Five Questions for Kerry Rawlinson

Kerry, you were selected from all the longlisted entries for mentoring as I felt that there was something special and different about your voice. How do you describe your voice and what do you want the reading experience to be like for your flash pieces?
Perhaps it’s the poet in me; perhaps it’s the fact that I was raised in Zambia and emigrated to Canada with a young family; or burying myself in books from an early age. I’ve been around this planet a while and survived a lion’s share of tragedy, and experiences have to find their way out, somehow. So I’d like the reader to view a different perspective, through my eyes. To see that there’s beauty beyond/ inside every difficulty, if you take a moment to crawl out of pain/ directionless-ness, and re-engage. I’d like lightbulbs to come on above heads; for the reader to recognize their own humanity in my work. And find the humour! Mine’s a little dark, but truly, that’s what gets us through.

One of the questions I asked you during mentoring was whether you wrote prose poetry as I noticed a poetic, lyrical quality to some of your work. You said you did, so I was wondering what makes you decide for a particular piece if it’s more suited to flash or prose poetry?
Poetry done well is incredibly powerful. It’s my preferred tool for social commentary and personal reflection. But when I have a story itching to come out, flash is absolutely the medium. Since I always strive for beauty or tension in my writing, ideally to draw the reader on and make the piece more memorable,the piece might sometimes evolve more lyrically. But flash is always my choice for exploring a story and synchronicity of characters.

Are there particular things that you’ve been working on to improve your work that you could outline?
Mentoring (thank you!). Growing a rhinoceros skin! Being self-taught, I never had the energy throughout my career in Architectural technology/ while raising a family, to focus on the facet of me. This means critical feedback is now vital to growth. Rejection is feedback. So I’m learning, with gratitude, to disconnect the emotional reaction. Mentors help me take a piece and blow it up, so to speak, into its components, then refocus. And I read! Knowledge is everywhere. Mark Twain wrote: “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” So I’ll be “In Training” until I die.

What has influenced your writing and made it yours?
A shout out to current writers. Combined with the internet of everything, a renaissance era for the written word is underway, in my opinion. As for my own work, I’ve been an “outlier” my whole life. White girl/ black country; boarding-school brat; widow; single mom; immigrant; survivor. I belong — but never quite. So I observe: the small things, the big things. Individuals are extraordinarily nuanced — and yet our collective dis/functioning is too often predictable, too black or white. Its these dichotomies that inform my writing, and with my poetic voice and my third-world sensibilities, hopefully makes it special.

And finally, I’d love to hear what your future writing – and life – plans are!
Aim high… then just keep putting one foot in front of the next! Goals are well & good — I’d like to see published collections of flash & poetry;(from this page to the gods’ eyes); showcase and continue exhibiting my photo-art; –but it’s the disciplined, daily grind that gets us ahead, inch by inch. I’m a living repository of this philosophy! And as long as I’m getting somewhere, still appreciating my husband of forty years/ family/ grandchildren, I’ll have no justification to quit.

Decades ago, autodidact & bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Fast-forward: she follows Literature & Art’s Muses around the Okanagan, still barefoot. She’s cracked some contests, e.g. Geist; Fish Poetry Prize; and features lately in: Spelk Fiction, AcrosstheMargin, PaintedBride, ConnecticutRiverReview, Pedestal, ArcPoetry, amongst others.  |  @kerryrawli