An Interview with Sylee Gore, Winner of the Second Annual Bird in Your Hands Prize: “Carry My Inner World”
Sylee Gore’s work travels between the studio, the desk, and the city. She is the author of Even Still, her debut visual poetry book that explores the connection of liminal pieces. Alongside her work as a poet, she translates books from German to English for artists and museums. She also studies part-time at Oxford University, where she researches archives and heritage sites as creative spaces. Currently, she is writing on new uses of photography in poetry.
It was an honor to interview Gore, the winner of the second annual Bird in Your Hands Prize, for Thin Air Online.
When asked how she would describe her writing style, Gore said she had a wide range of techniques to drive her inspiration. “I’m drawn to different modes at different times. Patterns usually propel me,” she told me. Those patterns can be seen in her art and writing, connecting grief and gradations; she finely tunes her descriptions of the flesh and the material.
Just like style, we discussed how the writing process is different for every writer. “Absolutely,” Gore agreed, taking her own process into account. “I shy away from strict rules. I think language is around us writers always, in snatches or reams, and the trick is netting words when we are able—in a voice note, lines you email to yourself, even in a notebook. Staying articulate is vital, and for me, this means generating phrases and lines. I catch rhythms, list what I see—sense and order can come later.”
Gore’s winning piece, “I Don’t Make the Rules,” discusses the loss of a father through the eyes of a mourning daughter who must pick up the pieces of her memory and move on. “It’s complicated,” Gore described in regard to the extent of how autobiographical her writing is. “My lived life suffuses everything I write, but it’s buttressed by what I read and learn. Even when my speakers aren’t me, they carry my inner world.”
An immense sense of loss can be found in Gore’s work where grief meets responsibility. What the reader sees is the recoil of that pressure. With the idea of expressing her inner world, Gore noted that “so many of us are unwitting collectors.” This corresponds to the grappling moment at the end of the piece where all the items have been gathered. “Few have learned to wrangle the objects we produce and save. Their weight exerts pressure. A poem is a framework to alleviate, to bear that stress,” Gore added. And without leaving anything physical behind, all that’s left are the residual emotions.
“I love the idea of ‘residue.’ Art is our archive, the only way to order and hold what’s vast or lost,” Gore said, once more connecting the significance of rhythm. These brilliantly paced movements are reflected in her prose and art, capturing remnants of the past. Finally, when asked what’s next on the horizon, Gore excitedly announced some new projects.
“Truly, this prize, and the comments from your judge, Raquel Gutiérrez, have meant so much, and have encouraged me to send out my poems more widely,” Gore said. “My main project right now is a first poetry collection. Alongside that, I’m working on a second artist book and on a collaborative art/poetry postcard exhibition. I’ll be doing poetry readings in Berlin and London. I’m writing essays about photographs in elegies and preserving lost iterations of cities. In the coming months, I’m teaching generative workshops on artist books and twenty-first-century US poetry: I can’t wait to see what the participants create. Friendships and communities are vital to what I do. Someone counseled ‘staying in the process,’ which I think means continuing to experiment and be open. The simple act of reading and discussing poems—generously, unselfconsciously—is essential.”
Her winning piece can be found in the upcoming issue of Thin Air Magazine. You can find more work from Gore at Guest House Lit, The Brooklyn Review, 3 AM Magazine, and more.
Sylee Gore is an Indian American poet who works with image and text. Her artist’s book, Even Still, is a study of silence and light.
Megan Latin-De Bono is a fiction writer from Phoenix, Arizona. She is an MFA student at Northern Arizona University and is Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine. She is a member of the Cinder Skies Reading Series and an honorary board member of the Northern Arizona Book Festival. Her work has appeared in Friday Flash Fiction and Curios Magazine.