Interview with Cheryl Snell

from Carla Sarrett's Blog:There aren’t that many sisters working together in the way that they you and your sister Janet do (maybe there aren’t any?) How does the sibling part of your partnership fit into the artistic part? Do you fight?
Just with our brothers! Seriously, Janet and I have great respect for each other, and although we have a similar worldview, we’re interested in the points at which we diverge. Differing opinions are an opportunity to build something better, but I have to admit that the sister who feels most passionately about a particular point wins the other over.
Who makes the decisions about which images work best for which poems? I’d imagine it’s hard to pick! (And have you ever had second thoughts after you went to publication?)
Most of the poems are made to order. Janet will show me photos of her latest batch of work, and after we discuss meaning, mood, and inspiration, I will make a poem to complement a picture that speaks to me. I try to incorporate Janet’s imagery into my own to achieve the effect of a musical duet, with each voice responding and supporting the other. Her work is quite autobiographical, so I usually know what she’s “talking” about, but my words do not necessarily narrate her picture. I try instead to extend its meaning, so the connections are looser, more elastic.
As for second thoughts after publication--I have them all the time. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have a good editor re-pair the works before publication. This happened with the linocuts in one of my poetry collections, and I thought the editor added an interesting dimension with her choices. This is not always the case -- don’t get me started!
You have a few wonderful videos that play with the flow and appearance of words. In one of them, Intricate Things in Their Fringed Peripheries, words float words as well as over images. Who makes those kinds of decisions and how? (And is it Chery
The videos were my baby. After a colleague made a video using one of my poems from PRISONER’S DILEMMA and coupled it with Janet’s art, I thought I’d try my hand. Perhaps it would add another layer of interest to the mix, I thought. I didn’t know if splitting the focus would dilute the poem or lessen the impact of the images, so I was happily surprised when I submitted a few of them and they were published. I’m very glad to know you liked them, Carla. And yes, that was me on the piano in these videos -- mostly to avoid copyright infringement.
Do you have a favorite project or piece that you feels best displays your collaboration, or are they all favorite children?
I usually like our most recent work best, but I’m especially fond of PRISONER’S DILEMMA. It was the first book we shared equally. Janet had done the cover art for my first book and her art was sprinkled throughout my subsequent books, but PRISONER’S DILEMMA was a true collaboration, fifty-fifty. It all hung together, concept and thematic structure. Each art reinforced the other.
The book had a long and checkered route to publication. The manuscript won the chapbook competition sponsored by Lopside Press, which subsequently folded. I bought an ISBN number and republished it with our own micro-press. The book served as the catalyst for Scattered Light Library. We still bring out some of our collaborative projects under that name. PRISONER”S DILEMMA spent a moment or two on one of the Amazon bestseller lists and garnered some wonderful detailed reviews from people I respect. It is still on the site, minus all but one of those reviews. That capricious Amazon!
I've seen your work described as haunting, although it deals with real things that matter. Who are your heroes?
John Ashberry, Mark Strand, Louise Bogan and Louise Gluck, to name a few poets associated with “the new American surrealism.” Lots of things influence a sensibility, but eventually a unique voice speaks up.As for haunting, one critic observed in a rather Freud-like way that our true subject is the conflation of the mortal and immortal, given that the natural state is the immortal, and that the detour into life is a circular whirlpool. I rather like that
Published 2013-10-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.