English Alum in the Spotlight: Susan Slaviero

Susan Slaviero
Susan Slaviero

Recently, we here at the Jet Fuel Review hosted an Alumni Author Reading featuring three alumni from the university where we are based, Lewis University. We wanted to celebrate them not only in that space, but here on the blog, too. Last week we spotlighted former JFR Managing Editor Tim Fitzpatrick, and this week we have poet Susan Slaviero.

Susan Slaviero’s full-length collection of poems, CYBORGIA, is available from Mayapple Press. Her chapbooks include An Introduction to the Archetypes (Shadowbox Press 2008), Apocrypha (Dancing Girl Press 2009), A Wicked Apple (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2011), and Selections From The Murder Book (Ghost Ocean, 2012).  For many years, she designed and edited the online literary journal Blossom Bones, and now she performs as her alter ego, August Rose, with The Chicago Poetry Brothel. She is the recipient of a 2014 Pushcart Prize, and she received her degree in English from Lewis University. You can visit Susan’s blog here 

Below we have both an interview with Susan, and we’re also featuring a poem by her, entitled “Coyote.”

What are you working on currently?
I am working on some poems for a couple of solicited projects, including work about the tarot and more poems about strange creatures and pieces with horror elements.  I have also been working on and off on a full length poetry manuscript which builds on the themes on my most recent chapbook, Selections From the Murder Book.


How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

I think every writer’s work is different. I have a special interest on the body, in issues relating to gender, and with horror and science fiction poetry and hybrid work that incorporates elements of both poetry and prose.

How does your writing process work?

I read as much as possible! That’s what inspires me to write, to create my own worlds and narratives.  I usually begin the writing process by hand with pen and paper in a journal where I keep ideas for poems and write my rough drafts.  I write final drafts and polish my work on the computer.


What book might we find on your nightstand right now?
I am currently reading The Magicians Land, book 3 of Lev Grossman’s series.  I also have Eavan Boland’s collected poems on my nightstand.  Like most passionate readers, I have a queue of “to read” books stacked up, a mixture of things including Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, the YA novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Stephen Graham Jones’ collection of short horror fiction After the People Lights Have Gone Off.


If you had the chance to co-write with one author, who would you choose? Why?
If I could co-write a book of poetry with another writer I admire I think I would love to collaborate with Jeanine Hall Gailey.  She is one of my favorite poets and I think her work has some thematic similarities with my own.

What might your personal library look like?
I love mystery novels, police procedurals, horror and science fiction.  I have a mix of things on my bookshelves: poetry, essays, collections of myth and fairy tales.  I love food writers, too.  I keep my favorite food writers mixed in with my kitchen cookbook collection, including works by Laurie Colwin, Tamar Adler, and MFK Fisher.

Give us a favorite quote from a book you enjoy.
“The crimes of others are a secret language among us.  Though them we show ourselves what we might be capable of , after all.”  Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tal

If you have a favorite poet or poem, who/what is it? Why?
My absolute favorite writer is Margaret Atwood, so yet another quote!  I love her short poem:

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook

an open eye

I love how concise this work is, and how effective.

When it comes to writing, is there something you struggle with?

Honestly, my greatest struggle with writing is dealing with exhaustion and finding the time and energy to write. I have an adult child with a disability, two elderly parents to care for, and an ordinary job, housework, bills.  I struggle with my own chronic health conditions.  Sometimes I am just too wiped out, physically and mentally, to write.  I have to plan around everyday life, and schedule writing time as I might for anything else.


Where does your inspiration come from?

I find inspiration from reading books, like most writers.  I also love other narrative forms: television and film.  Art inspires me, too.


Susan’s poem “Coyote” originally appeared in Ghost Ocean Magazine and later on in the Best of the Net Anthology.


This might have something to do with predation, a paper cocoon
in a dead girl’s mouth, a bloody arrow drawn on an oak leaf.

Nothing is so slick as the red marrow from a femur, the red skirt
draped over a thigh. Call her a striptease, a hotel keychain, a pool

of wet painted under the body. She was breathing when you began
whistling between your teeth. Now there are beetles in her hair,

and she is folded over, raw fragments, the knucklebone
you swallowed, the plastic bag of fingernails you keep

under the backseat. She is the pair of lips you tattooed on your wrist
that means something, the secret you tongue when you’re alone

in rented rooms, the damp graffiti you left on the pavement
in the shape of canid claws. You imagine she might return

as a mouse, something dark and skittering in your peripheral vision.
This is a trick. You appear in numerous guises, but her ghost

always knows you by the damage you cause to exterior tissue,
the oval tracks that lead away from the pretty carcass.


Be sure to check back next week as we highlight our final alum, Kendra Hadnott.

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