This week, to continue our look behind the scenes, Gloria Bonnell caught up with Scott Montgomery, one of our poetry editors.
Scott Montgomery: Currently, most of my reading consists of poetry. I have been reading Rilke’s collected poems (edited by Edward Snow), slow lightning by Eduardo Corral, This Journey by James Wright, The Black Heralds by Cezar Vallejo (translated by Rebecca Seiferle), George Oppen’s collected poems, C.D. Wright’s Deepstep Come Shining. I have also been reading Human Landscapes of my Country by Nazim Hikmet. I cannot help but read many books simultaneously. Because of all of the books that I read at any given moment, it takes me awhile to work through any particular book.
GB: What are you writing right now?
SM: I am working on a series of persona poems that are inspired by the sacred valley of Peru. The goal behind these poems is to offer a well-rounded representation of what it would be like to live as a subsistence farmer in Peru. I am also working on a couple of longer poems—about 2-3 pages each. These poems have been wrought from various travel journal entries that I have written over the last few years. When I write a first draft, I tend to overwrite and a large part of my revision involves cutting-down and reshaping what I have written. Typically, a piece that is originally 8 pages long will be cut back to just a couple of pages.
GB: What kinds of things do you like to see turn up in the submission queue?
SM: I have a very broad taste in writing, and do not approach the material in my queue with any sorts of expectations. Though I do love to see writing that is bold enough to challenge convention, while at the same time demonstrating a consistency and maturity of craft. In general, I am interested in writers who are taking risks with what they do. Sometimes that may work and sometimes it may fail miserably—it is this sort of risk that I believe is important to take in order to write a great poem.
GB: What turned you on to poetry? Tell us about your journey to where you are now.
SM: As is the story with many writers, I first decided I wanted to be a writer during middle school when I took an extracurricular creative writing class. Shortly after grade school I stopped writing, and did not pick it back up until I entered college and chose to major in creative writing. Since this time, one of the major concerns of my writing is related to the division between being a resident and being a foreigner—something that I have dealt with often while I have lived and traveled in South America.
GB: Could you talk a bit more about your experiences in South America?
SM: After graduating from the University of Montana with my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Buenos Aires, where I lived for about a year. I also had the chance to spend time in Peru and Bolivia during the summer of 2011 and the summer of 2012. The landscape and people of South America figure prominently into who I am and how I write. Being bilingual has made it possible for me to read important Latin American texts which are not translated into English. I love the work of Jamie Saenz, Antonio Cisneros, Alejandra Pizarnik, among a list of many others.
GB: Walt Whitman or T.S. Eliot? Why? If neither of these, then who – and why?
SM: I would have to say both, and many more. I am not a fan of questions such as ‘who is your favorite writer?’ or ‘what is your favorite book?’ because answering this requires an oversimplification. I can only answer for what moves me at any given moment. With that in mind, I would say that Emily Dickinson should be read by every poet.
Scott Montgomery is an MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University. He loves the outdoors, and grew up in Montana. The extensive travel which he has done through South America has taken a central role in how he approaches writing. Scott dreams of someday living in India.