Getting to Know 2017 Phillips Prize winner Evana Bodiker
Contributing writer Savanah Burns recently interviewed the 2017 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize winner and author of Ephemera, Evana Bodiker.
Q: How did you hear about the Texas Review Press?
A: My partner and I both write poetry. We had just completed chapbooks in one of our advanced level poetry writing courses, so we were looking to get some of those poems out into the world. He had read Jesse Graves’ two books from the TRP and through a Google search, found out about the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook prize. He encouraged me to submit after we read through some of the past winners’ poetry.
Q: How have you distinguished yourself as a poet?
A: I feel so lucky to get to call myself a poet! Even luckier to be in such a strong community of writers as I am at my university. I’m a religious studies major, who is minoring in creative writing, but writing is something I pursue, despite the rejection.
Q: Who are your literary influences?
A: Always, always, always Sylvia Plath. She is my foremother. There’s Chloe Honum, author of The Tulip-Flame, became my first contemporary guardian angel. Her poetics have encouraged me to use a microscope to look at the images and ideas that fascinate me most. Anne Sexton and Rebecca Hazelton were also early influencers. Others that come to mind: Lorde, (yes) the singer; Kate Zambreno, a non-fiction writer; Vladimir Nabokov’s work in lepidoptery and his prose; and the brave and cool Dorthea Lasky.
Q: What are you currently reading?
A: It’s all poetry and all women! My partner recently bought me In Darwin’s Room by Debora Gregor as a congratulations gift for Ephemera’s publication! He said there were some familiar themes. I’m enjoying reading her! Other than that, there’s Right now Revolver by Robyn Schiff; A Collected Poems by Djuna Barnes; Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop; Rocket Fantastic by my thesis advisor, Gabrielle Calvocoressi (it’s a magnificent read); A Little Book on Form by Robert Hass, which I use for “research” and general self-improvement.
Q: What is your definition of poetry?
A: Georges Bataille, one of my favorite philosophical theorists said, “Poetry describes nothing that does not slip towards the unknowable.” I interpret that as poetry aims to describe the things that are most difficult to describe. Poetry internalizes daily experiences—almost meditates on them—and then moves to describe these experiences in ways that are striking and new. Sometimes these are lost in translation, but when people understand the concrete behind the abstract, that’s magic. I do believe poetry works towards a universal language. It also makes you feel something.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am in my senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For my honors thesis, I am completing a manuscript of 1,000 lines. The working title is Obvious Terrarium. Texas is on my mind. Lots of experimentation with form and voice. This past summer, I spent a month in Houston. In her twenties, my mother lived around the same area, so I’ve been exploring the intersections between our experiences through my recent work. As always, I’m focusing primarily on embodied experiences—it’s interesting to try to do this through my mother’s eyes.
Q: Do you write prose, or do you only write poetry?
A: I haven’t written a short story for about two years! But, prose has always been something I return to in some way, shape, or form; if it weren’t for prose, I wouldn’t have started writing poetry. I keep a journal for prose writing, poetic research, and reflection. A lot of what I write is nonfiction, and I really enjoy memoirs, so one day I would be nice to return to prose and figure out the ways memoir and poetry intersect.
Q: What do you see in your near future?
A: As a huge planner, the next year has a huge question mark on it for me—but for the first time, and a great deal of this has to do with the publication of Ephemera, I feel alright with not knowing exactly what is next. I am in the process of applying to a few MFA programs with a lot of hope and little expectation. If I am not accepted to any of the programs, I will hopefully spend my first year after graduation writing a lot. Hopefully I’ll be traveling a little bit; It’s likely I’ll move out of North Carolina, which would be a first-ever step for me.
Come back next week for Part II featuring more on Bodiker and Ephemera.
Savanah Burns is a young poet from Huntsville. She studied English and History at Sam Houston State University, where she completed a short novella for her honors thesis. Her writing has been featured in Beacon, an undergraduate magazine, and HistoricalMX, an online historical journal. Her poem, “Starry Night,” won first prize in 2016 for a college and university contest held by The Academy of American Poets, which included an online publication. She is currently pursuing an M. F. A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry at SHSU. She is a new addition to the Texas Review Press as a graduate assistant, as well as a new addition to the Gordian Review as its poetry editor. She is excited for what lies ahead.