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  • Writer's pictureAva Chen

Interview with Kyla Guimaraes: Issue 4 Featured Contributor

"...you've always been full,

with no need for completion. your flesh your own

unencumbered and beautiful mourning."


Kyla Guimaraes' "aubade" is the literary embodiment of golden hour. Peaceful imagery rich with emotional tension flow throughout this poem's lush stanzas, from tethered boats to the interplay of sun and shadow. In this interview, Guimaraes elaborates on her writing process, the Greek mythological inspiration behind "aubade"'s theme of soulmates, her definitions of "fullness" and "completion," and more. You can find Guimaraes' poem here. We hope you enjoy!



How would you describe your writing style and process?  


I write in bursts of inspiration, and I write quickly. I typically sit down with some semblance of what I want to write about, and then that’s all I can think about until I have the first draft written (which takes me anywhere from 20 minutes to a few days, though typically on the shorter side, especially if I’m excited about an idea). I’ll then leave it alone for a bit, so I can create enough separation between myself and my work to start editing, and then, once it’s settled, I’ll go back through and edit for clarity, and structure, and feeling. The hardest part of writing, for me, is not getting caught up in language, so most of my editing is focused on making sure I have something I am actually trying to say and that it makes sense. (Logistically, I write in Google Docs. My handwriting is borderline illegible on a good day, and so when I’m trying to get all of my ideas out of the page all at once, it’s way more practical to type things up.) 


My process for writing “aubade” was much slower than for other poems. I ended up abandoning the first draft of “aubade” for a while because the ideas felt unclear. I write to tell stories, work through my thoughts, and lean into the difficulty of learning a new skill. “aubade” was a poem that started because of a need to work through feelings, and so it felt like there was a lot of pressure, at first, to articulate those feelings authentically. I wanted something that felt like an accurate reflection, but I just couldn’t figure out how to write it. I gave it room for a couple of months, and ended up realizing that it didn’t need to feel like something that would be true forever—just something that was accurate to me at that moment. I ended up being able to edit it significantly (cutting by half, changing form dramatically) and turn it into what you see here. 


My poetry typically consists of images and ideas piled on top of each other. I am interested in the forward-movement of a poem (how one line feeds into the next, how to add images and then tie them back in later-on, etc) and the overwhelming addition of different moments. I think, in many ways, I approach poetry as if it’s philosophy. My goal with poetry is to craft and think through an argument about a topic that feels urgent, and communicate this understanding through a poetic format. I find that I gravitate towards topics of gender, love, nature, and longing because these are the concepts I want to be always arguing and discussing and trying to define. 



What inspired you to write “aubade”? Can you provide brief background to the “Greek story of the two selves”—how does “aubade” parallel this myth?  


My writing is a product of my environment and experiences. As a student, I take a lot of inspiration from what I’m learning in class, and the kinds of interactions I’m having at school. This year, I took a philosophy class, which focused on defining the good life, wisdom, and love. As part of class, we read The Symposium by Plato, which is a series of speeches by Greek philosophers in which they attempt to define what “love” is.  “aubade” is largely inspired by Aristophanes’ speech, in which he references the Greek myth explaining soulmates. This myth claims that humans were once large and spherical and complete—and far more powerful than humans are today. To punish them for misbehavior—and to weaken their power, which worried the Gods—Zeus split each figure in two, creating two bodies that share a single soul. These bodies would spend their lives searching each other out, and would only be whole when they reunited (this is, in effect, the idea of soulmates). I was first introduced to this myth through reading Percy Jackson. There’s a moment in The Blood of Olympus (the last book in the Heroes of Olympus series) where Nico Di Angelo references this myth, and how the emphasis on heterosexuality in the version he’d learned made him, as a gay person, feel uncomfortable and excluded. The initial exposure to this myth as something that should be critiqued within a framework that recognizes all different types of love was really important to my writing of this poem. In other words, Aristophanes’ interpretation of love being the “pursuit for wholeness” is limited (Plato, 25). Love is and should be so much more than just finding “wholeness” with one other person. 


The other important thing to know about philosophy class was that it consisted of an even split of juniors and seniors, meaning that half of the class would have another year to talk philosophy, and the other class would be leaving school by the end of the year. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to keep in touch with people (both this year and next year, when my grade graduates), and the role that connections with others play in my feelings of fulfillment and love of life. Sometimes, it feels really easy to rely on others for love. I have found myself doing that a lot this year, and wanted to write something to force me to reconcile with that. In “aubade,” I argue that we don’t need to be looking for that wholeness, or completion, with someone else—instead, we should first find it with ourselves, before looking for love from other people. 



What is your favorite image or moment in this poem and why?  


My favorite moment in this poem are the lines “Your flesh your own / unencumbered and beautiful mourning.” When I write, I often find myself leaning into beautiful language, and away from anything that feels too uncomfortable (which often includes the visceral and grotesque). I like how this moment exists between those two spaces, with the word “flesh” keeping the lines grounded in a visceral feeling, while describing the experience of reclaiming your body and recognizing it as beautiful. I also really like the line break, with the pause directly following “your flesh your own.” 



What do you think the difference is between ‘fullness’ and ‘completion’—two concepts that emerge in your poem?  


Fullness is this lack of space for anything else. To be full is to resist the addition of other things. In the poem, when I reference someone being “full,” I mean that there is no room for any more love to be added. Something needs to change for “fullness” to give room for “completion.” With the myth, I think of “fullness” as being one body with two separate souls. 


Completion, on the other hand, is a state of satisfaction that feels reliant on self-love. To be “complete” is to prioritize self love, and then, from there and because of that priority, be receptive to care from others. With the myth, I think of “completion” as being one body with one soul. 



What emotions and thoughts do you wish to evoke in readers’ minds?  


Self-determination, confidence, autonomy, longing, love, empowerment, curiosity, beauty, etc. I want readers to ask the questions: “How am I reliant on others for love? In what ways do I love and care for myself? How do I navigate balancing the desire for external care and the practice of self-love in all of my relationships (romantic, platonic, familial, favorite hobbies, etc)?” 



What plans do you have for the future regarding writing?  


Continuing to write and engage with communities around me through creative writing! This summer, I’m going to be doing a lot of writing (my own writing, workshops, editing, etc) which I am really excited about. I am running a workshop with the Young Poets Workshops on June 30th about Queer Monstrosity. I am also attending the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio residential program for poetry, and am a 2024 Adroit Journal Summer Mentee in poetry. I edit poetry for Eucalyptus Lit, so I will be continuing that this summer, for both our summer contest and our Issue 5 submissions! (To anyone reading this, send us your words!) 



Anything else you would like to add about your writing?  


If you have any reading recommendations or thoughts or arguments about love, please always feel free to send them my way by email (kylaguimaraes@gmail.com) or twitter (which I only occasionally do stuff @s_nburst).

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