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Meet our New Intern: Carolyne Sparks

By Kelsey Bryan Zwick

Carolyne Sparks grew up in LA (Monterey Park) and is studying at Whittier College (aka the college of the Poets!). She is double majoring in English and Psychology with a minor in History. An avid reader of fantasy and fiction. Carolyne loves to travel, having spent a semester living and studying in Paris. She spent her time there learning about cultures surrounding death, which she describes as, “something universally we can agree on…something universally we can share in, whether it be celebrations talking about it, or how we remember our dead.” Lessons she brought back with her to the US just as the pandemic began.

Clearly a maker and a doer, reader, writer and learner Carolyne feels this new internship with the Los Angeles Poet Society is a perfect fit. She is the author of a haunted chapbook of horror poems inspired by a challenge given to her by a professor of her’s. Chapbooks that she has left on buses throughout the city for the reader to find!

Carolyne’s favorite poets are Percy Shelley and Walt Whitman. She loves how Percy “challenges the system and challenges old ways of thinking. Which is basically the job of the poet: to create new ideas and to challenge the old traditions and ways of thought of what we assume is supposed to be. So, I liked the way [Percy] was always trying to push the envelope.” Likewise with, “Walt Whitman, where he was in the same way trying to push against old ideas, especially during his time, the racist ideas within America and slavery. But he put more meaning behind it where he truly believed his poems were going to change the hearts of Americans and prevent a war from happening.” In both these authors Carolyne finds they, “really tried to push that envelope, said challenge accepted, I will step up to the plate, that there are new and other better ways to go about things.”

Carolyne is currently reading Chelsea Minnis’ Zirconia…………..Bad Bad, whose attitude she loves. An author she describes as bucking the head against, “traditional poetry publishing,” which tends to give the message, “if you want to be published you have to write your poems in a certain way.” Instead Minnis’ work declares, “No. Poetry is supposed to be a personal thing and I’m going to write how I personally am.” Naturally Carolyne is taking notes.

Asked what she is most excited to learn as a Los Angeles Poet Society Intern and she answered, “The workings of how a book gets published. That’s where a lot of my aspirations lie. What goes into the editing, choosing the poems, putting together the poems. And then finally getting the book to the press and then the marketing in getting the book out there.” She is excited to be, “hands on in the process.”

Her personal goals as a writer for the year is to practice the skills of short fiction writing. She hopes to expand on world building by practicing short fiction as she plans to write and publish her own fantasy novel. With her study of Spanish and French she is exploring how language can be used in these settings. One of the things Carolyne observes about language is “there is a lot of similarities but also differences.”

One of the differences she observes in Spanish and French is the way gendered language has powerful connotations, “negatively connotated words like death are feminine words. Or depression, sorrow they are all feminine words, whereas pride, hero are all masculine words. And that can really shape a culture if your limited by language being gendered that way. And how in English, even though we say it isn’t gendered, it kind of is. When a guy sleeps around he is a tomcat, and when a woman does it she is a whore. A whore, and it is a much worse word to call a girl or a woman. And we don’t really bring that to attention as much as we should […] and that is something I really want to explore in my poetry.”

Though Carolyne wrote her chapbook during quarantine she has found the confinement of a single room has really shifted her relationship to writing. She was able to get out in nature for some backpacking but the constant natural inspiration from being out and about has been missing for her. This has left new space for exploring new topics and forms, like horror poetry. She has also started to notice all the differences she has faced in this new situation.

Carolyne loves how accepting the poetry community is. She feels supported in sharing new ideas and works still in the process. Not just the finished product of the poem, but the whole process feels good, sharing and the writing. She has only recently started sharing her words outside the classroom, but she is already in love. You may also find one of her chapbooks on the bus or train, where she leaves them for the reader. I already know I’m a big fan and know the Los Angeles Poet Society will learn as much from her (like how to save the recording of the Zoom interview!!) as she can from us.

A Song for the Mountain

By Carolyne Sparks

I am the wind in your Lungs,

The breeze in your hair.

With every step you take,

Is a step on me and in me.

Journey into this church,

My church

With sacred grounds for you to pray,

To dance, to sing, to rejoice, to celebrate

Celebrate me and you and all things

that the sunlight touches.

Climb to the top of this church’s steeple

And lookout.

Do you see me?

We want to thank Carolyne for all her contributions to the LA Poet Society since joining our family. With her help, we were able to produce the 12th year LA Poet Society Birthday Celebration, and our 12 Days of Poetry!


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