An Interview with Marcus Clayton, "Colombian Girl"


Can you discuss the meaning of the title? 

The meaning of the title comes from a yearbook entry. The poem itself is about a high school friend that passed away fairly recently, and one thing I remember most about her was that she was incredibly proud of her Colombian heritage and always commended me for being proud of my Costa Rican heritage. Towards the end of the yearbook entry, she wrote "this Colombian girl," and from there I knew how to title my dedication to our all too brief friendship. 

You're on a deserted island with only one poem.  Which one is it and why? 

This might be cheating, but I think I'd go with the entirety of "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg. The energy behind the poem, especially reading it out loud, always reinvigorates me when I'm feeling at a loss for energy. It also always gives me brand new ideas every time I read it and makes me less afraid to try things out in my creative work. Not to mention, It's a MUCH longer poem, so would also aid in not feeling like time was dragging while on the Island. 

Who has been influential in your development as a poet? 

Two poets I often try to emulate are Yusef Komunyakaa and Frank O'Hara because they’re both so masterful at conversational and narrative poems that hit a nerve with sentiment and personal demons. Reading their work always makes me feel like I'm doing it right, you know? That being said,  Patty Seyburn, Bill Mohr, and Charles Webbmy primary professors for my MFA degree—have informed and molded my writing since my years as an undergrad. They've collectively introduced me to poets I would have never even thought to look for and taught me about certain conventions of writing I would have never thought to explore. They're also all very hard to impress, so hearing them compliment my work in any way is always a nice ego boost. 

Where do you find your inspiration? 

My inspiration comes from my life. Virtually anything and everything that was burned into my memory or is a kind of "demon" that needs exorcising from my psyche inspires me to write. I'm a fairly introverted person and not very good at openly displaying feelings, so writing about various feelings or events in my life has always proved both therapeutic and has managed to keep me writing for as long as I have. 

What have you learned about the craft of writing poetry? 

I learned a poem can never be finished. Even as I read some of my published work on other journals, I'll see things like bad line breaks, different ideas, and most importantly sentiments I don't have anymore. Even though I would love to go back and rewrite some of these poems and change the meaning or structures, I often have to tell myself that these "incomplete" poems are moments in time that were created during a part of my life that I cannot go back to. It's like a yearbook photo (yeah, going back to that, sorry) where you look yourself and think, "Oh God, why?! Lemme go back in time and take that stupid hat off or at least shave that stupid soul patch off," but the best you can do is laugh at yourself and bask in the idea that you've changed, either for better or worse. Even though I have more power in rewriting poems, I often don't. If anything, the only way I truly "finish" them is writing a response poem. A "Part 2" or something like that. That way, the story continues and the past is left as it is.

Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the power of flight. Why? 

Flight. You know how much money would be saved on gas and public transportation?! Plus, I'd be able to get places really fast. And the fresh air and hanging with birds...really, the list of conveniences just goes on and on for flight.