"About the Work" with Karisma Price
In our "About the Work" series, Natalie Tombasco asks recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Karisma Price's poems "And" and "I'm Always so Serious" in SER Vol. 40.2.
I wrote the first draft of the poem “And” in summer 2018 at Cave Canem. I’m a poet who writes about my anxieties, and I wanted to create a repetitive list poem of all the small and large situations that have brought me discomfort in the past. I decided to start almost every sentence with “and” because (1) This may sound weird, but I’m intrigued by dependent clauses. Their existence is determined by the independent clause that comes before the conjunction and, to me, my anxiety is like a dependent clause: it’s always attached to and determined by a previous thought or action I have. I wanted to get to the meat of the anxiety without having to paint the full picture of every situation I listed. (2) The recurrence of “and” adds to the exhaustion the speaker feels when reading (give or take four sentences).
Fun fact: an earlier draft of this poem had every sentence start with “And.” When I brought this poem to class, Chris Abani was our instructor for the day and, when we workshopped it, he asked, “Why do you fear disruption? Who’s that voice inside of your head? Is it your mother? Your father? What is the lexicon of your family?” and it felt like a wild therapy session. He suggested I have a few sentences that disrupted the “and” pattern to add sentence variety and to slow down in certain places. I really liked that suggestion and toyed around with that in the revision.
KARISMA PRICE is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection I'm Always So Serious (Sarabande Books, 2023). Her work has appeared in Poetry, Four Way Review, Wildness, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She is from New Orleans and holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of poetry at Tulane University.