Spotlight On: Cole Miller

Cole is a poet, prose writer, and artist studying in the Creative Writing BFA program at PSU. He also does collages and makes postcards.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Hard to pick a favorite, but Godspeed, by Lynn Breedlove, is a great read and one heckuva book.

Q: Who are your favorite poets?

A: Gwendolyn Brooks, Galway Kinnel, Philip Lamantia, Emily Dickinson, and our own Rodney Koeneke.

Q: What themes do you like to explore in your work?

A: Identity, criminals, crime, criminal behavior, loneliness, death, escapism, teenage problems, small town problems, skateboarding, bicycling, dancing, drinking and drug use.

Q: What do you do about creative blocks?

A: I always have a few stories I am working on, a few poems, a few postcards, etcetera. If one is stymied I move to the next. I never get bored and I never stay still.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A: I have two books I am midway through, several short stories, and poems.



Spotlight On: Emryse Geye

Emryse is a poet and chemist studying as a graduate student at PSU who contributed to Pathos Literary Magazine in the Winter 2017 and Spring 2018 editions.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?

A: Well, a lot of my pieces are about my relationships with my family, my body, and my queerness, so the experiences in my life that are heavy or difficult to process sometimes end up becoming poems, but to make those big feelings approachable and manageable, I often have to filter them through my lens as a chemist or use other systematic frameworks. Therefore, a lot of my pieces end up reading kind of like essays with this very structured argument.

Some poets that inspire me are Hanif Abdurraquib because he’s really good at this approach, and has a lot of overlap between his poetic and essay-writing styles; then Kevin Kantor is a poet who has really dramatic and clever wordplay and structures, which helps me to be more innovative and engaging; and finally Bianca Phipps really lives very deeply in her feelings in her poems and is always challenging herself with new formats and so she inspires me to be as truthful as I can and to be more flexible in my writing practice.

Q: What do you do about creative blocks?

A: Basically, I just go work on something else. For me, it helps to keep a spreadsheet where I track poems that are in progress, and so when I am feeling creative but directionless, I will look back at this list and see if there’s one to which I can add. This means I am a really slow writer—I have several pieces that have taken me four years to write, because if it is not the right time for me to finish them, I just wait until it is. However, as a chemistry doctoral student, there are a million other things I should be doing at any given time rather than writing poetry, and stepping away from writing helps me look at both my coursework and the piece in a different direction, anyway.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A: Lately, I’ve been putting graphics of some quotes from my pieces on Instagram; it’s a nice way to teach myself some basic graphic design and to advertise when individual pieces get published. I also am just about finished with all the poems for a full-length collection, so I am trying to crank those out and then organize and format the manuscript in order to shop it around to publishers. Finally, there’s that pesky dissertation I should probably be toiling away on. :/

Q: What are your goals?

A: Ideally, after finishing my doctorate, I want to be able to support myself through a poetry MFA. I feel like I have a lot to learn, and that it might lend some credibility to my writing, especially as someone who works in STEM. In the more immediate future, I would love to be on another poetry slam team, but because of the time-consuming nature of graduate school, I’ve been focusing more on filling out my publication resume—sending out individual pieces to appropriate publications and trying to just get my name out there as much as I can.

On the importance of poetry

There is something magical about the ability that poetry has to capture moments of reality into strings of symbols within visually pleasing formats that can open up entire realms of imagery and experience once entered into our consciousness. Rhythm is a visceral feeling, and it is to be noted that poetry is more ancient than prose. The goal of reading poetry is never to overanalyze it to death, but to understand ourselves more based on the reactions that we have when we experience the words. To understand the details and technicalities of our own minds – our own reactions to, interpretations of, and interactions with the poem. Aimé Césaire said “poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge”. Poetry helps us learn language in a different, more melodic way, where we can focus more on syntax, diction, lines, sonics, rhymes, and rhythms. Poetry is a familiar way to express language as a living being—the sounds of animals, especially birdsong, often express through a rhythm or a rhyme. Poetry also allows for abstraction of thoughts, and allows emotions to be expressed in illogical ways, ways which reflect real life, which tend to be illogical. Often our realities and our own thoughts are unreasoned, abstract, fragmented, and interrupted, and poetry is a vessel in which we can genuinely express these vernaculars. Poetry allows us an examination of our overly familiarized world with an abstracted, de-familiarized lens.

Photo: Sparkman

Words: Tattoli