Rachel Custer: “I like to write poems that challenge me. Sometimes, I challenge myself to write about people or situations that elicit strong reactions. I like to write against my own emotions, thoughts, and judgments. Sometimes it teaches me something about myself, or about what it means to be human. Sometimes it cements in me what I already knew. Sometimes it shows me what I don’t.” (web)
Rachel Custer: “Gospel means ‘good news.’ The good news is that, despite the hardnewsthis Holy Week, we can be redeemed through the saving blood of Christ. Notre Dame will rise again. So will we.” (web)
Rachel Custer: “These poems are part of a collection of ‘rural voice’ poems on which I’m working. The Rust Belt is, in some ways, the embodiment of the Protestant work ethic, married to rural America as an identifying philosophy. These voices are so often overlooked for big-city slick and the fashions of the day. There is a sense about rural America that nothing ever changes, and simultaneously that everything is always changing elsewhere. That we are losing ourselves. We are grounded by earth, the change of the seasons, and by work. In this sense, Rust Belt is an apt name.” (web)
Rachel Custer is this week’s guest on the Rattlecast! Click here to watch live or archived.
Rachel Custer: “Mental illness (depression and anxiety) both inform and breathe life into my work, while simultaneously making it difficult to actually get work done. I write to escape fear, and to process trauma, and in a sometimes desperate attempt to purge the dank, poisonous landscape that is clinical depression. I write because I am compelled, and also because I love to write. Sometimes it’s hard to know if writing helps me stay sane or just adds to the negativity of my thoughts when I am in the grip of a depressive episode or panic attack.” (book)
Rachel Custer: “Human beings weather traumatic stress in varying ways, one being laughter. My family has always loved to laugh, and used laughter to get through tough times. Family get-togethers are a raucous time. Laughing can serve to distance us from the horror of the terrorist attacks that are taking place increasingly throughout the world, and which we now seem to read about in the news at least weekly. That distance is helpful, of course, but there is a sense that things are reaching a level of hopelessness when it begins to seem like we are no longer even emotionally moved by these attacks. People walk by the actual bodies looking at their phones; people don’t even read the news stories in detail anymore; people can’t maintain that level of fear for that long. So we laugh, then wonder if it’s okay that we laughed, then we cry, then we laugh some more.”
Rachel Custer: “Pretty much every news story right now is about Donald Trump. Except that they’re all negative, and this poem is not. Poetry can do so much, and one thing my partner and I were just talking about is the fact that these candidates are human beings, both of them. I try to imagine how it would feel to only hear myself derided and hated all day long.”