Q&A with Chrissy Friedlander '09
Christine Friedlander '09 is a writer, accessible testing specialist, and body of water from New Jersey. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and serves as Poetry Editor of Gigantic Sequins. Her first book of intermedia poetry, Avant Gauze, was selected by Magic Helicopter Press for their inaugural Ted Hawkins Innovative Poetry Series. Find out more at christinefriedlander.com
Why did you pursue creative writing at Bucknell?
I came to Bucknell knowing that I enjoyed reading and writing, but it was the comradery I developed with creative writing faculty, staff, and fellow students that kept me reading and writing and exploring. In retrospect, Bucknell provided so many opportunities that many students may not experience until grad school: small class sizes, a brilliant reading series, a space solely dedicated to writing. But, honestly, it was watching how my professors engaged our ideas with precision, with warmth, with care — even if the idea wasn’t exactly there yet — that convinced me that, yes, this exchange of ideas is essential to community, and yes, I want to pursue this art the rest of my life.
How did the CW community on campus challenge and shape you as a writer?
The creative writing community at Bucknell emboldened me to try things that scared me. I read and wrote weird poetry, despite thinking I could never be a poet! I led a literary journal, despite thinking I could never lead things! And Professor Rosenberg taught us how to make sushi rolls… and I actually tried them! I could’ve never imagined doing these things before I went to Bucknell, and now, here I am, having published a weird book of illustrated poetry, taking on leadership roles in my professional life, and eating so much sushi that I should probably be a bit more concerned about my mercury levels.
Does your job as an accessible-testing specialist have any connection/influence on your work as a writer?
As an accessible testing specialist (my day job), I serve as a translator of sorts, converting all sorts of tests into more accessible forms for college students with disabilities. This position, like writing, requires a lot of empathy. When I first receive a test, I have to preserve its constructs — that is, what skills or knowledge is the professor trying to assess here? — while also identifying and correcting any unintentional accessibility barriers inherent to the test using assistive technology. If that isn’t voice or character-building in practice, I don’t know what is! Working this job makes me hyper-aware of my privilege, and I carry this awareness as I write.
What is Gigantic Sequins? What do you do as the Poetry Editor?
I currently serve as the Poetry Editor for Gigantic Sequins, a biannual print journal of writing and art. I get to read the weirdest poems and then publish them! I work with a great crowd who, outside of this journal, live and write such weirdly brilliant things! I like any gig that allows me to recognize and promote weirdness.
What is intermedia poetry? What makes it unique? What drew you to this style of poetry? Can you tell us a bit about your book Avant Gauze?
AVANT GAUZE is a battle cry. When an unspeakable tragedy hit my family, some writers began fictionalizing my pain before I even had time to process it. This made me think of the way violence often permeates and dictates the way we talk about writing. If a narrator’s story is fragmented, for instance, why must we automatically consider her “unreliable?” So I decided to write a narrative that was basically anti-narrative. I took gauze and made it into something completely and utterly useless for poetic predatory purposes. Basically, I wrote this book to bleed myself out.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on another book of illustrated poems call DISSERVICE ANIMALS, and doing some finishing touches on the cover art for my fiction chapbook REPEAT AFTER ME, which comes out from RopeWalk Press this spring.
What are your writerly/poetic passions?
I love any book that haunts me after reading it, lines I can’t wrap my mind around, and poems that have serious bite.
Posted on April 18, 2017 on Bucknell English: Creative Writing, Film/Media, Literary Studies, the facebook page for the programs in the Department of English.