Pink Plastic Houses – An Interview With Poet Kristin Garth

Kristin Garth interview
| Reviews > Books

 

Kristin Garth calls herself a ‘poet and sock enthusiast’. From Pensacola, Florida, Garth has been published in numerous journals, with poetry circulating around themes of sexuality, personal history and life’s complexities. Specialising in the sonnet form, Garth’s work has taken the poetry world by storm. In an interview with Mookychick, Garth tells us about her new chapbook, Pink Plastic House, alongside discussing the challenges of writing poetry and giving us an insight into her own ‘pink dream house’.

Your chapbook, Pink Plastic House, was recently published by Maverick Duck Press. Can you tell us more about this collection?

Pink Plastic House is my dream house and also a diary.  If you read the title poem in Pink Plastic House (‘Pink Plastic Houses’) it is about my career as a stripper, wearing cheerleading uniforms, braids, knee socks and the like for five years.  It was a career I stumbled upon visiting a strip club dressed this way, which was not uncommon for me (and still isn’t).  It’s just who I am, and some of it I am sure has to do with my background, abuse and such. Perhaps I am stuck in a certain young space in my head.  I love who I am though, and I celebrate that.  It was one of my favourite parts of that job to be able to express this part of my personality.

Kristin Garth

Kristin Garth

It also hurt, though, when people took it as some sort of an act. So I wrote a poem about a night after work, going to buy things for my Barbie Dreamhouse — which was a real obsession of mine.  I wanted to express in this poem that, as twisted a little psyche as I have, it’s very genuine and complex. I am a perpetually young (though chronologically not), sensitive, sex positive woman with a history of abuse, some issues with depression but also a real pink cheerfulness that I am proud to have maintained.  I’m complex but I am very happy and resilient and I want to share that with the world. That’s what Pink Plastic House is: the sonnets and poetry inside are my pink dream house of my soul.  It has dark places and tragedy, but a lot of pink sensuality and happiness, too.

I live inside your library.  In stacks

I slumber under lock and key, a book

still open, pressed against my nose.  The wax

of candelabra drips on dainty toes.  I’m shook

from sleep by creaking oak, your hooves that pound

parquet and rattle statues Baroque.

-‘My Beast’, Kristin Garth

You write in Pink Plastic House that the poems are ‘divided into rooms’. What inspired you to write a chapbook in this household setting?

Once I had written the poem ‘Pink Plastic Houses’, it felt big and important to me — like I had kind of captured a really big truth about myself in 14 lines. I knew I had the name of a book there and a structure.  Dollhouses are a thing I’ve always adored. It’s a little universe.  That’s what I wanted to share with everyone – my little universe and a journey.

Kristin Garth

The book starts with ‘Pink Plastic Houses’ and ends with ‘Ghosts’.  What people might not know about that structure is that ‘Ghosts’ is written about me just last year when I started writing intensively and publishing. I hadn’t published or written poetry in quite a long time.  The poem ‘Ghosts’ is about a conversation with a dying poet who hadn’t seen me since I was in graduate school, in creative writing, and just beginning to strip (which inevitably distracted me from school, something I look back on with regret).  He knew me as a writer, and yet when he contacted to me tell me he was dying of a brain tumor, he asked about writing, and I had to confess I wasn’t doing it anymore.  It really hit me then – the stupidity of not doing something like that when you have the ability and opportunity of being alive.  My friend was a very talented poet who by this point had been reduced to very simple speech.  He died not long after our conversation.  This exchange haunted me.  It was that wake-up call of life where I just realized I had to do what I was supposed to be doing right away.

Kristin Garth

Buy ‘Pink Plastic House‘ at Maverick Duck Press

I think the dollhouse structure comes from the love of dollhouses and the landscape of childhood.  It’s also because I am a very introverted person in real life.  I am a person who spends much time in a house, in rooms. A house is really, a lot of times, my whole world.  That’s changed with publishing and being on Twitter and a part of the online poetry community.  It’s opened up my virtual world a lot, but a home is very much my universe in the day to day, and I really like dividing up my poetry like that — like chambers of my heart.  Some are dark stories like basements and some are kitchen sensuality and deliciousness.  A house is full of different rooms — one identity but very complex.  I like complex; I am very complex.

I had a lot more rooms at first when I was contemplating a longer book.  Someone recently asked me “Where is the wine cellar?”  And I was like, “Oh, there was a wine cellar, there was a rooftop pool, a garden — that’s the longer version of this book. I have plenty of material.  Maybe there should be/will be a Pink Plastic Mansion because I could furnish one with sonnets, socks and secrets.  I have the material.

He thinks I had a choice. This grandpa cop

in hipster glasses, ironed shirt who writes

my words like tendrils, mansion, doesn’t stop

to question that they might be true.

-‘Slender Secrets’, Kristin Garth

Notions of sexuality and sensuality are particularly prominent in your chapbook, in poems such as ‘Slut Shame’ and ‘Sixteen’. Can you tell us more about the inclusion of these themes in Pink Plastic House?

I am a highly sexual being.  I’ve had a history of abuse.  I was a topless dancer for five years.  I have a lot to say about power dynamics and sexuality. I feel like my whole life in every phase of it has prepared me to speak about this, and I feel really confident when I do it in poetry and my small experience with prose, too.  We all have those topics, I think, that in which life has given us an honorary degree.  I have a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a lot of graduate credits towards a creative writing master’s I did not complete.  I’m filled with huge regret there, and yet because of my experiences stripping I have a lot of material on the subject of sexuality.  I don’t advocate people dropping out of school.  I wish that I had finished, but I am an optimistic person, and I do see the value of the life I lived. It gave me a very unique perspective and voice, and I think that is invaluable.  I am so grateful for the life I’ve lived even though parts were very hard while I was doing the “living through it” thing. 

What is it that you love about the sonnet form? How do you choose the forms of your poems?

I was forced to write a sonnet in high school.  A class assignment, and it was like a puzzle to me at first.  I like the idea of a cage that forces me to be bold and concise.  I can talk and talk and write far too much sometimes, when little might be best.  Immediately, the sonnet form spoke to me because I had a lot of wild, weird things to say even then.  And I liked the idea that the form was there to contain my ideas and guide me, and the more I wrote of them the more second nature it became.

kristin garth

Now, I joke that I think sometimes in iambic pentameter.  But what is nice about that, for me, is that ironically I don’t think about form very much at all.  I think most people have some idea that I am always contemplating it or something.  It’s actually the opposite.  I only start thinking about form if something is obviously not a sonnet — which happens. Sometimes I am writing something, and it’s like these ideas don’t work in this cage. Then I let it be something else. But there’s actually a lot more thought involved, form-wise, in the non-sonnets. It’s nice when I write sonnets because I only focus on content really and less on form.  I think that’s just because I’ve been writing them for a long, long time.

You’re mine because I hate to sleep alone.

Unplanned parenthood, I leave the club with

a pinball princess.  Houses each our own

and boys, but none tonight.

-‘The Gray Cat’, Kristin Garth

You have also recorded some of your poems on Soundcloud. Do you think there is any difference in the way your poems are received if they are heard rather than read?  

Wow. Soundcloud has been quite a journey for me as a poet because when I first started publishing again April of 2017, if you had told me I would be reading my poetry and recording it and putting it on the internet, I would have laughed.  I used to cry when I was forced to participate in readings in graduate school.  Of course, this was in person, and I’ve still never done that and don’t think I could, honestly.

I got asked to record poems when I was on Medium for a while with my poetry.  At first, a friend felt bad for me and made me some gifs of audio recordings she made of my poetry.  They were so professional and womanly in a way that my voice was not. But they didn’t match the poetry when I listened to it. And I finally got it, I guess, why people read their own stuff – because your voice is made to tell your story.  I have the voice of a shy young girl because that’s what I am at heart, and they match the poems. I think that you do hear cadence and rhythm better sometimes listening to poetry, and sonnets are by their nature very rhythmical.  They sound great out loud.  They are designed that way.  So I enjoy performing them, or at least making recordings which I put on Twitter – and some sites like TERSE. Journal and New Pop Lit have featured my readings on their site.  I really feel like doing the recordings connects me even more with people, and I actually crave recording now. I did one last night for my new sonnet ‘Knockoff Doll’, and it was so fun!

What do you think is the most challenging part of writing poetry? What challenges did you come across when writing Pink Plastic House?

Wow. The challenges of writing poetry, there are so many — a lot is just finding that quiet centre in your head to let the ideas flow.  Life can be so distracting with just survival and all the mundane tasks that accompany that. To find that corner of your head where you are able to really think and be free… that is rare air and not always available.  Inspiration usually comes to me easily when I get to that quiet place.

Experiment you hope to elevate

and educate.  Exotic window mates

the bitter beauties I bask between, berate

the common sprout your eyes appreciate.

‘The Weed’, Kristin Garth

What are you reading right now?  

I read so many things, from true crime to wild novels or biographies. At this moment, I am reading Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. I have loved all of his books and enjoy this one a lot.

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