From a Newtown Literary contributor: Caitlin Cacciatore
When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?
A few things immediately present themselves to me, the first of which is probably Rockaway Beach. Living in Arverne by the Sea since my grandmother passed has been tremendously healing. Between the calls of the gulls and the smell of salt-air and the crashing of the waves and these really intense mists that roll in off the sea on cloudy days, it’s nature’s beauty at its finest. I also think about my childhood home in Howard Beach. We lived right by the Belt Parkway, and the sound of traffic rushing past the fence was part of the soundtrack of my youth.
How does Queens influence your writing?
I grew up in Queens, and still reside here, so many local influences have found their way into my work. Many of my poems are about the sea, and Rockaway Beach in particular. This geographical foundation might orient you more firmly in the world of my poem, “moonlight,” recently published in Newtown Literary. When writing this piece, I was transported to a time in my youth when I was first falling in love. “moonlight” is as much about the sea as it is about young love, so you have the ocean both as an entity and as a metaphor.
Queens finds its way into my work in other ways. I always tried to get a window seat when I used to take the train to my university campus, if only so I could watch the Rockaways and Broad Channel and Howard Beach stream by. You gain a lot of perspective about a place when you are traveling through it—you catch these tiny little snapshots day after day that become a layered and nuanced picture of a place as the seasons change. And of course, the people on the train never cease to inspire me—I’m an avid eavesdropper—and I have woven some snippets of conversations I’ve overheard into poems.
What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?
I’ve been reading a lot of Zbigniew Herbert. I have a thick volume of his collected poems. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, he was a post-war Polish poet who dealt rather expertly with themes—war, peace, pain, suffering, human nature, and other such philosophical inquiries—I have often been inspired to grapple with myself. A recent poem of mine is actually a dialogue with Herbert that makes use of his persona-character, Mr. Cogito.
What inspires you?
The short answer to this question is “everything.” I’ve had poems come to me in dreams and drag me out of bed to write them; I’ve had poems that have come to me all but complete, and others I’ve had to wrangle into existence with a crowbar. Inspiration is strange like that—some days, you can’t walk out your front door without a line of verse floating past your mind’s eye for every flower you encounter, and some weeks, it’s all you can do to put a sentence on paper.
Good literature inspires me. People inspire me. Warm food and cool breezes do the same. The ebb and flow of time and tide, and the dynamics of relationships I’ve had, or heard of through others, or read about in literature, or have wished to have, all inspire me to keep writing.
What does your writing process/routine look like?
I write whenever the mood takes hold of me. This can work one of two ways: either I am writing when I am not supposed to be writing, and am desperately trying to look like I’m paying attention to a lecture, or I’m at one of my desks and intermittently staring out the window, trying to get one or another of the Muses to come sit beside me.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love to read. I like to cook. I sometimes draw or make bookmarks and/or postcards. I am also a university student studying artificial intelligence. My minor is in English, and I’ve always loved to write, but I also wanted an additional career because I am one of those writers who need constant stimulation and inspiration, something I’m not sure I would get enough of living in a cabin in the woods just writing.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?