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Shannan Mann

"Submit a fuck lot. Read way more than that. Write some. Everyday, if possible." 

The editors of Eucalyptus Lit recently had the privilege and opportunity to speak with Shannan Mann, poet and founding editor of ONLY POEMS. Her work “If a shadow appears in darkness the darkness must be light” features in Issue 4, Overture.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How did you start writing?

I first started writing around the same time as when I started reading. So, like four… five? I loved making up weird stories. As with many writers, it was an escape as well as an outlet. I wrote a full novel at 17 that some agents were into. But because my home life was very unstable, I ended up running away from home with nothing but my laptop and a few belongings stuffed into a bag. After that, a lot of crazy stuff went down. I started writing again after 6 whole years. By this time, I was a new mom, finally doing my BA, and also about to go through a lengthy (as I’d find out soon) divorce. Less than ideal, maybe—or maybe, just the perfect time to strike, ha.

What is your writing process?


Being a mom, a full time grad student, running ONLY POEMS, and working at Chill Subs—I don’t really have much time to think about process anymore. I get tired of working on one thing, I write. I do my other work, need a break—I open a doc and write. I’m pushing Ana on the swings, get an idea, pull out my notes app… you guessed it, I write. My process is kinda like survival, I guess. I write when I can, however much I can, whatever I can. It’s more fun and less chaotic than it sounds (but let’s face it—it’s pretty damn chaotic)!


Do you have a favorite author or work?


I have several! In no hierarchy or genre: Susannah Clarke, Bob Hicok, Agha Shahid Ali, Li-Young Lee, Mahmoud Darwish, Shirley Jackson, Sylvia Plath, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and anything fairies and fantasy and folklore and weirdness and funny, smart horror. 


What is your relationship to myth and folklore, and how does it inform your writing?


Myth and folklore are the most delicious elements in writing, at least according to me. They’re a salve, relief, buffet, and also just the perfect cozy hug. I refuse to accept that folklore is not “serious” fiction or writing. Fucking hell, folklore is the original form of storytelling—come on, literati! I think, at the core of it, reading a book ought to be entertaining. That’s right, for me, it’s not just about being transformed by a woo-woo cloud made out of vague abstract concepts that academics can drool over years and years from now MAYBE. No, bring me the guts and glory of good fiction—a strong story, characters you feel you could reach out and touch, and a narratorial voice that doesn’t fucking let you sleep at night. 


Could you talk a little about your artistic choices behind “If a shadow appears in darkness the darkness must be light”? 


This poem is an exercise in musicality and spell-making. It was also one of the first poems I wrote after picking up the proverbial pen again. I was listening to so much alt folk rock. I wanted something swaying and melodious but also kind of creepy and sad. My partner and I were long distant then and things were a little fragmented. We didn’t know if we’d pull through, despite all the love. Like a lot of my poems, this is a weird love poem. It’s bleeding out and crying and snotting all over the page. And yet, I think it manages to sound appealing. That’s mainly aided by the rhythm. It’s a kind of neo-villanelle, with the choice of rhyme and repetition also. I’m super into horror-folklore which I think is just a fancier term for lite-horror. I love it when I can use such elements in my work. 


Could you tell us about your work with ghazals?


Ghazals were and still are my first true love. Karan and I read and wrote a lot of ghazals together back when we were stuck across opposite ends of the earth. They are rooted in community and song—the original purpose and origin of poetry. Ghazals are unabashedly dramatic and emotional in a very controlled way. Often times, poets can swing to polar extremes with drama and emotion. Ghazals temper that, they allow for wildness, they’re a license to be free and accessible in poetry. I’m currently developing a book of ghazals for which I owe my heart to Agha Shahid Ali’s Call Me Ishmael Tonight


We are all huge fans of ONLY POEMS. What does it mean for you to run and direct a magazine? What is the most important thing you’ve learned from running it?


Karan and I started ONLY POEMS after pulling off a crazy all-nighter planning the ethos and submissions process, designing the website, and creating our social accounts. We never dreamed we’d make it to where we have in just 9 months. We’re very grateful and also super hungry and excited to do more. Our biggest love is the connections we have and continue to make day in day out thanks to ONLY POEMS. The hardest part is learning to say, “let’s wait” on all the exciting stuff we want to create and launch, all the beautiful wormholes we want to get lost in. The most important thing we’ve learned in this whole process is that running a lit mag is fucking hard. Like, it’s work, friends—as you all must know. So there needs to be as much drive and love behind it as possible. Plus, it’s vital to think about what you’re contributing to the already-saturated scene. How are you shaking things up! 


What do you envision as the future of ONLY POEMS?


AN ONLY EMPIRE! Muhahaha. Kidding. Mostly, ha. We have tons of plans. Most of them I can’t talk about right now (I know, I suck), because I must wait for them to solidify before we try them on in any capacity. But as an ultimate vision, I’d love to be THE number one poetry magazine (yes, even before that one) that anyone thinks about when they want to share their poems with the world. We’d also really love to eventually have an affiliated press where we publish poetry collections that push the boundaries of what’s being published in the poetry world today. 


What have you been up to recently?


I’m officially moving to the States for my MFA. Karan and I will finally live in one place without having to move around and get separated by oceans and other large bodies of water. We’re going to do a big cross-country trip and then move homes, set up, create work spaces, write a lot, read a lot, work a lot and unicorns will fly in the sky with pigs dancing on their noses and—erm. Yeah, well, hopefully some of that stuff pans out. Life’s crazy. But it’s amazing how much you can get through when you’ve got so much kindness around you. 


Do you have any advice for young writers?


Submit a fuck lot. Read way more than that. Write some. Everyday, if possible. 

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