We’re honored to have had the chance to chat with the talented poet Christopher Soto, with work in Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, Tin House, Boston Review, and founded the Undocupoets Campaign—here’s what he has to say about his journey of becoming poet. His first collection, a chapbook, Sad Girl Poems was released from Sibling Rivalry Press.
What’s your relationship to rejection? What was the best one you received? The worst?
I think most everyone gets rejected all the time. I never win the big anonymous prizes like the NEA or Ruth Lily so that makes me feel like my writing is trash sometimes. But I try not to think about these contests too much. The best rejection I received is from Don Share at Poetry. He knew I was doubting my writing and he encouraged me to keep working and submitting and to be patient. The worst rejection– I don’t want to talk about it. Gives me a headache.
When did you start calling yourself a poet and why?
I was writing poems in first grade. I remember calling myself a poet while in High School, when I was on the Inland Empire Slam Poetry Team.
What was the journey of getting your chapbook Sad Girl Poems published?
Bryan Borland, who runs Sibling Rivalry Press, and I were friends on social media. I put up a long post about the publishing industry that caught his attention. He had my chapbook manuscript at the time and decided, influenced by that post, that he wanted to work with me and help give my story a platform. His is the greatest and I loved working with him.
How do you climb out of a dry spell of writing?
Depends on what the dry spell is due to. Most of the time reading helps me to start writing again. This past year I haven’t been producing much because of mental health. For a few years, I have known I have anxiety but recently my therapist and I have been using the acronym PTSD (in relation to my histories with domestic violence). I think this is the first time I talk about my mental health publicly but last year I went through some hard times. I couldn’t write or speak with poets. I’m still recovering and all I can do is keep going to therapy and encouraging myself to keep producing poetry. My friends are really great and positive too. I’ll produce again as soon as possible. I just wasn’t sure if I was able to be a public facing person (sharing my work with others) anymore. It’s hard to be seen by strangers, especially when you’re a survivor and still healing from shit.
What’s part of your job as a poet that would surprise most people?
90% of my time is spent at my day job trying to pay the bills. 9% of my time is spent is answering emails and supporting other poets. Sadly, only 1% of my time is actually writing.
What was your darkest moment as a professional poet?
I’m goth it’s all dark.