Interview with Ryan Favata, Winner of the Arden Goettling Academy of American Poets Prize

Photo Credit: Steve Edwards

Photo Credit: Steve Edwards

Brief Biography:

Ryan Favata is a graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. His work has appeared in many journals, including One Throne Magazine, Red River Review, 94 Creations, After the Pause, and Ricochet. He was the recipient of the Laura van den Berg Writing Scholarship and winner of the Arden Goettling Academy of American Poets Prize. He is also a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ryan currently resides in Winter Park, FL.

Geosi Gyasi: You’re a graduate of Rollins College where you majored in English and minored in Creative Writing. Was there any special reason why you decided to study English?

Ryan Favata: Well, I tried every other major under the sun, but to no avail. I’d either become disinterested or, well, let’s stick with disinterested. I had to say to myself “what has been a constant for me?” I knew there must have been a thread of some sort I was missing, and it was reading and writing—you know, that stuff you mistaken as silly or unimportant until those dreaded moments when you realize an Urban Planning major isn’t for you.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you think as the relevance of English in the modern world?

Ryan Favata: It’s important because it’s a language. I mean, I can start talking numbers i.e. English is third largest language or English is the language of international business. But creatively? All language has music one way or another, and that music crosses over and stays put and blends. A poem in English translated to Turkish becomes something new—rhymes change, meanings change, and some words are unable to be translated altogether. English is changing. It seems much more about brevity now, shortened words and phrases becoming acronyms. I may be getting away from your question, but English is relevant, whatever English could be defined as now, because it’s still a tool of communication, may it be writing the next Great American Novel or calling your mother two days late to wish her a happy birthday.

Geosi Gyasi: When did you see yourself as a writer?

Ryan Favata: Though I’ve been writing most of my life, it certainly took a while to look at myself in that context. I have strayed away from it though. I think it’s an affirmation one needs once reaching that point when they dredged their psyche so much that there’s no turning back—“I’m a writer.” Most friends find you annoying at this juncture, it seems. It was a bit awkward for me, but comfort comes with routine. You just write.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific audience you write for?

Ryan Favata: Nah. If I begin anything with an audience in mind everything shrinks. The creativity just sputters to a stop and then, holy crap, I have an agenda. The writing becomes flat as a board.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific place where you sit down to write?

Ryan Favata: Wherever I can grab the time. I did have my favorite places for a while, because I thought of these places as where I could focus best, but I always unconsciously find creative ways to distract myself, or if I write something I label ‘good’ I’ll stand up and believe I deserve some sort of award and go do something else. This has improved, though, with little tricks here and there.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you write on a computer or in a notepad?

Ryan Favata: I’m a note taker, but only with little phrases or words that I find interesting—stuff that could grow. But I do much of my building of a piece on a computer.

Geosi Gyasi: In your view, what is the best time to write?

Ryan Favata: I’m all over the place with that—I think last week it was between 3-5 p.m.? This week has been around 10-11a.m. If I’m waiting for the best time, I will be waiting forever

Geosi Gyasi: In 2013, you were the recipient of the Laura van den Berg Writing Scholarship. Do you know why you won this award?

Ryan Favata: The award is given each year to an intern that works with the Winter with the Writers festival at Rollins College. The festival, which is directed by the poet Carol Frost, goes on for a month with visiting writers each week. The interns help organize and participate in classes and the award is given to a stand-out intern. We submit writing samples, as well. It was a wonderful pleasure to win, and participating in that festival was a huge turning point for me as a writer.

Geosi Gyasi: Where did you get the idea to write, “Dog Years”?

Ryan Favata: Annoyance. The whole idea of us comparing our life-spans to dogs—measuring out their shorter life to how old they would be if human—just, I don’t know, let them be dogs. It’s human thing, and especially with dogs, since they are already so close to us, that we must bring them closer. So the rest was just the language, how we use dog idiomatically, and how it tends to be unflattering. I have no clue where the ending came from, but I hope it brought the poem home.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you a fan of short poems?

Ryan Favata: I am. I always found them harder, so I steered toward them. But now I’m having trouble sustaining a poem for more than page – page and a half, so now trying longer pieces. I try to steer in whatever direction is kicking my tail.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you think poetry has a place in the modern world?

Ryan Favata: Yes. It’s digestion of reality. A lot of things can do this, and they are mostly creative. It turns many people off, but it also saves. But, especially now, it must be accessible in the language and voice. I think it was Adrian Mitchell that said “most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.” Accessibility, conversational—people want to be talked with not talked at. Getting away from a didactic nature will only invite more readers and create comfort. Trust me, you can finger point, but it better not be obvious—it better hit the reader two days later. That’s when it sticks. Blatant agendas won’t work.

Geosi Gyasi: How would you like to be addressed – Poet or Writer?

Ryan Favata: Ryan.

Geosi Gyasi: Which books have had greater impact on your writing?

Ryan Favata: The best craft books I’ve read and re-read are Triggering Town by Richard Hugo and Best Words, Best Order by Stephen Dobyns. Also, The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt I’ve just started and is pretty darn good. But as collections go, man, I don’t know—Larry Levis, Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Wallace Stevens, Charles Baudelaire, Charles Simic, Carol Frost, Seamus Heaney to name a few.

Geosi Gyasi: Is there any writer who has inspired you as a writer?

Ryan Favata: Mainly the collections of the poets listed above, but many fiction writers as well—George Saunders, Fitzgerald, Dave Eggers, Orwell, Woolf, David Foster Wallace…even though I haven’t been writing as much fiction lately, all good writing only makes me better by raising questions and raising the bar.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you do as a staff reader for One Throne Magazine?

Ryan Favata: I read submissions and give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ or ‘maybe’. I then leave comments and it goes to the editors for consideration. It has been wonderful. I’m continually impressed by the submissions, and I’ve taken much from what I’ve read to my writing. All of these submissions are from every corner of the world. Fascinating stuff.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you show your work-in-progress to friends?

Ryan Favata: Not if it’s really early in the process. I start losing sight of the piece if I hear comments too soon, because when I hear them I often go “That’s right!” or “Yes, of course a dancing chicken shouldn’t be there. What a dumb line!” I’ve learned to let the subconscious work, and that often takes a while for me before I feel a draft is something deeper than I intended, something that has surprised me a bit.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that writers have a defined way of life?

Ryan Favata: Well, you have to be a watcher I’d say—and have no shame in it. If you’re going to ignore life around you then you’re going to make your writing life a hell of a lot more difficult. It’s free material.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you do to relax when not writing?

Ryan Favata: Stay active, both with exercise and socially. If I’m stuck on something I’m writing, usually one of those two things will get over a hurdle almost every time.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary aspirations?

Ryan Favata: I’m going to continue my education on the graduate level, compile a poetry collection and teach.



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