POET OF THE MONTH SPOTLIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH ISABELLA FIORE
HBR poetry editors: what is your favorite line (or short sequence of lines) of poetry you have ever written? (this doesn’t have to be something from the three poems you sent us!)
isabella fiore: this question is actually really tough because for me, every poem i write needs to have that line in order for me to be done with it. having said that, in a poem i wrote about the big flower fight (totally worth it to watch on netflix!), i write:
somehow i worry i am invalid
because my virgin lips and virgin
hips scream so loudly. can you tell
i am loveless?
it’s so real and painful and kind of sums up who i am as a writer. i write a lot of relationship poems but i’ve actually never been in a relationship; it’s very much an act of fiction writing. sometimes i do wonder how qualified i am to write about things i've never experienced, though i think i’m doing a pretty good job at it so far :)
HBR: at first read, we were so blown away by how gracefully the words in “lace/leather/we all know no one loves me” flow through the poem’s fragmented style. could you tell us a little more about the inspiration/“story” behind this poem and how it came to take on this form?
IF: it actually came out of becoming a staff writer at The Aurora Journal; after i was accepted, i realized it was a surrealism journal! i don’t usually write in surrealism, so i figured it was time to try my hand at it. for some reason, i felt it was all about weird formatting and short poetry, so i began to set this romantic scene. next thing you know, it swings right into a poem about a relationship that looks amazing, but is actually completely a farce. i think there’s something so interesting about a relationship that everyone but the two actually in the relationship believes in.
HBR: the two opening stanzas of “you buy me orange juice” share a lighthearted, playful, and humorous quality, which made the later stanzas seem more crushing in comparison to us. would you consider yourself a more spontaneous/free-flowing poet when it comes to writing, or are you a meticulous editor of your own work?
IF: my writing process is strange in the sense that i never edit anything or have drafts of a piece. if it’s not flowing out of my brain perfectly, i am not writing at all. i’m not the first to say it’s not the best approach to working but i’m a bit of a perfectionist! i usually start writing something light or random, and end with introspective statements that are a bit painful. my friend once described it as “you start with something funny and end with oh god i am alone”—this feels very apropos for my mental state :)
HBR: this ending of the third stanza in “writer in the dark” really stood out to us: “i want to know what / it looks like when someone / loves me. i want to somehow / learn to love myself.” what message, if any, do you hope to spread about self-love and loving others in your poems? in your opinion, are the two types of love related to/influenced by each other?
IF: whenever i write a love poem, it almost always includes a character who loves others so deeply without loving themselves. maybe it’s a pisces thing to lose yourself in someone else and place your self-worth below their needs? definitely unhealthy. i think the messaging in my writing is more inert than overt. i want pieces like this to be a mirror for others to see themselves in. it’s reflective, and hopefully inspires some kind of self-discovery. i do think that self-love and love for others are tied together. you can’t really love someone in a healthy manner until you have that love for yourself. despite how romantic it might sound, there’s nothing beautiful about losing a piece of yourself inside someone else and having to rebuild yourself.
HBR: many of your poems have self-referential qualities (for instance, the fifth stanza of “writer in the dark” reads: “she’s so vain, i bet she thinks / this poem is about her...”)—in other words, your speakers often seem to be aware that they are “inside a poem.” do you have a particular routine you like to get into before/while writing? we would love to learn more about your writing process in general!
IF: i’m actually not that picky when it comes to my writing routine or how i get to the point in which i’m writing. i do try to set aside a half hour each day to write either in a notebook or digitally. i usually write my non-traditionally formed poems by hand, and the ones with defined stanzas on my computer. beyond that, i really write anywhere at any time. i write on the couch while watching tv with my family, on my own with a candle, or during class when my teacher is talking! the only thing i think helps me is listening to an album that i know very well while i’m writing. cheap queen by king princess, (s)ex tapes by fletcher, or ashley by halsey are my top picks for a writing soundtrack. sometimes the lyrics even make their way into my poetry—i’m always inspired by a strong queer woman feeling her feels :)
HBR: what do you think your biggest strength is as a poet?
IF: my biggest strength as a poet is definitely my self-awareness. i’m personally not a fan of poetry that can’t make fun of itself; i want to laugh and then cry. olivia gatwood, jamie mortara, and mary lambert all come to mind here. they write hard-hitting pieces where you giggle, and then the next stanza fully punches you in the stomach. i like to pull the reader in and out of the zone, providing them with the full fantasy of emotional responses.
HBR: if you had to describe your poetry in three words, what would they be and why?
IF: number one would be witty. there’s always a joke or a reference to a song lyric, something that gives the reader the relatability element that ties them in to the piece. two would be hopelessly romantic (yes that is two words. it’s fine). i just really want to be loved and love. a lot of what i do is pining, or writing fiction about relationships that i’m not in. the third and maybe most important word is gay. everything i do has an element of queerness because it is a major part of who i am. whether i am questioning what the gender binary is really doing for us as humans or talking about falling in love while selling bike shorts at work, it’s all inherently gay.
HBR: what is your favorite/least favorite part of being a teen writer? do you have any advice for younger writers who are just beginning to refine and publish their work?
IF: my favorite part of being a teen writer is definitely having so much time to actually sit down and write. so! much! free! time! i’ve been super prolific lately and am grateful for that. the worst part? imposter syndrome. i never feel like i’m being published enough, nor do i feel anywhere as good as MFA candidates or career writers. i’m definitely working on that. it actually ties really well with my writing advice for teens: get very comfortable with rejection. sit in it, breathe it in, and remind yourself you are not a bad writer. you are good, i promise :)
HBR: lastly, what are some goals you have as a poet? these can be long-term or short-term goals, ranging from the quantitative to the qualitative. an alternative way to look at the question would be: why do you write poetry?
what is it that you hope your words will achieve?
IF: my only goal as a poet is really to keep writing and never run out of things to say. as long as i need to get my feelings out, i will write. in the same vein, i write poetry because i need to. it’s a selfish activity for me, almost self-care like. i’m a pisces, and i feel like i have so many emotions that need to be put somewhere. once i’ve written it, i can put those thoughts away.
i don’t really know what i hope my words will achieve. i think i just want people to see themselves in my work, like the mirror i mentioned earlier. i want people to feel like they’re also relatively normal, and that they are not the outlier. i want to have people laugh, then cry all in the span of two minutes. i want them to feel their emotions like they’re live wires.
isabella fiore (she/they) is a writer who chronicles her experiences through love, sadness, and figuring out what it means to be a queer "woman" in her world. she comes from southern ontario, where she writes through her last year of high school through refreshingly honest poetry and experiments with form that she's still uncertain about. her publications include WEIGHT journal and TEEN-ZINE, and she is a staff writer at The Aurora Journal. there, you can find her confessions about mental illness, back pain, and other thoughts she decides to yell into the abyss in lowercase letters. when she is not writing, isabella can be found baking, napping, or wrapping herself in a blanket like a burrito.