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10 Questions for SeSe Geddes

Shelley washes up once or twice a year
on the beach at the end of my street.
And I still feel lucky to find him—my dear Bysshe,
all tangled in burgundy seaweed on the sloping shore.
And not the real one, mind you, not the one they dragged
rotten from the Italian surf, ten days dead, bloated, faceless
half eaten b sea life, the cartilage of the nose rising
from the sodden flesh, the ragged eye sockets blooming
with tiny crabs and bugs…
—from “Shelley on the Beach,” Volume 61, Issue 1 (Spring 2020)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
One of the first pieces I had published—well, I think it was published—was a poem addressed to a mean girl in high school. She was a bully who lorded over the back seat of the bus and had white blonde hair that turned an eerie green in the swimming pool. The poem contained lines like “I hate (line break) you.” I sent it to a poetry competition I saw advertised in the back of Seventeen magazine next to Draw the Pirate and that Midol ad with the woman trying to button up her hip huggers. The World of Poetry promised publication and a grand prize of a thousand dollars! I was sure “I Hate / You.” had some kind of chance. Eventually, I heard back. I had not won but I was a semi-finalist and if I sent in twelve bucks, I would receive my copy of the anthology with “I Hate / You.” immortalized between its covers. Even as a kid I could sense a scam. I chucked the letter. I had better things to do with my money­­­­­­­—I had a Foghat concert to attend, man!

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Two that come first to mind would be Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Allen Ginsberg. The ecstatic tumbling of language, lists, images laid on and on. These guys know how to party! “Let’s have visions! Let’s go on an adventure!” Even if you’re trapped in your body or mind, (“This lime-tree bower my prison!”) there is still a chance for movement.  I have agoraphobia so I often feel the need to escape but I can travel in my writing.

What other professions have you worked in?
I’ve been a belly dance teacher, a senior caregiver, a pie baker, a preschool teacher and an image consultant. “Do you want your colors done?” I could tell you if you were a Winter or Summer. Seriously, I did that.

What did you want to be when you were young?
I wanted to be an Apollo astronaut and a ballerina.

What inspired you to write this piece?
Shelley fascinates me. He was passionate and idealistic and wildly hypocritical. Sexy too!

I’m frustrated by the overplucked-eyebrow imagery of him. I’ll bet he was way hotter than Byron. There! I said it! And the last year of his life is riveting. So spooky meeting his own ghost on the terrace of Casa Magni. And other people saw it t

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I will arise and go now, and go glamping at Innisfree!  

And I’m not going to stay in that Wattle Airbnb! No way! I want a tent with chandeliers, crystal vases crammed with peonies, mosquito net draped languorously over the bed and Wi-Fi. But in the real world, City Lights Bookstore is holy ground.

Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
Music helps me dream and have Visions! It also transports me to my past. I can’t listen to The Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard without getting a crazy feeling in my heart!  I like to listen to a song with my eyes closed, then write about what I see in minute detail. It’s the quickest way I can get to an ecstatic state.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?                                                             
If I can get it to my teacher Ellen Bass, she’s the one I trust the most. “Is this a poem?” The weirdest ones are the ones she likes. She saves me from throwing things away and pushes me to send things out!

If you could work in another art form what would it be?                                               
I would create large-scale color field paintings like Mark Rothko. And since we’re dreaming, they would sell very, very, well.

What are you reading right now?
I love biography and nonfiction. I’m re-reading Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind” and Laurence Gonzales’ “Deep Survival”. The poem I’m living with is Milton’s Sonnet on his Blindness. It comforts me. His last line feels right in this uneasy time, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”.


SESE GEDDES lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches creative journal writing and bellydance. Her poetry has been published in The Sun Magazine.

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