An Insistence on Meaning: Nicolle Elizabeth in Conversation with Shya Scanlon

An Insistence on Meaning: Nicolle Elizabeth in Conversation with Shya Scanlon

I asked Shya Scanlon to meet me at this unspeakably awful dive bar in New York City to talk about his chapbook Poolsaid which was put out online by The Literary Review. Poolsaid is an incredible work about a family dealing with their matriarch’s losing battle to cancer, and the narrative moves fluidly through the progression and turmoil of loss. I wanted to know where the project had come from, because I felt three things: it was a beautiful, grotesque depiction of a sick woman, Scanlon’s a poet, and I loved it.

“I was creating a space for myself,” he told me, over our $1.25 cans of beer. “I had been writing another project and this was an offshoot of that. Poolsaid is kind of like passing out after a breakdown.”
We continued to talk about how works can bloom from other pieces and inform new ones. “Again, the project was actually a side project. I was breaking apart language. Moving through this eating away within the story, and moving on.”

Scanlon has also made his novel Forecast available online, free and easily available to readers, which I applaud. He’s rather productive, it seems.

“There is freedom in shifting perspective,” he said and sipped.

We spoke a great deal about writing from a male/female perspective, which I sometimes hate the idea of: gendered writing. But in this case, the elegant way in which he deals with writing from a dying mother’s mind is so aptly drawn, it couldn’t be overlooked. “I was heavily influenced by some authors. Like Diane Williams,” he said. “Working on the piece slowed me. To pull apart the words and move from patterns I had seen myself making (lyrically).”

Patterns attempted to be hidden aside: the fluidity with which the work moves is a deepening and thickening tributary in a bend, a river to find truth and sprays of unabashed vulnerability, and the attempt to break apart the language throughout the work is not lost. Lines cradling one word ring as hard-hitting as lines later making use of every device we writers have access to in our toolboxes. We talked a bit about the chapbook as a form for story telling. “To lead someone in a direction,” he said, “each word sort of aggregates and creates a trajectory. The sentence shifts the meaning.”

On our way down the block, I told Shya that while reading the work all along, a thought came to mind: that he was a poet. He didn’t get down with this sentiment, the distinction between the two, rather, so I put it another way: “Are your roots in poetry?”

“Well we all started out writing poems,” he said. “Right?”

Poolsaid can be read HERE and other works by Shya can be found at HERE.

  1. […] Elizabeth’s excellent review of Poolsaid last month for The Chapbook Review, this month a brief interview (or account, really, of a conversation) has been posted. Thanks to John Madera for this great new […]

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