Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with Su Zi (Poet, Artist, and Editor)

Description:  A woman with long, purple hair sits on a blue power scooter with crossed legs. She is wearing sunglasses, a gold jacket, and matching headwear.  She is holding a cigarette in her right hand.  There is a bunch of greenery on her left.
1. What does eco-feminism mean to you, and how does it influence your writing?

Eco-feminism is an academic term for what is also called Gaia Theory (a term elaborated on to book-length by a number of people, including a nice SciComm book by Lovelock): to wit, the planet, our beloved planet, is a living entity of herself. Thus, our behavior is in relationship with the Earth.

Eco-feminism describes our intellectual activities as part of our relationship with Gaia/Mother Earth.

Since I edit and create artist books of poetry by different authors, I look to their writing to see if it acknowledges, at least, or speaks to (or of) that relationship.

In my own work, it always has been about that relationship—overtly, or as an intrinsic underlying aspect of the thesis.

2. Why did you start the Red Mare Chapbook series? Why choose Etsy as a way to distribute the books?

I began Red Mare when Marie C. Jones sent me a manuscript to read that had been rejected—but it was dynamic and beautiful. I told her I would publish it: this turned out to be Red Mare one, but I didn’t begin numbering them until the second book. I had been making little books for years, and still do.

I am no marketing sensation, and since Red Mare is very much handmade (the bindings are handsewn, each one at a time), and since I make other art as well, it seemed logical to include Red Mare in my Etsy shop. Still now, it’s the only online purchase point for Red Mare. It’s not feasible to consign them—although I tried a few times— because the books are a tactile experience, they are really works of art—block prints sewn to poems—and don’t bear up well to the casual, multiple handlings some bookstores felt was okay... judging by the ruined copies that were blithely flung back at me when I stopped back in to inquire. I get that bookstores are businesses first, but...

So, as I am able (a big conundrum there) I have tried to attend small press events, so people can see the books in person. It’s surprising how uniform small press books have become, and what an accepted norm that had become.

3. What are all the types of art you create and which do you enjoy most?

I am a poet, painter, book creator, fiber artist, pottery-making, gardening, bird-watching writer [and] literature devotee.

It’s difficult losing spoons over time, because it keeps you from doing what you love.

4. On the subject of losing spoons: Do you have any tips for writers/artists with limited energy or chronic pain who still want to create?

Yes. You can: Find shorter forms you like, for when you cannot push your endurance. Use writing prompts you like. Keep parts of your week planner unscheduled, in case you are able to read or write. Try changing your writing stylus and tabla—a crayon on big paper is useful for everyone to play with, or big markers for when it’s a day of just a word or fragment. I have done all, at one time or another. Perhaps this will help.

5. Who are your literary influences?

Well, that’s a tough question, because I read as much as my damaged eyes will allow, and there’s the joy of a phrase previously unheard that stays in the mind, and teaches and influences. However, I ought to give credit to my Mother reading me Poe for bedtime stories when I was too young to read. Also, her own wide-ranging reading habits when presenting literature to me as a child. By the time I was a teen, I read voraciously and there was no household censorship: I read Genet at 16, Woolfe and Wolfe and a wide array of modern literature. I suspect that such early exposure was influential—later in life, I was first surprised that other people hadn’t done the same... until I became saddened to realize that it was odd or unusual.

6. Why do some people consider you a "controversial artist"? How do you feel about the label?

I had to think about this one awhile. On one hand, my experiences being called/treated as controversial/taboo were very painful emotionally. On the other hand, it’s stultifying to try to please people—and I have erred there too often. Of late, it dawns on me that my very existence is controversial—an educated female with no discernible cultural/ethnic group (not obviously Caucasian, not obvious of any other group), obviously physically impaired but not discernibly how, not young (anymore), and so forth. I have so many intersections that I was confused by the term intersectionality. Anyway, these aspects of myself filter into my art, my writing... However, I cannot say it enhances any sense of freedom; in our times, it can be terrifying to find oneself endlessly marginalized.

7. How did you realize you were trying to please people and not being true to yourself as an artist? How did your work change when you started creating what you wanted?

I had gotten in some trouble over a painting—a portrait of filmmaker Renvik—and my only exhibition possibilities were craft shows. It’s a lot of time-expense work to exhibit at farm markets and craft shows. After I heard "family friendly" enough times, it began to constrain my work. It’s still a struggle to break free. It’s becoming more and more crucial to me as my illness steals my available energy—to pour it in without censorship.

8. What (do you think) is the biggest barrier to your career as a writer/artist? How do you work around it?

That’s an ironic question, considering we are communicating via DM, instead of whatever; therefore, it seems obvious that my non-urban endless data access in our times doesn’t help. My isolated existence is not conducive to inclusion in an arts community that might emphasize group dynamics. Being disabled/impaired makes people uncomfortable. I am not so great at hustling the game—my work sells, but it would sell better if it was sold by a seller, a pro.

Okay. So there’s lots and lots of barriers—more than that, cuz it’s Always Juggling Energy (spoons).

How do I get around these? I don’t know that I do. I just persist. What I do is born of passion. The intersections of what I make and the work in the world is a constant conundrum.  I made a decision—had a moment of realization, actually, at the Heartland Cafe where I was giving a poetry performance—that it’s the work.

I realized, while I was waiting to go onstage, and watching a performer who was a real hustler, who hustled up a brief few years of arts fame—in so much as no one alive is household famous in most of the arts—but her work was sooo similar to other plots and performances done then. Yes, I saw her hustle, what is called "game" now, and realized that you can game/promote/hustle your work, or you can focus on the quality of the work. I chose the latter, but it comes at a cost.

9. What accomplishment in your artistic/writing career has meant the most to you and why? Did it change your career's trajectory?

My life’s trajectory was formed in fourth grade when I wrote my first poem. I have tried to stay committed to poetry ever since. Along the way, there were incidents that felt supportive of my commitment to my writing; these include, but are not limited to: my first paid poetry reading as a featured reader, opening a number of times for Lydia Lunch, certain publications, certain inclusions... the last is more problematic the more obvious my impairments (disability being a legal term that’s still in decision) are.

The literary and arts communities are usually not warm and welcoming these days—ours are not arts-supporting times.

Nonetheless, I persist. Coping with the deleterious effects of chronic illness is quite the challenge, and it doesn’t leave much room for arts politics, or marketing (submission) and book promotion. The choice is always that if I can create something on a day, I will always choose to keep working.

10. What are your plans for the future? Where do you hope your career is a decade from now?

I am a poet and will be all my days remaining. There are art forms that often require more strength than I have, so I work more slowly. I have whole books buried in obsolete computers and I hope to lazurus those somehow—I have problems with these devices—true story: I once sat down at a computer, not touching it, merely presenting myself in the chair, and it crashed. It did. I don’t know if I have internal electrical divergence too, myself. Amusing thought.

Anyway, I will continue to produce, as I am able. The question is:

Who will find me? Some people really get what I am doing. How will the works find their way to such people? That’s what another ten years will decide.
Biography:  Su Zi is equal parts writer, artist, and badass eco-feminist.  She holds an MA in English and has published in such places as Driving DigestExquisite Corpse, and Blue Heron Review (where she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize).  She resides in Florida with her horses, dogs, cats, and turtles where she runs The Red Mare Chapbook Series.


  1. Great interview Jennifer. So glad to learn about a terrific artist and press. I see some familiar names in the chapbooks and will be ordering. Is Red Mare by invitation only, or is Su Zi open to writers approaching about publishing in the series?

  2. Red Mare is open to consideration of eco-feminist poetry, no matter the gender identity of the author

  3. Great to see this today and am proud of the work I have seen from her (suzi ) I have yet to see all that she has done or capable of but impression is she is a true artist and poet story of real life and her passion is obvious as you meet her in person .yes true not all people might understand or know how to take her but the heart speaking to you if you listen will tell you everything you need to know .the work has spoken to me the art is wonderfully beautiful and I love gallery all over the USA and locals always impressed me more like This gal that I have found to be amazing in so many areas of the word art .I am eager to get the chance to read more and see more and I am the receiver of the gifts by this creative artist and poet. Thank you for the interview I've learned much more about her as a person as well as I have expanded my desire to get to know her work. Thank you Su zi for being open honest and unafraid to express and sharing you're so many hidden talents. hidden talents that deserve to be seen by.....

  4. Ave Gaia. Ave Su Zi, the epitome of artist. I have two Red Mare publications and treasure them.

  5. This is a fantastic interview. Have read and enjoyed the work of Su Zi for sometime now. This interview makes me wish to explore it even deeper.

  6. I have never been a reader of anything. I met this purple haired lady in my small community I had some conversation that wasn't at first easy to follow. I was intrigued and curious I didn't know what to make of it all. I decided I would take the opportunity as I do most and hear her out and try to understand and see the whole person. Thank God I did. As you peel back the many layers you see that there is a very caring loving considerate person who has so many talents only one wish they had. The more in depth that I explored this person the character that honesty and the bluntness I realized she had so many qualities that I wish I possessed. As I read her work remembering I don't like to read and I see the art that she creates and the challenges she faces to make all that happen it's inspiring me to be me myself and not hide not to worry about the obstacles but to jump the hurdle in front of me. I've seen her perform on stage as she reads her work wow what an amazing performance that is not just for entertainment but that is the most real I've ever witnessed. I follow this lady as much as I possibly can with all my entanglements in life because I know it's blunt it's honest it's real it's creative it's inspiring invigorating and most of all brings me hope and a joy to see someone overcome all the horribles be grateful for the joys and never gives up. Thank you so much for all you do for yourself and the many others of us who are watching you following you inspired by you you're an amazing loving creature that I am forever grateful I met in person and watch from afar to continue to be inspired. I've never written anything public although I have longed my entire life to write. But this type of influence I believe I might be able to do it and the hints that she just gave are one more stepping stone towards it I wish you all the successes and avenues possible to continue your work and passion