Interview: Heather Bartlett on Bleeding Yellow Light

I posted this interview with Heather Bartlett on the blog a few years ago to celebrate the publication of her chapbook, Bleeding Yellow Light with From Yes Press. In trend with the blog's retrospective mood this year, I wanted to revisit this conversation with a gifted poet . For more about Heather and her chapbook, please visit the press website.

Bleeding Yellow Light makes strong allusions to confessional poets, particularly Sylvia Plath. Can you talk about what poets (both classical and contemporary) influenced writing the poems for the collection?

Sylvia Plath is certainly someone whose work I admire and am inspired by, not just as a confessional poet, but as a strong female voice. I tried to pay tribute to that with the poem, “Obituary.” When writing these poems I was also very moved by the contemporary voices I was reading - Marie Howe and Cornelius Eady, in particular.

In the collection, there is a poem called “Dear Reader” that directly addresses the poem’s audience. Do you see the poem as a conversation with the reader?

Yes, a conversation between speaker and reader, speaker and self, reader and subject, poet and speaker…

Andrea Yates has a strong presence in this collection. What compelled you to use her as a character in the poems?

I was actually searching for a way out of the BYL poems, for a new voice and subject matter, and I had just read Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination, in which he takes on the voice of the man Susan Smith claimed kidnapped her children. The way in which he inhabited this space, created persona and voice, really struck me; the poems are so haunting and moving. I remembered Andrea Yates – the headlines, the trials – and how haunted I had been by her story. I thought by taking on this voice that both fascinated and terrified me, I might be able to discover a “new” voice of my own.

How do you think the title, "Bleeding Yellow Light," defines the collection as a whole?

I don’t think it defines the collection at all, really. As you know, I struggled to find a title for the chapbook. I tried to designate a title poem in here, but as these poems speak to different kinds of pain and trauma, it didn’t feel right to try to define it all in such a way. I think (I hope) the line “bleeding yellow light resonates throughout the poems, and helps to link together the separate narratives that run through here without making any one more important or relevant than another.

The last line of the collection is one word: “Look.” What do you hope readers see in the poems?

Something they recognize. These poems are about pain, but they are also about beauty. I hope readers will look for that.

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