Ellery Beck is an undergraduate student majoring in English at Salisbury University. She was one of the winners of the 2019 AWP Portland Review flash contest. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Potomac Review, Arkana, Thin Air Magazine, The Broadkill Review, and The Susquehanna Review.
We’re grateful to Ellery for sitting down to answer a few questions.
Q: I want to start by asking about your poem “Jack Rabbit Trading Post,” published in LPR’s Summer 2019 issue. You said the poem was inspired by the roadside attraction by the same name off of Route 66. What inspired you about the trading post?
When researching roadside attractions, the Jack Rabbit Trading Post stood out for a multitude of reasons. I was beginning to notice a theme of roadside attractions that had shut down due to lack of visitors as the interstate highway system gained popularity. Despite the odds, the Jack Rabbit Trading Post stayed open and even was granted its own exit named after the attraction. The perseverance and simplicity of this location stood out to me. When writing this poem, my goal was to capture the spirit of Route 66, and nothing highlights the resilience of the route as well as Jack Rabbit Trading Post does.
I also found myself drawn to the images of the trading post. The bright red, yellow, and black of the billboard stood out among the neutral desert tones. The billboard displays only a silhouette of a jack rabbit and the words “Here it is.” I fell in love with the aesthetics of the location and rich history behind it.
Ellery reads “Jack Rabbit Trading Post” at our June issue launch.
Q: You begin the poem with an epigraph by Eric Gumeny – “…survive the creation of the interstate.” What does this mean to you?
This connects back to my last answer, as the interstate highway system destroyed the culture and popularity of Route 66. According to the article that I found this epigraph in, Jack Rabbit Trading Post was the first of five attractions to “survive the creation of the interstate.” The resilience of this attraction left me in awe.
Q: How did your involvement in LPR start? What are some of the reasons you contribute?
My wonderful mentor and professor, John A. Nieves, recommended that I submit work to LPR. I’ve been reading LPR for a year prior, as some of my fellow Salisbury University students (who have since moved on to graduate programs) have been in previous issues, such as Emma DePanise and Terin Weinberg. LPR consistently puts out beautiful issues with strong work and I’m honored to be alongside so many talented writers. As much as I appreciate what online journals do for the writing community, print will always have a special place in my heart. I don’t want my work to make its home anywhere I wouldn’t be proud of, and I’m so grateful “Jack Rabbit Trading Post” ended up in this past issue.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece from the current issue?
I absolutely love the work in the current issue of LPR. Selecting a favorite piece from this issue was difficult, but I’d have to say “Pony Credo” by Mirande Bissell. The ending specifically left me in awe:
Resurrection is clover. Abundant,
a nuisance even.
The imagery she uses, especially that of the fox tails, depicts such a beautiful and haunting picture. The ability to make a piece both heartbreaking and hopeful is a skill to be admired. She spends most of the poem showing you these images and doesn’t tell you how you should feel about them. I’m so thankful to have been able to read aside her at the launch for this issue. If you haven’t already, I recommend watching the video of her reading this poem.
Q: You also have poems being published in Thin Air Magazine, Scarab, and Broadkill Review, among others. What themes or craft elements do you find yourself drawn to in your work?
I tend to find myself drawn to writing shorter, lyric pieces. As far as themes in my poems go, I definitely have little obsessions I fall into. I find myself always coming back to flowers, no matter how hard I try to stay away from them. As far as craft goes, lately I’ve been having lots of fun experimenting with form in my work. I’ve found lots of inspiration for playing with form in Molly McCully Brown’s book The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. While she includes pieces with very traditional forms, she also has more experimental pieces that use their unique form to add meaning to the poem. At this stage in my career, where I’m still constantly learning the craft and where my talents lie, I try to push myself out of my comfort zone every time I write and experiment with not only craft elements but also with my subject matter. I can’t begin to imagine what my work will look like years from now, as I continue to grow and learn.
Q: When and how did you decide to pursue writing seriously?
In middle school, I attended Maryland Summer Center for the Arts’ camp for creative writing. At that point, I hadn’t ever considered writing seriously. While attending that camp, I met John A. Nieves and Nancy Mitchell, and I can positively say it changed my life for the better. I began to consider a career in writing from the age of 13 and kept in touch with John throughout my high school years. I maintained my passion for writing in high school and he made sure I took his creative writing course during my first semester at Salisbury University, and then my first poetry workshop second semester! I’m lucky to have known my calling from such a young age, and to have had such a lovely mentor to guide me along my way. My freshman year of college has really proven that this is the right career for me.
Q: You’re entering your sophomore year at Salisbury University, studying English. Clearly, as your last answer shows, you’re designing a literary life for yourself. What do you think is the value of a life of letters in 2019?
I can’t imagine leading any life except for a literary one. My earliest memories are filled with reading and writing, and my parents have done a wonderful job ensuring I was brought up understanding the importance of literature. Literature is invaluable regardless of who you are and what kind of life you choose to lead. My poetry is not only my career and my future, but also how I’ve come to understand the world around me.
Q: What’s next for you? Are you working on anything?
Currently, the biggest project I’m working on is finishing up my first chapbook that I hope to begin sending out later this year. I’ve also recently begun working for The Shore Poetry as their interview editor. I’m always writing, reading, workshopping, and submitting as well. One of the best parts of being a student is having such an amazing community to work with. I have so much appreciation for my fellow Salisbury University students and I don’t know what I’d do without the support they give me. If it’s okay, I’d like to give a special thanks to Adam Weeks for the constant edits and writing advice.