force and power of a cyclical movement.

There is a reaching in image metaphors of one thing towards another. W.S. Merwin said, “Everything is a metaphor for something else.” Hence, image metaphors reach out towards a community of things which is also a feminine arc and notion.

Secondly, I like how it creates a sense of flux by the comparison of one thing to another. This comparison sets up an emotional sub plot for the comparison of two countries which is at the crux of my work. In Bermuda my surroundings were so spectacular, they had to inform and shape my sense of reality. (It may be why Surrealism never impressed me, as I always think reality is strange enough.) Therefore it seems only right then that my tools match it, match the task of representing the opulence and the strangeness of a semitropical landscape. Not to mention jumpstarting the imagination of the reader who may have filed Bermuda away in a tourist brochure category.

[. . .] What do you feel about most of the postcolonial texts to which you have been exposed? Do you think a certain type of perspective pervades the genre, or is there a potential there for a highly personal idiom too?  

I am grateful to such texts as ‘The Empire Writes Back’ and ‘Colour Me English’ as they have helped me locate my work in a genre. For those of us writing about islands, there has been the thrill of naming what has been unnamed for too long, putting the complexity of island life into serious verse for the first time. However, noting the surge of Caribbean writing, the Jamaican-born poet Kei Miller said, if you have a mountain and a grandmother you have Jamaican Immigrant poetry, which means that a type of island poetry is now thoroughly visible, and possibly redundant. I agree with him that there is enough of a new canon written about the islands so as to now merit highly individualized responses to them occurring, such as in the work of the brilliant poet Vahni Capildeo. [. . .]

Nancy Anne Miller is a Bermudian poet with four books: Somersault (Guernica Editions), Because There Was No Sea (Anaphora Literary Press), Immigrant’s Autumn (Aldrich Press), Water Logged (Aldrich Press). Star Map is forthcoming in 2016 (Future Cycle Press). She is a MacDowell Fellow with a MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and is published in Edinburgh Review, Agenda, Magma, New Welsh Review, Stand, Postcolonial Text, The International Literary Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, The Moth, The Caribbean Writer, The Arts Journal, Wasafiri, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Journal of Postcolonial Writing, among others.

For full article, see http://themissingslate.com/2016/01/24/poet-of-the-month-nancy-anne-miller/

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