Addie Scoggin, age 24, is an adjunct English instructor in Southeast Missouri who enjoys all levels of adventure across the globe. She finds her greatest pleasure when teaching English collides with exotic travels; thus, in her downtime, you can find this avid kayaker floating down the muddy, spring-fed rivers of the Midwest.
Literary Juice: “Curiosity” is your first poem published with Literary Juice. Can you tell us about the inspiration for composing this piece? How long did it take you to develop its form? What techniques, if any, did you employ as a guide?
Addie Scoggin: Liz Gilbert, definitely. When I wrote “Curiosity” this summer, the initial draft came out in the form of a two page short story. It existed as my response, or rather my knee-jerk reaction, to Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. The concept behind her book was this: in order to live a creative life, we must repeatedly “choose curiosity over fear.” I had never heard creativity defined in this way. Through her book, I developed a metacognitive awareness of my own creativity, especially in terms of my writing and my way of life.
In reaction to her book, I immediately compiled my short story narrative, capturing my feelings and former creative limitations, and in a mad rush, I tossed the piece in my Master’s thesis the night before it was due. But it didn’t stop there.
I kept re-reading my short story, frustrated with it. It wasn’t complete. So there I sat, cross-legged on my couch until at 4 a.m.; and finally, the finished product. I “smashed it,” (as I like to say), into a poem.
Now structuring the piece—considering line breaks, stanzas, punctuation—that was more of a happenstance. When it hit me, I had been sitting on my couch for a couple hours, and hanging up on the living room wall in front of me was a map of the world. It just happened. That was it.
I could make this into a map, I thought.
Considering the subject of my Master’s thesis, a travel memoir, this poem harmonized with the rest of my work. But honestly, I haven’t created anything quite like this before, especially format-wise. Thus, in order to perfect the form, I chose a digital outline map of the Americas, allowing the text of my poem to lay on top of the image, and I shaped the words, line breaks, and punctuation within the boundaries of the map. The biggest struggle was shaping North America, as it looked disproportionate to South America.
LJ: How long have you been writing poetry? Do you remember how it began?
AS: This is a fun question. I wish I had a more impressive answer, but I had never written poetry until two years ago.
I remember it well. It was two years ago when I started graduate school, and I was thrust into an advanced poetry class. Sitting in the corner, downright terrified of the infinite brilliance of those warming the seats next to me, I attempted my first poem. They were laughable, mediocre at best.
About the fourth or fifth poem I wrote for this poetry workshop, I edged out of my shell. I wrote a daring piece on the topic of “American Exceptionalism” and how it relates to my two year relationship with my Muslim boyfriend. The poem was meant for those who reduced and rejected my association with Tareq, my boyfriend, largely due to American Islamophobia. And to my surprise, I received some volatile and explosive reactions from fellow students in the class. This allowed me to put my counter-cultural views into perspective and reflect on my lifestyle in the rural Midwest. From this moment on, I decided to play it “safe” for the rest of my poetry writing in the class.
It was the worst thing that I could’ve done.
I’ve since written one poem, and that was “Curiosity.” Thankfully, I feel I’ve somewhat regained my voice; after all, I remind myself often that curiosity trumps fear.
LJ: What do you do to prevent writer’s block?
AS: I like to detach myself from the public and, in some way, that produces better thoughts, better work. Isolation works, followed by more isolation.
If I linger in that mental jam, I remind myself that it’s not about what I’m writing or how I’m writing, but why I’m writing. I write to tell truth, Addie. Often, when I have writer’s block, it’s a direct result of my fear to be original and creative. I’ve noticed, as writers, we’re afraid that we have no talent. We’re afraid that we will be rejected, mocked, or misunderstood. But I simply remind myself to accept that writing is scary, and I don’t let it petrify myself. Instead, I write to satisfy only myself.
LJ: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we look forward to in the future?
AS: My largest, most recent project is the aforementioned travel memoir. Since my thesis was accepted, I’ve added more pieces to this on-going project. I cannot wait to finish this massive piece.
For me, however, writing is the unscratchable itch. It hits me in the most unexpected moments: driving, waitressing, showering. And naturally, the inspiration is fleeting; if I don’t capture the thought right then, it’s gone forever. Occasionally, I only record half of it and lose the rest. Therefore, I have several piles of unfinished poems. I’m completing them slowly but surely.