The Flapper Press Poetry Café: Fostering the Love of Poetry with Emerald Fox
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets and writers from around the world. This week, we feature the work of Emerald Fox.
Emerald Fox is a writer and substitute teacher in Pittsburgh. She earned her BA in creative writing at Madonna University and has done teacher assistant work abroad. She spent five years living in New York, where she dabbled in the TESOL studies program at NYU. Being deeply impacted by the things she saw while there, Fox strives to capture elements of everyday life in her work and favors this "human element" above all. She enjoys the random night of karaoke, coffee house meet-ups, and her beloved feline, Lucy, in her spare moments.
Meet Emerald Fox!
AN: Welcome, Emerald. I read in your bio that you are a substitute teacher in Pittsburgh, PA. In an interview with the renowned poet Louise Gluck, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020, she shared that her students inspire her own writing. In what ways does teaching influence your work?
EF: Teaching inspires my work greatly. I actually think that my work as a tutor and a teacher has helped me grow into my own as a writer. Talking to others about a subject on a regular basis has a way of validating what you already probably know—what you are really good at. Most creative people know what their talent is, at heart, but teaching has a way of affirming it. The feeling that I get when I teach writing or English, after a really satisfying class or (in the case of tutoring) one-to-one session, is kind of like the high which comes after writing something that truly captures the moment for me. You know, really captures it perfectly. That "aha" moment that speaks to a higher intelligence.
I think of teaching as a kindred spirit to writing. For me, it’s like a shadowed twin to the latter, providing you with a feeling of wonderment, but in a way that’s more subtle. It’s also wonderful to watch the seeds of your hard work and effort sprout, because through teaching, the growth happens in others rather than yourself. What could be better than that? Spreading your passion to your students and maybe seeing one of them catch the flame and run with it.
AN: You mentioned that you taught overseas. Can you share how leaving one's country of origin impacts their writing? Do you speak other languages or translate poetry?
EF: Going to another country impacts the way you see the world. My first experience going overseas was a trip to London I took in my early twenties, which I took for credit in the writing BA program I was in. I remember coming home on the plane, my head spinning, and I knew from that moment that I’d never see the world the same again. Three years later, I joined a teach-abroad program and taught English in China for five months. I enjoy writing from life experience, reflecting on the actual dialogue, exchanges, and people I meet. The more you travel, the more colorful things become on paper. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a globetrotter, but traveling opens up your eyes. You realize that things could be a whole lot worse than they are, and these new perspectives are reflected in your work; perhaps it has made mine more relatable.
AN: I was curious about Madonna University, as this school is unfamiliar to me. I found that it is in Livonia, Michigan, 20 miles outside of Detroit. Robert Hayden, who is one of my favorite poets, is from Detroit. Are you familiar with his work? One of his poems that is highly celebrated is "Those Sunday Mornings." If not him, who are some poets whose work you enjoy reading?
EF: I’m an admirer of Robert Hayden’s work. I was influenced by poets such as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allen Poe. "The Raven" is one of my favorite poems because of its genius in metaphor and dark intonations.
AN: Since you are a teacher, I am going to ask you a "teacher" question. How does a teacher best foster love of poetry in a student? What are some of your tips for engaging your students?
EF: As with any subject, you will have students who naturally take to it and some who won’t. Teaching poetry is definitely more difficult. I don’t seek to "teach poetry," inasmuch as I try to create an environment where students can absorb it. I enjoy combining different forms of art in the class so that students can have access to a variety, and exercises such as having them listen to a piece of music and write their feelings. Sometimes I combine this with artwork and have them look at a painting or image while doing so. Or just using artwork. If you teach poetry from a student-centered perspective, this is best.
AN: How do you challenge yourself as a poet? Do you try different poetic forms, different topics, multiple prompts? And what are some of your literary goals that you strive to achieve?
EF: While I should probably experiment more with structure, poetry is kind of a natural emotional channel for me. I write about people and places a lot, but most of the time I don’t plan to sit down and write a poem. When I’m feeling deeply emotional, poetry tends to come out. I’d like to publish books in the future and do it on a more regular basis, but as the adage says, "writing chose me." A huge part of the process for me is intuitive—it’s mostly metered prose, though. Music also influences it a good deal.
A walk at night sometimes results in the birth of new epiphanies of thought. As I took my nightly walk, I was struck by how much things have changed for me, and envisioned myself at a crossroads in my life. The passing of this small fence made it seem all the more real. I realized I had a choice to make. This poem is my way of trying to put form to what my subconscious knew so well.
I long for the life I used to have but- nothing can be Unwritten, and in the waking hour I toss and turn, in restless dreams I leave my bedroom, and I walk A lonely road to go, where I must compose a Future hope. When grief, and raging doubt should render, The voice of courage striking up, thereafter, and then begins to die, when a lullaby comes into mind . . . and this all begins to grind, without a turbulence, that undermines the Rationality inside. A car slowly passes by, and fades Into the distance. Candles in the window of the house Adjoined at Lovers Lane begin To flicker, and slowly, all my dreams become a quiet snicker, and eventually They leave, and once again I take the miracle of an empty page, and look into a sky, that resembles a halo, or an angel in the distance, of a dream that is unwritten.
Written about a year after my grandmother’s death, Silent Sentry came to me while sitting on my porch one night looking out at the yard. Our porch faces a little barn that sits over a hill, and I was suddenly struck with nostalgia. It was like I was back on the Monterey mountaintop where she lived, and the candle flickering beside me (which my boyfriend gave me for mosquitos) reminded me that her spirit was still around me. The next thought that crossed me is that such a metaphor is a cheap replacement for the real thing, and in the storm of my rage and sorrow, I went down memory lane.
In the gathering darkness, lit by a flame
Casting its glow upon the spirit of a coming rain. Grandmother gave me the
Flickering souls, flanking the porch I love so dearly, that fill it with a
Angels seem to bring me. They see into the coming rage, and storms prevail but cannot-
Augment, the beauty of the two orbits, which look so much like eyes
Moving back and forth beneath the perilous sky,
Calming the storm before it hits me,
Keeping my soul in place, a firmament with
Stable and implacable
Until the surges of the demonic force begin to
Die, and everything is gray, and perfectly sweet again . . .
But, Grandmother, the sky reflects the calm upon my face, yet still I hate the fact that they are
YOUR candles, which are the God of Light
That sheltered me from the
Rage tonight. I’d rather not remember where they came from, for you
Left without a trace, you see, upon the little crest
Of long-lost memories. The little swing that years went by without
Holding company, the broken feeders on the porch that
Slowly grayed, like you, and faded out of sight like an antique bed
Becoming rusted, and old . . . or birds that cry for God amongst the Monterey mountaintops, an image that often comes
To haunt me in sorrowful dreams, but when I think
Beyond this torment, I know that I was happy on that little bank, indeed,
Where I could take your hand and gently squeeze.
Now, this place is but a
Flashback, that returns to me with lightning
Vengeance. There is no happy moment where I can safely try and go . . .
to take its place, except
The stupid candle sitting next to me, a quiet sentry’s vigilance. It will never dream
As you once did, for me, or make up stories from
The willow tree that bended, like a
Rain, down over the sunny slopes, or once again come visit me in
Church, slipping butterscotch candy underneath
The seat. That was a cheap replacement, Grandma, to keep me safe,
Giving me a candle always burning, a sentry that will not return my gaze, just
Reminding, that you are but
A spirit in the sky tonight, lost from me for
All of time.
My version of love. Inspired by the love of my life, who I met two years ago by a fluke over an app during the pandemic. We now live together and are making marriage plans.
Love is allowing
Two people to occupy the same Space, like two birds perform a dance, and one appreciates, Admires, and respects the performance
Of the next. Neither overshadows the other one. Love is creative, intelligent, and kind. Love is spirit, one with soul that overcomes me, like The bluest ocean, and its rushing,
Epic motive. A magnetic energy and aura run
Off together. Physical connection is a result thereof, and all that is
Magnificent uncovered . . . Love is a joining of all of the above and the ability to tap Into each of them.
The transient nature of physical love. I was looking into a storm remembering how sweet it is to make love, but simultaneously struck by its passing nature. We will enjoy it but for how long?
Violets in the Rain
Icicles, Novelty, Violets in the summer rain. Going up like dark confetti, letting the remnants fall away, into A kind of love portending midnight, soon
To be, and kissed the entrance to a cave, wherein your treasures,
have ordained a certain kind of pleasure, in the
Sleeping mind to render, achy souls to sweet
Surrender, and soft, warm hands that tremble like
A flame, where rivers of love run between the
Lakes, and dips and molds and lumps, that keep the
Murky, once forbidden secrets, long ago forsaken
Madness, burning up in flaming passion, moving under each
And every passing wave or atom, touching senses deep within the
Blindness of the moment, passing By us.
I was sitting at a coffee house when I wrote this. I have always been fascinated by the artwork at this particular shop. I looked up, and hanging right above me was a picture of a nautilus. This poem was born.