Conducted by Meggie Royer, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
1. How have your experiences with ableism and misogyny affected your creative work? Do you think they’ve impacted your work negatively, or have they somehow led to growth?
I think that, for the longest time, instances of ableism and misogyny prevented me from engaging with my personal truths. As a disabled woman, I am bombarded with acts of emotional and mental aggression: my disability invalidates my humanity; my gender negates my worth. Together, those two identities – and, in particular, the way they intersect – played, and continue to play, a key role in stunting my growth, steeping my creative processes in hatred and doubt. This led to a deeply-ingrained fear of asking questions, especially through creative work. What do I need as a disabled woman, and how am I kept from acknowledging and pursuing those needs? How has the world promoted my own self-destruction? How am I attacked on a daily basis, and how are those attacks hidden under layers of dehumanization rhetoric? With time, I learned to disbelieve my right to exist. To take up space. To want and need and, most importantly, to love. I’m just starting to unlearn these toxic thought patterns. It’s a process – one inch forward, three feet back; in all things, baby steps. But I like to think I’m making progress. I like to think I’m carving a space for myself, reclaiming the languages of my oppression and turning them into sites of resistance. So, yes, ableism and misogyny have negatively impacted my creative work. But they have also taught me how to fight back. How to survive in this world, and how to thrive, through and because of truth-telling in creative work.
2. Tell us a bit about your newest poetry collection, Why I’m Not Where You Are, published by Words Dance. How was the process of writing that collection for you?
I never used to get poetry; it was just never something I particularly understood, or even enjoyed. But then I fell in love. And, as cliché as it sounds, an entire world unspooled through that singular act of loving. Suddenly, within the span of a couple of months, I was hurtling headfirst into a landscape – an emotional landscape, but also a mental one – I never thought I’d get to explore. Combine that with high school graduation, several years of depression, a handful of emotionally toxic relationships, and the terrifying onslaught of this thing called adulthood, and you end up with Why I’m Not Where You Are. It is, in many ways, a glimpse into who I was as an undergraduate student. Poetry was oftentimes the one thing I was able to find comfort and purpose in. It saw me through falling in and out of love – twice. It saw me through educational and career changes. It saw me through existential crises at two in the morning, and it saw me through some of the hardest breakups I’ve ever had to endure. It saw me through a transitional period. A time of becoming. And I think you can tell, just by reading some of the poems. It’s raw and unflinching and, at some points, completely embarrassing, which is what I love about it. I don’t have the luxury of burying those parts of myself, now, which means I’m forced to confront who I was, who I am, and why I’m not where I once was. It’s freeing, in a way, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
3. You’ve founded a magazine, Monstering, for disabled women and nonbinary people. What was the reasoning behind this decision, and what would you say to other young artists and writers interested in founding their own magazines?
I needed a space to call my own. Which sounds selfish, now that I think about it, but the fact of the matter is that, up until a few months ago, I never really felt like I was allowed to celebrate who I was as a disabled woman. The world tried to convince me that disabled people are something to be pitied, looked down upon, feared – but I found myself unable to agree. In fact, I found myself desperate for some kind of celebration. Society looks at people like me and says, “Monster,” but I wanted nothing more than to bare my fangs. To say, “So be it.” There was nothing out there – to my knowledge, anyway – that promoted such a response. We don’t have enough communities; we don’t have spaces to live and love and sing in.
Monstering started as an idea. Or, rather, a dream – and a far-fetched one, at that. I’ve been involved with the literary community for years, but I had no idea how to actually start a magazine, let alone run one. So I put it off. But the list of excuses just kept growing, until I finally reached a point of pure frustration. I couldn’t not do anything. The dream was eating me alive, from the inside. I still had no idea what I was doing, but I bit the bullet. Swallowed the gun. Whatever metaphor you want to use. And it’s been more than I ever could’ve hoped for.
Honestly, there are so many things I needed to hear. So many things I want to say. But I think that, in the end, they all boil down to this: No one knows what they’re doing. The world needs you – and, in particular, it needs the thing you want to put out there. Your voice matters; more importantly, your story matters. Embrace the fear, but don’t let the uncertainty keep you from doing what needs to be done. Oh, and this: Be a badass. Because I think we all need to hear that at one point or another.
4. Who are five of your favorite female writers?
So many! But a few that come to mind are Anne Carson, Claudia Cortese, Isabel Allende, Warsan Shire, and Louise Glück.
5. What are your creative hopes for the future in terms of your own artistic endeavors?
The release of Why I’m Not Where You Are was a huge achievement for me, and one I’m still recovering from, so I’ve recently decided to take a break from poetry – for the time being, anyway. Every once in a while, a line will just come to me, and I’ll spend the next two hours plucking fitfully at my keyboard, so I’m definitely still writing poetry; I’m just not engaging intentionally with the act and process of creating it. I’m taking a step back, and allowing myself the time and space that I need. However, I have been into essays lately, so I’m hoping to experiment more with that particular form. Of course, the dream is to write a sci-fi series with a disabled woman as the protagonist, but that’s still in the works, and probably will be for several years yet. So, as of right now, most of my creative energy is currently dedicated to the development and execution of Monstering. I’m all in, honestly. My heart has grown ten sizes since I first put out an interest check, and I could not be more excited to see where the work takes me.
Ultimately, though, I want to keep growing. I want to keep interrogating myself, revealing more and more of my personal truths, and I want to keep learning – about the world, what lies beyond, the spaces we move through in pursuit of light.
Brianna Albers is a poet, writer, and storyteller, located in the Minneapolis suburbs. In 2016, she founded Monstering, a literary and cultural arts magazine for disabled women and nonbinary people; she currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief. Her work can be found in Guernica Magazine, Word Riot, and Winter Tangerine Review, among others. She was named one of 30 up-and-coming writers under 30 years of age by Phosphene Literary Journal, and her début chapbook, Why I’m Not Where You Are, was a finalist in Where Are You Press’ “Where Are You Poet” contest; it was published in 2016 via Words Dance Publishing. She can be found at briannahopealbers.com.