Samantha Malay is our first poetry editor in residence, a program that was developed to empower poets to pass on their publishing and editing skills during 2021. She offered us a few insights on her life and inspirations as a poet--those things that feed into her art.
I’ve been writing and creating mixed-media artworks most of my life but I have no academic background in either form. Beginning in 2017, I published individual poems and collages, and in 2019, Flying Ketchup Press accepted my poem ‘Yelm,’ along with several of my images, for the multilingual anthology “The Very Edge: Poems.”
Following our 2020 book launch, Polly McCann asked if I’d like to explore a remote poetry editor in residence role. My 30-year career as a theatrical wardrobe technician was at a standstill due to pandemic-related closures of performing arts venues. What an opportunity to focus on skills I had not had time to pursue in-depth!
We decided to create a solo collection of my poems and discussed the idea of a “how-to” guide illustrating our journey, to share with the next poetry editor in residence. Between February and August 2021, Polly and I met via Zoom every few weeks, usually one-on-one, sometimes with fellow Flying Ketchup Press staff and volunteers. Thanks to Polly’s deep and patient questioning, I gained new collaborative skills and learned to
see my work through others’ eyes.
So how many poems? we worked on approximately 40 poems, published and unpublished. Meanwhile, I continued, and continue, to write new ones, prompted by my meetings with Polly, and encouraged by the feedback and support I received from the larger group. Ultimately, these became my chapbook Realm (Flying Ketchup Press 2022). I call it a travelogue, a series of snapshots, and a love letter to my childhood when my family was together. It’s about the pull of geography, the centrifugal force of time, and the contour of absence. It contains poems inspired by dreams, roadside photos, disappearing landscapes, and collages made with found fabric and beeswax.
reclaimed pillowcase fabric, vintage Oregon map, beeswax
This excerpt below, An Introduction to Arabic Calligraphy, by Ghani Alani, from 'Inking the Qalam,' illuminates my growing understanding of the kinetic link between handwriting and memory, as well as my relationship to the structure, sounds, and meanings of individual words.
It is important to take up only the correct quantity of ink needed for a "journey." By that, we mean the line composed of a downstroke, an upstroke, and an intermediary stroke. Between each take up of ink, we pause, which we call the letter's articulation. This pause is required, not only to recharge the ink, but also to think, which gives the script its contemplative dimension. It's easy to see why the continuous lines made by bevel-headed felt-tips or pens with an ink reservoir will never replace the lines made by a qalam with its one-of-a-kind results.
I learned from so many people at Flying Ketchup Press: I participated in online workshops hosted by Flying Ketchup Press, which included instruction in multiple editing modalities, various publishing platforms, and marketing techniques, as well as information about books for different age groups and a spectrum of sensory needs. I was especially interested to learn about audio and braille formats. JoAnneh Nagler’s class, “How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass: A Practical Guide,” gave me valuable time commitment tools. I was inspired by Kevin Callahan’s descriptions of his multidisciplinary projects incorporating visual art with words. Alongside Araceli Esparza, I learned how to deconstruct and evaluate poem submissions for “The Path of Birds” contest. Beth Gulley generously read the first draft of my manuscript. Poet T.L. Sanders’ voice was a soothing presence in our meetings. Skilled in the art of cross-pollination, Polly shared her own paintings, illustrations, and poems with me.
I was given new skills in utilizing Flying Ketchup Press’ broad network of social media,
the creation of my own page on their website, blog posts
a radio interview/poetry reading
I also learned how to write about my writing, and, after decades of highly choreographed physical activity, I taught myself to sit for hours in front of a computer.
I kept a handwritten daily log of my editor in residence tasks, ruminations, and dreams, and I typed notes from our conversations and emails. I made lists of my influences: movies, music, colors, geography, natural phenomena, other writers, and artists. I created a list of resources for Pacific Northwest writers.
My creative practice during my poetry residency became more about sound and listening: I practiced reading and recording my own words, first for Qwerty Magazine’s publication of ‘Rosary’ (February 2021), then for my interview and reading of three poems on the Ketchupedia Radio Hour (July 2021), a reading of ‘Realm’ for the online launch of Soliloquies Anthology, issue 26.1 (December 2021), followed by a recording of ‘Falter’ for Five South’s website and podcast (forthcoming). My work was accepted in many publications TINGE Magazine, In Parentheses, Ponder Review, Kind Writers, SHARK REEF, and Five South, to name a few.
For my forthcoming solo poetry collection with original photography and collage, I drew from previous projects, including historical research of Onion Creek via old land deeds. Thanks to the Stevens County Assessor’s Office, in Colville, Washington; the Highway 99 exhibit at Shoreline Historical Museum, in Shoreline, Washington; the Curt Teich Postcard Archives/Lake County Discovery Museum, in Wauconda, Illinois; and the Structures exhibit at Rokeby Museum, in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, along with documentation and preservation of vernacular roadside architecture by the Society for Commercial Archeology.
Other inspirations for my new poems and artwork came from the spare watercolor paintings of Minneapolis artist David Rathman, which depict landscapes captioned with dialogue fragments from old cowboy movies, and the evocative dioramas of Tacoma, Washington artist Phil Roach, which require a viewer's interpretation via a wall oculus.
When I was stuck: When I felt unable to write, I remembered Lynda Barry’s words, “a sentence is like an address…a spoken location of a thought,” (What It Is: The Formless Thing Which Gives Things Form) and Stuart Dybek’s, “you continue to rent all the rooms you’ve left behind,” (‘Anti-Memoir,’ from Streets In Their Own Ink).
My year with Flying Ketchup Press has been both a pause and a path which revealed writing as my grounding force. Between job searches, editing my mother’s memoir, and the ordinary tasks required to maintain a household in the midst of a global crisis, my spare moments were spent learning my new role. In September 2021, my work in the
entertainment industry tentatively resumed, creating a steep reduction in my writing hours, but I return to my theater industry job as a poet.
Samantha Malay grew up in rural northeastern Washington State, where her family built a cabin with timbers salvaged from an abandoned homestead, hauled water from a creek, and lived without electricity. Her experiences in that time and place continue to shape her understanding of the body, memory, environment, and creativity. Her mixed-media work fuses found textiles, photos, and beeswax. It has been published in The Grief Diaries, Cahoodaloodaling, Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art, Temenos, Chaleur Magazine, Apeiron Review, Hey, I’m Alive Magazine, and Sheepshead Review. She is an annual contributor to A.I.R. Gallery’s Postcard Exhibit and Fundraiser, in Brooklyn, New York. Her artwork is in the MERZ Gallery permanent collection, in Sanquhar, Scotland, and will be included in the book Collage Your Life: Techniques, Prompts, and Inspiration for Creative Self-Expression and Visual Storytelling, by Melanie Mowinski (Storey Publishing, 2022). Samantha’s poem ‘Between’ was a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee (Shark Reef Magazine), and she contributed images and words to the multilingual anthology The Very Edge: Poems (Flying Ketchup Press, 2020). Her poetry recently appeared in Plainsongs (Corpus Callosum Press, winter 2022), and will soon be published by Kind Writers and Five South. Her poem/collage ‘Inland’ will be featured in “The Art of the Postcard: We Are All Artists,” presented by Inverted Syntax at Firehouse Art Center, Longmont, Colorado, February 11 – March 6, 2022. Her chapbook Realm is forthcoming. thistleandhasp.wordpress.com.
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Salt & Fig Books folksy, down to earth, and strangely satisfying, the poetry imprint of Flying Ketchup Press ® grassroots and artist-run, to champion new and diverse voices in poetry and short story. Our dream is to salvage lost treasure troves of written and illustrated work-- to create worlds of wonder and delight; to share stories.