The ever so handsome Derek interviews the beautifully talented Gabby

Recently, this blogger had the rare privilege of communicating with fellow Paper Plane Pilot Gabby McCullough: an exceptionally talented writer, poet and budding photographer. Below is the interview that transpired…

1) How and when did you initially discover that writing was a passion of yours?
I don’t quite remember how I discovered my love for writing, but I would guess that it was fostered from a passion for reading.  I have fond recollections of writing down small poems and tidbits at the age of about 8 or 9, and resting my notebook atop a colossal volume of classical poetry, so the two are so interconnected for me.  Perhaps the truest thing that I’ve come to understand about my own writing process is that it’s so heavily influenced by other writers.  One of my favorite feelings is that of a blissful overwhelm of emotion when I find a poem or piece of fiction that profoundly moves me.  Language is such an interesting and difficult thing to master, both in reading and writing.
2) Might you share who your favorite poets/writers are, and why?
Oof.  This is a big question!  Here are my top five (in no particular order):
(1) Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  There is such a power to his writing. Everything from his sense of rhythm to his sense of sound, his ability to paint an extremely visceral image, his mastery of rhyme and storytelling–I’m amazed.  Perhaps what’s more, he’s willing to traverse extremely dark places in his poetry.  His literary struggles with repentance and morality and innate evils and societal entrapment are all gorgeous and heartbreaking.  Perhaps more heartbreaking and more fascinating than that is the many ways in which he deconstructs a societal norm and then proceeds to plaster and bandage up (quite incompletely) the destruction that he just enacted.
(2) E.E. Cummings.  If ever there were a poet who could so beautifully baffle me, it would be E.E. Cummings.  The fluidity and brightness of his poetry is so contrary to the (typically) heavy subjects that he discusses.  There is an enormous tension between the cadence of the poem and what it actually imparts to the reader.  I’ve spent hours examining and re-examining “anyone lived in a pretty how town” and have, happily, been unable to reach any decisive conclusions.
(3) Frank O’Hara.  The emphasis on wandering, both in the phrasing of his stanzas and what they contain, the disconnectedness of his ideas in the way that they’re presented–he’s able to enchant and entice readers in a way that few others can.  His poems beg to be spoken, and to me they drip down the page like a Salvador Dali clock.  Truly, they’re just glorious.
(4) Terrance Hayes.  Another man whose poetry begs to be spoken aloud.  His toying with time as a concept and as a construct is so intriguing to me, and it’s challenging to find words to describe just how necessary his voice is.  There is a heaviness in the fall of his words; they refuse, in fact, to fall softly, regardless of the structure of the poem.
(5) Ishion Hutchinson.  Dwelling in the strange and beautiful liminal space between the abstract and the concrete, Hutchinson is able to paint with words some of the most haunting images I’ve ever come across.  There is a music to his stanzas, and his works all have a whispering melody.  Every words is measured and weighed, and he manages to say exactly what he wants to without compromising meaning or rhythm or intent; his words are pointed.
I realize now that these are all poets, and they are all male.  Truthfully, these are just the first of many to come to mind, but I feel I’ve drudged on quite long enough about these incredibly inspirational beings.

3) Do you pursue writing in a professional sense, or is it strictly a pastime that you appreciate?

In the poems and short stories I write, it’s largely just for the appreciation of creating something.  I love the process.  I love laboring over the words and the music in the lines.
Professionally, I’m an undergraduate majoring in Neuroscience and English.  The influence of both discourses tends to find its way into my poetry.

4) Apart from poetry and prose, are there other artistic creations that you enjoy?

I fancy myself a bit of a photographer.  I much prefer the process of film rather than digital works, largely because I feel as though I have more control over the actual creation of the image, but I love the careful thought about perception and perceiver, the composition of images, and how the image interacts with its viewer.  Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes vision as palpation with the eye, and I can’t help but consider that when I work with photography.

5) After reading some of your poetry, it is clear alliteration is a poetic technique you employ. What other techniques do you incorporate into your poetry, and why?

I’m a huge fan of alliteration!  When I write, I try to be very conscious of the ways in which words sound together.  For me, poetry has always been a paired auditory and literary task, and so I try to give my poems sounds as I try to piece together image.  I guess it’s sort of like trying to create an odd film soundtrack for each poem.

6) Free verse appears to be a style of poetry you occasionally write in. What is it about this style that appeals to you?

I’ve definitely messed around with a lot of styles, and I’ll typically try and write images first and then see how they fall on the page.  I’m a believer in the idea that form is fluid and, while I’ve written occasionally in more rigid poetic structures, I tend to vary even the forms that I do attempt to write in, re-owning them in small ways.

7) In regards to the words you use within some of you work, would you consider yourself to be a bit of a sesquipedalian?

I am incredibly fond of all words, but yes–I am particularly fond of lengthier words.  I like the way that the syllables roll off of the tongue and into one another.

8) What passions and values are often thematically discussed/referenced in your writing? Might you kindly explore why?

I suppose that I tend to work a lot with images of death or decay.  I would like to think that I do this to better acquaint myself with the idea of dying; the idea that it’s an incurable and inevitable side-effect of living is quite terrifying, and I think I write about it so that I can try better to understand and come to terms with it.

9) One of the things I appreciate about poetry is the multiple interpretations a single piece can have. With this in mind, what do you enjoy about poetry?

I love everything from the sounds to the shapes to the fluidity of the verse.  I think the best way that I’ve ever heard poetry described is that a poem is like trying to fit a tornado inside of a Tupperware container.  There is so much power and force and chaos–all crammed into such a small amount of space.

10) Regarding the aforementioned question, might I ask, what is your poem, ‘the Library’ about?

Insofar as I was writing with any sort of single meaning, I really wanted to explore closely the impact that parents, societal norms, and literature jointedly effect a child.  It was, more than anything, meant to be a physical expression of mental phenomenon and a competition for mental energy and freedom of thought.  I suppose that freedom itself and the idea of defying norm values was really at the core of it.  The sections were meant to be slow developments and slow progression of age as we track with the narrator through her life.

11) ‘Still Patient’ is a very powerful and emotive piece of yours. I personally often write about particularly painful moments in life for the therapeutic benefits, and because heartbreak, pain and loss are often relatable themes for a wide variety of people. Might I ask, what are your motivations behind some of your more poignant work?

Works like “Still Patient” arise from a deeply personal place.  Typically, I’ll write the beginnings of the end products to stories or poems like this months before they’re actually done.  At the time, it’s my way of expulsing the emotions boiling over inside of me and leaving them to settle for a bit before I return to them.  The return is the coming to terms with what’s happened, and piecing things together, and the slow beginnings of moving on.

12) Your name milady, McCullough – is this Irish or Scottish? Do you think your racial/cultural background influences the type of work you produce? If so, might you explore how?

McCullough is, indeed, Irish!  I think that it has a subtle influence, particularly because I’m a strange and uncommon mix of things.  I’ve got Irish, Lebanese, Spanish, and Ukrainian blood running through my veins.  Each of these places has such a unique and fascinating history, and while I don’t feel as though I’m explicitly aware of their influence, I believe that they effect most writers implicitly.

13) There is no thirteenth question. Thirteen is a wretchedly evil number, so I will not include it here.

 14) Do you often find yourself answering questions from random strangers concerning your writing practices?
Not at all!  This is a very infrequent occurrence, but one which I am incredibly thankful for!  Thank you for your kind and thoughtful questions, and thank you for the opportunity to reflect on my own writing process!
I would like to personally thank Gabby for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I would moreover, like to thank Paper Plane Pilot Publishing for granting me the opportunity to conduct this interview. Lastly, I wish to thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read this interview. Have a great day!  🙂

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