TINY TALKS WITH SAMUEL T. FRANKLIN

Tiny Talks is an interview series with Tiny Spoon’s talented contributors. This week we spoke with Samuel T. Franklin from Issue 8, Cut/Copy/Paste: The Original! Read his poems, “Questions, Answers” and “Mid-Breath, a Question” in our eighth issue!

Tiny Spoon: What kindles your creativity?

Samuel: When I was very young—say four or five—I repeated the word “bird” over and over until it lost any real meaning for me. It ceased to correlate to a physical animal and became just a weird sound I was making. That disassociation didn’t last more than probably a minute, but I think that was a kind of formative experience—language is a symbolic construction, and breaking the association between word and object can let you see something in a completely new way. 

I think that’s become at least one of the main catalysts for my writing—to break down normal associations and introduce a new perspective.

Tiny Spoon: Are there any artists/ heroines/ idols/ friends that you look up to?

Samuel: Like many poets and fiction writers, my creative writing isn’t my main source of income. I currently work full-time at a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, where I manage and maintain various kinds of documentation. It’s interesting work, but there isn’t any room for poetry during the day—I have to squeeze it in at night, on the weekends, the early mornings before I’ve had a decent amount of coffee. It’s made me think a lot about the poets Wallace Stevens and Ted Kooser. Both cultivated highly successful careers in poetry and highly successful careers in a decidedly non-poetic field (the insurance industry). They remind me that finding the right balance between your hobbies and your job can be difficult, but it is by no means impossible.

Tiny Spoon: Are there any natural entities that move your work?

Samuel: There’s a great chinquapin oak in my backyard that I consider with equal parts wonder and terror. It’s over a century old, and half of its trunk is a twisted mass of split and scarred wood from a lightning strike decades ago. It looks amazing up close. The dead wood is gnarled and wavy, and there are some magnificent burls. It’s also quite tall, and pretty close to my house, so it tends to make me a little nervous. I’ve had arborists out to assess it, and they’ve said that generally it’s fine and healthy—aside from the dead portion. But every time there’s a storm or a strong wind, I half expect to hear it cracking and falling over. It’s an awe-inspiring thing, and it’s made its way into a number of poems.

Tiny Spoon: We love insight into the creative process. Could you share what it is like for you, either with your work that appears in Tiny Spoon or in general?

Samuel: I keep a notebook with me at all times—small enough to fit into my back pocket. If anything strikes or resonates with me during the day—a word, a thought, an observation—I make a note of it. And I might not come back to that note for a day or a week or maybe even a few months, but, eventually, I revisit it. Sometimes it connects with other notes I’ve made since, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I forget entirely why I wrote it down, but that doesn’t necessarily matter. If it still resonates, I’ll expand on it, or work it into something else I’m already writing.

Tiny Spoon: Do you have any current or future projects that you are working on that you would like to share?

Samuel: The two poems published in Issue 8 (“Questions, Answers” and “Mid-breath, a Question”) are from a larger collection that I’m attempting to get published. The collection, currently titled Moondarkness, Sleeptongue, Dreamlife, is composed of poems that are based on things my wife has said or done in her sleep. She’s totally cool with it, and has already read all the poems.

I also am working through a collective mess (too vague to be called a definitive collection, too connected to not eventually be exactly that) of poems that seem to focus on how people and their environments change each other, for better or worse.

And there’s an ongoing assemblage of short-to-micro pieces of fiction that have stemmed largely from observing people being absolute garbage to each other.  

Tiny Spoon: What book, artwork, music, etc., would you recommend to others?

Samuel: Honestly, I’d recommend that you seek out whatever inspires you to keep on creating and thinking about the world in new ways. I’ve noticed that the works that most inspire me somehow engage history, but that might not be for everyone.

Tiny Spoon: Is there anything else you would like others to know about you, your creations, or beyond?

Samuel: I guess a fun fact about my second book of poetry (Bright Soil, Dark Sun) is that I designed the cover through a combination of fingerpaint and digital manipulation. In fact, if you look at it closely, you’ll notice some weird squiggly lines in the upper-right corner. Those are palm lines from one of my hands. It’s a messy cover, but I like it well enough.

Tiny Spoon: Where can people learn more about what you do?

Samuel: I have a website.

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