"[I]t is refreshing to me to listen to [...] screaming examples of women’s voices in action. It reminds me that women have been creating discourse around the realities of sexism and other atrocities for as long as we have existed." Mel Sherrer
I am continually impressed by women who are completely themselves. A talented poet and avid fisherwoman, Mel Sherrer reminds me to be comfortable in who I am, and to never apologize for it.
Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of and why?
At this point in my life I am most proud of my education. Choosing single-sex institutions for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, was two of the best choices I have made for my career and personal development. The opportunity to grow in a space where women’s voices are given priority and respect is unrivaled. All of my mentors, colleagues, and degree program contemporaries believe in the advancement of women through education; I am extremely proud of that.
What are you currently working on? How long have you been working on it? How did you become interested in it/ where did you get the idea for it?
I am currently working on a full-length manuscript of poems. I have expended about eight months planning for this collection; most of that planning was spent reading again and again the correspondence between German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Xaver Kappus, who at the time was a young, aspiring poet. I have found the letters electrifying, moreover, therapeutic and I’ve been reading them like scripture.
“…draw near to Nature. Then, try like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose…seek those to which your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires…”
Those lines from Rilke truly gave me the conviction necessary to begin this book. Many things I have written are introspective; I find these new poems to be increasingly observant. This collection focuses on different elements of my writing that I admit, I have yet to explore, namely a conscious effort towards minimalism. I plan to finish the book in the spring. I am also working on a collaborative work with the incredibly talented Sarah Cooper, poet, teacher and CrossFit extraordinaire. The manuscript is still in its very early stages, but she and I are both excited to see it come to fruition in the next few months. With that said, I am also putting in some hard labor teaching myself to use a new bait-casting reel in an attempt to get into more competition-size, Largemouth Bass, which are certainly not uncommon here in Texas. I have been predominantly fly-fishing for almost every freshwater species available, but I’m thinking with the addition of this new rod and reel, I could potentially pull out some monsters in the upcoming season.
What issue are you currently most passionate about? What is the one thing you would like people to know or understand about this issue?
There are so many things that I am absolutely on the edge of combustion about, in fact, it has been very difficult to breech these subjects in my writing. I am just horrified honestly, in regards to the progression towards authoritative government of women’s lives, bodies and identities. I am horrified that as one of the most liberated societies in the world, America is still so far from embracing racial diversity. I am horrified by the deplorable, governmental attitude towards the remaining Native nations of America, who suffered enough of the injustices of colonization and racism long before pipelines were even considered. I am horrified at the popular conception that education is a means to a capitalist end, rather than a life-long pilgrimage toward enlightenment. I am continually horrified at the growing notion that citizenship in this country is to be coveted for people of certain nationalities, ethnicities and faiths, which is contrary to constitutional declarations, contrary to the triumphs and failures of history, and totally ignorant of the fact that America was built on the strengths of its many cultures. I could go on…
What book or film with a female protagonist would you recommend and why? What female author’s, artist’s, or musician’s work would you recommend and why?
In the last year or so much of my spare time was spent enjoying the outdoors, consequently I haven’t seen very many recent t.v. shows or movies and I have almost exclusively been reading poetry, other than a wide array of books on fishing and few memoirs. I did watch one t.v. show almost to completion (The 100) until the writers of said show killed off the only lesbian character, with no real plot-motivated reason to do so (other than adhering to the “Kill your gays” trope, which is distastefully present in mainstream television). Of the poetry that I have read, I can say though, there are several women writers who have sent me into near states of theophany. Gretchen Shartle, though her book of poems, On Earth and in Heaven, is not very recent, it is a simply-written, pensive masterpiece. Her poems manage what I think many of us as poets want to accomplish, and that is to take something miniscule, domestic, or mundane and amplify it such that any reader can interpret its beauty or significance. I could read her poems anywhere, anytime. Another poet who has inspired me recently is Collier (Coll) Nogues. I began my journey into Nogues’ work with her book, On the Other Side, Blue, which is an absolute tourniquet and honestly one of the most intuitive approaches to poems about death I have encountered. Her most recent book, The Ground I Stand on is not My Ground, is filled with the same brand of wisdom, a must-read.
Musically I have been antiquing a bit, that is to say I’ve been revisiting some old music that really speaks to our current political climate. I have pulled out The Distillers, Beth Hart, The Indigo Girls, Melissa Ferrick, Sick of Sarah, on and on… it is refreshing to me to listen to their screaming examples of women’s voices in action. It reminds me that women have been creating discourse around the realities of sexism and other atrocities for as long as we have existed. Aside from antiquing, I have been enjoying the sounds of Aerica Lauren, who is an independent artist from Richmond, Virginia, my beloved home state. Aerica’s music is lyrical, thoughtful and adventurous, some songs seeming more poetry than verse. She’s also a clever instrumentalist. I dig it.
Name one woman who has influenced you/ had an impact on you, perhaps as a mentor. Why and how did she impact your life?
One person? How could I possibly name one woman? There is a myriad of women who have lit fires under my ass along the way: my mom, my sister, the women teaching within the Converse M.F.A. program, who have each touched my writing. One name that comes to the front of my mind as a mentor is Jeri Suarez. Jeri has been a great teacher and friend to me since my years as an undergrad at Hollins University, where, after more than two decades of service to the Hollins community, she is still lighting fires. One concept that she has helped me incorporate into my life and writing is the idea that service to others should be our primary pursuit as decent human beings. In all my studies, travels, readings, and writings, I find this to be a certain truth and an invaluable lesson to learn and teach.
Mel Sherrer lives near pristine rivers in San Marcos, Texas. She teaches in Austin, and also enjoys editing poetry for South85 literary journal. She is an avid reader and writer of poetry. Look forward to her emergence in 2017.