What does it mean to be a poem that "stops to look at itself in every mirror"? That's So Me: Self-ish Mix is edited by Sasha Debevec-McKenney, a Hartford-born poet who we first got to know when she was awarded the 2018 Peach Silver in Poetry by Morgan Parker for "First African American Bachelorette, 2017." Read on for her editor's note introducing That's So Me and explaining her love of "self-ish" work. And don't forget: On Wednesday, December 15, Sasha is hosting eleven of the mix's contributors at a virtual launch reading-party to help us welcome That's So Me into the world.
Sometimes when I’m walking around I’ll see an abnormally tall fire hydrant, or a dead bird, or a weird-looking building, or literally any object in nature that’s pink, or honestly any object at all and I’m like “that’s so me.” That’s why I’m a poet: I take anything I want in the world and make it a metaphor for myself.
Some writers think they were put on this earth to be pure and write about truth and beauty, or like they’re so selfless to tell us about the truth and beauty they see in the world, which we could never see without their help. It’s kind of like how historical biographers pretend they’re being objective. Or how the people who go on The Bachelor pretend they’re doing it for love, not Instagram followers. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m not interested in selfless work—lifeless work, voiceless work. I’m interested in the writing in this mix.
These pieces embrace their own language, use their own metaphors and images, and revel in their own experiences. They are not quiet. They feel more than one feeling at a time. They stop to look at themselves in every mirror. In some mirrors they see themselves in the future. Sometimes they see themselves in the past. The version of themselves they truly are. The version of themselves they want to be. The version of themselves they’re forced to be in public. The version of themselves they see through the person they love. The version of themselves they see through the poem. Sometimes all at once.
When I write, I rarely consider the power of blank space. I could be using all that space on the page to talk about myself! I could tell you how hard I try to figure it out. How badly I want to know what’s wrong with me: Why am I like this? Why can’t I stop drinking? Why am I so scared? Why won’t I let him love me? What happened to me? Why me? Who am I? And for some reason I expect you to care, too. Somewhere in all that desperation, I often find a poem.
Despite this self-obsession, these pieces are all very aware the reader exists. They hide what they want to hide, but they show and they tell. They’re practically begging to be read, felt, held with care, felt again. So when I say self-ish I mean writing that sees itself in everything and tells the only truth it can tell. Poems that laugh at their own speaker. Writing that doesn’t have to use bells and whistles to bring its audience in—but if it did, it would have the shiniest bells and the loudest whistles, obviously. When I say self-ish I mean speakers who admit they want to be heard, writers who admit they want to be read. Writers who have to write themselves down—or else.
–Sasha Debevec-McKenney Madison, Wisconsin Fall 2021
Sasha Debevec-McKenney is a poet. Her poems have appeared in The Yale Review, Nashville Review, Peach Mag, Poem-A-Day, Underblong, TriQuarterly, Granta, and elsewhere. She was the 2020-2021 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and she received her MFA from NYU. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut.