Tiny Talks with E.A. Midnight

Tiny Talks is an interview series with Tiny Spoon’s talented contributors. This week we spoke with E.A. Midnight from our tenth issue.

Tiny Spoon: What kindles your creativity?

E.A. Midnight: The two things that primarily kindle my creativity would be music and my environment. Both of these things help create a safe place for me to write. I often feel like writing is exploring (or sometimes dredging up) challenging things inside me, so feeling protected is critical for creation.

Much of my writing is done with music on – sometimes carefully selected playlists and other times just kind of whatever is randomly on in the house. We have a record player and almost always have something (from Mars Volta to Blind Willie McTell to Yo Yo Ma) playing. I grew up in a musical family, so I can’t imagine a creative life that is separate from music. Often, it helps me tune out; kind of as if the music helps create a conduit between me and the work. It’s like this auditory safeness that surrounds me while I write, and that allows me to go deeper into searching, into creating, and into curating my writing.

The other big thing that helps me be creative is the space where I am when I am writing. I don’t have an office/studio or anything, but I do have a little desk in the bedroom with all my little tshatshkes, notebooks, and books. That is my favorite space to be creative. I hung this empty frame on the wall above the desk which serves as a reminder that writing is about looking through. I do a lot of my more structured creative writing there. Being tucked into that little nook helps me focus and remain motivated.

Sometimes I will be out on a hike or out climbing somewhere and an idea will hit me, so I always bring a little notebook with me wherever I go. Also, whenever I am out trail running, these wild thoughts and ideas will pop into my head, so I have learned to bring along a digital recorder just in case. These methods don’t always pan out, but it’s interesting to look back on all the same. Always have a way to capture what comes out of your head.  

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

E.A. Midnight: Wow, yes, so many. The following authors all blow my mind with their writing and inspire me with the ways they transcend our understandings of reality. Here they are in no particular order: Sarah Veglahn, Samiya Bashir, Katie Jean Shinkle, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Amina Cain, Shira Erlichman, Han Kang, Teresa Carmody, Victoria Chang, Brittany Ackerman, Courtney Faye Taylor, Hillary Leftwich, Erika Wurth, Sarah Manguso, Eugenia Leigh, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth, Anne Carson, Kaia Solveig Preus, Piper J. Daniels, Claudia Rankine, Jes Davis, Joan Kwon Glass, Ariana Reines, Elvia Wilk, Heather Bartel, Layli Long Solider, Selah Saterstrom, Steven Dunn, Maggie Nelson, and many, many more.

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

E.A. Midnight: I am drawn to large expanses. When I lived back east, it was the Atlantic Ocean. Now it’s the mountains. I love feeling small in the space of this world. I love being reminded that my time (and frankly, importance) is so tiny. Thinking like that helps release me from the performative dance that creating art can be. It takes some of the pressures of making “the right thing” away and lets me construct the thing as it needs to be. It allows me to just write.

In addition to moving my work, large expanses and nature appear quite heavily within my writing. I spend a fair amount of time outside, as it is a significant part of how I balance my mental landscape, and as such, I try to be aware of the natural environment and honor it within my work. My hybrid memoir manuscript, that I have been submitting to presses, looks at landscapes outside the body as a framework for understanding the ones within.

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?

E.A. Midnight: Thank you for asking about this. I am deeply honored that two of my poems, “mundane object: the faucet” and “mundane object: leftovers” appear in Issue 10.

“mundane object: the faucet” I wrote (the initial version) one night during the early days of the pandemic. Each day then was so slow, so horribly boring, and as such the passage of time was marked with very basic activities, like brushing my teeth. But because everything was so drilled down to silence and isolation, it was so easy to fixate on the details of each moment. Each activity opened up into either an adventure or a catacomb. I tried to tap into that with this piece. I focused on the hyper detail of everything that happened, that I was thinking about while brushing my teeth, that I saw. I wrote all of it down. Then I stepped away for awhile. When I returned to the piece, I began crossing out lines or words (I write everything on paper first) that felt redundant or unnecessary. What’s left is these bones. The bones are the most critical elements of what the piece is trying to tell. I sit with each line and think about what it is doing, what it is trying to say, and then add back in what it needs to be supported. Finally, I put the piece into the computer and began to play with the spacing and formatting. This aspect is really critical to the work. Sometimes I will get an idea of the formatting during the creation, and it will flow all over the page, but usually that happens once I see it on the screen, imagining it as a final object, seeing it become the fullest version of itself. For “mundane object: the faucet” I saw the movement of the words across the page like the spit dribbling from the mouth, the water flowing out of the faucet, the position of the body as it goes through cleaning motions. That movement of the words performing as a kind of choreography with the reader; I shift, you shift, I pause, you have room to move past me.

Occasionally, the work does not move. It instead roots. The dance “mundane object: leftovers” participates in with the reader is more sonic than physical. The blocked texture of the poem forces the narrator, the other person in the piece, and reader to stay in a tight box through the stream of consciousness event. The tight formatting makes you want to break out, get away, leave this experience – which you know is no good for you – but you don’t, the musicality of the lines keeps you in the repetitive hum, you stay stuck. I did follow my similar pattern of dredging it down to the bones, but other than that what I wrote in my notebook is fairly similar to how it exists now in Issue 10. I spent a fair amount of time reading this one aloud to ensure that the sonic flow worked. Sound patterns and how the sound of a word can create an emotional expression is something I am very much interested in literature, so I tried to honor that in this piece. For example, the soothing “lo” (pronounced L-uuh) sounds of “lovely” and lost” in the line “it is lovely to get lost in the lineage” draw the reader in and create a texture of safety. I also played a lot with repetition as a net to catch the reader in, to hold them in the poem; a sensation that might feel comfortably containing at first, quickly grows constrictive [I know, I know, I am playing with the sonic quality of the words even in this interview, I can’t help it]. In the line, “she washes her hands, her arms, her face” the repetition of “her” in this line (and the subsequent ones) pulls the reader in close to this woman, they become intimate and safe with her in the confined area of the empty restroom. That is of course until a few lines later, where she walks back to the table and is now being watched, the “her” moves from an intimate safety to performance and judgement.

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

E.A. Midnight: I have several projects that I am working on at the moment (because for me it is really helpful to not stay stagnant in only one project, having many options creates many paths), but the one I am most excited about these days is this hybrid-fiction narrative I am working on called, everything moves. This story pools around a literal flood that encompasses a college campus in Western North Carolina, while following three different characters, one of whom is the water itself. This work seeks to dredge the background of the landscape into the foreground of the narrative, allowing the river and its inhabitants to become participants in telling a story of the ecological and metamorphic change to a deep communal truth about what is real. I love the way fiction appears suddenly in my brain and I just write and write and write and watch the story evolve as I go. I don’t typically story board or plan; I just sit down and see what happens. This one has been really interesting because I alternate between just creating and doing in-depth research into topics, like rare Appalachian mussel species, so there has been a lot of learning along the way. I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.

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

E.A. Midnight: Just one! That is so hard, but I have been reading a lot of speculative eco fiction and nonfiction lately as research for my fiction narrative, and this one particular book has really resonated with me. It’s called The Second Body by Daisy Hildyard. It is such an interesting and unique look at climate change as the product of one’s two bodies: our every day one and the one that is in a seagull’s stomach or a sperm whale pod’s migration. I really enjoy it. Also, Han Kang’s story “The Fruit of My Woman” is brilliant and incredible in the way it shifts through the fringes of reality.

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

E.A. Midnight: I feel like I have talked a lot about me here, but I would like to say to other writers that it is vital that you honor what is in your soul through your writing. Whether what you write is just for you or work that you want to try and submit to presses and magazines, do your best to be your authentic self.

Through the years a lot of people have told me that if I wanted to be published, I needed to stop merging my writing with my art (paintings and photography), “just write poetry” they’d say. I tried, but I couldn’t do it. Some of my work is just text, but a lot of it incorporates other mediums, and that is because it is what the piece or project needs. I don’t think on one level, my brain moves through multiple fields to understand things, and I think a lot of people are like that too. A photograph that merges with text might speak even deeper into a person’s reading of a poem, and that makes it even more powerful. It takes time and research to find the right places to honor your vision, but it’s worth it, because the most important thing you can do for your work is respect what it needs to be.

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

E.A. Midnight: I do have a website, www.eamidnight.com, which houses links for and thoughts behind all of my creative work, as well as services (such as editing, photography, and web design) that I offer. I am also on Instagram (@e.a.midnight).

  1. Do you have photographs or images you would like us to share? (Personal portrait, artwork, book covers, etc.?)

Sure! In addition to writing, I love to paint and take photographs on my 35mm camera. I will include one of each here.

This painting I made in college. You can’t tell especially well from this photograph of it, but the canvas is quite large (about three feet wide and five feet tall). I took this abstract painting course, and we tried out all these different techniques to create abstract art and learned what it meant for us. Our final project was to build the frame, stretch the canvas over it, and then paint. This was mine. I forget what I titled it, but I remember thinking about how it was my representation of the relationship between the natural environment and a city; I was thinking very specifically about where I grew up in New York – the quiet beaches and desolate ocean being so close to the loud and polluted city. When I was creating this piece, I listened to a lot of music in my headphones while working on it (particularly Fiona Apple, who I was really into at the time), and that guided my brush strokes (which is cool, now that I think about it, music very much is a guide in my writing, and it is interesting how it has always created this generative space for me). I also played with water (this was done in acrylic, which you don’t typically use water with), to create the drip, wetness patterns on the left side. I enjoyed using the different colors and textures to invoke a feeling of depth and otherness that I so often feel in nature. The heavy dark line at the bottom is symbolic for the incursion of not natural into natural (the black stain of civilization on the environment). This piece took me about three weeks to create, and afterwards I gifted it to my dad.

Here is a 35mm photograph that I took and am rather attached to. I caught this scene on my Minolta back in 2008 when I was living in D.C. It was taken while at a stop light from the passenger seat. I saw the word “MAGIC” spray painted onto that wall and needed to capture it. I knew I couldn’t convince the car’s driver to pull over so I could frame the photo better, so I simply pulled the camera to my face, adjusted the lens, and snapped through the window. I am not sure if it was because of the film or the window, but a glare was caught in the middle of the image. It feels like a ghost. I love this photograph because it’s a great reminder that you can find something special anywhere. Anything can create a spark. I try to look at it every day and remember.