Concrete Porches & Cigarettes

An Interview with Rachel Calderone.

I currently live in Hobart, the town to which I feel drawn. Growing up in Saint John for the better part of my formative years, I couldn't stand cookie-cutter McMansions in the middle of nowhere that were disconnected from one another. In Hobart, I find community downtown, at the Lake, and even as one yard edges upon another. I love the mismatched homes, large, old trees, and the odd amount of golf carts. Hobart's heart beats loudly.

In middle school, I remember writing an eleven-page poem about unrequited love. My 8th grade English teacher had us write and analyze poetry daily, and the pattern of pouring out my feelings or observations onto the page stuck with me. It’s a hobby that comes and goes, but it is one that brought me into a welcoming community where we can relay the deepest depths of our thoughts, or our next great idea, or even just small talk over beer that we drink while sitting on metal chairs in a local bookstore. Writing has brought me to work on large projects like editing magazines, contributing to zines and organizing readings. Writing allows me to connect with people, which is why I truly love it.

Here’s my life right now: I snooze my 5, 5:30 and 6'o'clock alarm until probably 6:11, where I struggle to leave the house on time and arrive early to prepare for my day teaching English to 12 year olds. Then I talk to these 12 year olds all day about the thing I love while they absentmindedly practice TikTok choreography. I tell myself that I’ll leave at contract time (3:05), but I don't. I get home to clean or scroll Instagram or watch Bon Appetite videos and maybe hop on the exercise bike. Lately, I’ve made it a habit to read at night even a little bit. Then I go to bed, set my alarm for 5, 5:30, and 6'o'clock; and tell myself I am going to get up to read or write even though I know lethargy will win. The cycle begins again. Currently, as a first year teacher, I’m struggling to find balance, but in time I hope my life comes back to me.

I love cento poems, or poems where you take words or phrases from other authors and mush them into your own. I have a giant book of Women's poetry that is falling apart, so every time a section breaks off, I use it as inspiration. Also, my prolific and talented friends in the community give me hopes that I will make my own zine one day.

Dessa, Noname, and Florence Welch are artists who intimidate me and make me want to do better. Dessa has great wit and attitude as she crosses genres, and her ability to switch between lyrics, poetry, and prose is inspiring. Noname is raw, real, and tells an important and interesting story. Florence Welch discusses how she just lets her ideas flow and doesn't think too hard about what she's writing, and I want to emulate that demeanor. Also, women. Women inspire me.

I find bits of political angst in poetry, especially when talking about the experience of being a woman. Poetry allows me to deal with traumas I've experienced, no matter how small, so those also peek through. Recently, I have been exploring The Region (if I can say that?). I enjoy exploring the sensation of living in the Midwest or in these small communities. I love to idealize concrete porches and romanticize the cigarettes that my mom used to smoke while she perched on those stoops.

In terms of where I find inspirations: Mythos (Alec) is constantly encouraging me to make it happen and giving me space to do so. Casey King is a pillar in the community, works nonstop, is brutally honest, and is someone who makes me want to do better. Jess Haug is a beautifully positive and hilarious individual who builds me up when I see her. Kelly Massei is endlessly creative and spreads love and respect through her art. Garin Cycholl has been an amazing mentor on this journey since I first took Writing Fiction with him in 2015. Alexis Evans reminds me to be weird, be out there, try new things, and lives to be an example. There's a million people I love and respect and could list, but there's the few. (Should I shout out my mom who wants to rent a cabin and dictate her stories to me so I can write them? In that case, hey, Mama. Thanks for believing in me.)

I don't know if my creative work itself is what is powerful or if it is what my creative work has led me to pursue. I love being involved and making things happen in the community. It’s moments like when I finally get copies of Spirits into the hands of readers who have anxiously awaited their published work that make me feel like all the hard work was worth it. It's also when I get to see someone get excited about reading in front of a crowd for the first time after I encouraged them. It is when I have a student completely engaged in the writing process, where it finally all clicks. Orchestrating outlets for others to be creative is my jam. All I can hope for is to be kind and helpful, whether it be through my words or actions.

My name is Rachel Calderone, and I'm an English teacher, poet, and essayist.

©Alchemy & Elegy 2020