Finalist Interview: Marlo Starr

Marlo Starr is a student at Emory University and a finalist in Poetry. We caught up with Marlo to talk about his life and craft. Marlo’s poetry will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.

The Writer

What are you reading right now?

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Jennifer Cheng’s House A is up next.

In what spaces do you like to write?

I like to write at my kitchen table in the early morning. It doesn’t always work out that way, but when I manage to wake up even before my dog, I feel like I have the world all to myself.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?

I’m still in the weeds with my dissertation. Ask me when I get to the other side?

What’s a source of inspiration for you?

I tend to get a lot of ideas when I’m not actively trying to write, when I’m reading or watching a movie. Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women is one I keep going back to you lately. It wrecks me every time.


The Work

Why this genre?

I really like Jonathan Culler’s idea of the lyric as “an event” in itself rather than “the representation of an event.” I also write short fiction, but poetry allows me to shake off some of my loyalties to narrative truth or needing to tell things as they happened. Fiction can subvert narrative, too, but I think something about poetic time can take us out of re-imagining the past and thrust us into the present.

What do you want readers to take away from your piece?

When I wrote “The Metric System,” “normalization” was a buzzword in the news, and I was thinking about how systems work to either downplay or hide violence, especially family systems that protect behaviors by keeping them secret. From the inside, the behavior is accepted as normal, except for the shared understanding that it wouldn’t be perceived that way from the outside. I think larger social systems can also work in a similar way by refusing to recognize what’s right on the surface—there’s no big reveal because we all knew it was there all along.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

Like a lot of writers, I wasn’t able to produce anything in the weeks after the 2016 Presidential election. “The Metric System” was one of the few things I managed to write. Growing up in the desert, our house was often infested with black widows. I remembered how my family got used to it, and somehow, that became an apt metaphor for the current cultural and political climate.


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