1. What drew you to write poetry?
"I initially started out as a fiction writer, but I eventually felt constrained by the genre. However, I still have a deep admiration for those formative years. My first love as a writer was language and figuring out the right combination of words. And for me poetry allowed me to tinker with language more than fiction, which satisfied me beyond belief. Another reason I gravitated towards poetry was the need to express emotion; with fiction I felt I couldn’t say what I wanted to say through characters or plot, I wanted to get rid of the middle man and expose my heart."
2. Do you remember the first poem you wrote?
"The first poem I ever wrote was titled “Now its Gone” and it was written in sixth grade, if I recall. For English we had to craft a poem about anything. so like any poet I chose to write about nature. Unlike most pieces from childhood, I’m not ashamed of this poem for being the first one I ever wrote.
Now it’s gone
I used to look around
Blue skies, solid ground
Trees so luscious and green
Nature is a beautiful thing
But now it’s withering
Leaves slowly subsiding
Oaks turn to ashes
It gone before life flashes
Golden sunsets turned black
There is no going back
Bags flying by
This earth will soon die
Nature is a beautiful thing
Before man was roaming
Flowers are blooming
Now that we are leaving"
3. When did you consider yourself a poet?
"Not until recently, definitely within the last year. I never wanted to label myself a certain type of writer, but I feel poet suits me best since it’s the genre I feel most comfortable with. And while I mainly write poetry, I do want to branch out into other genres."
4. How do you create your poetry? Do you use a computer, do you write it by hand?
"I always type on my computer because when I write on paper my hands can’t keep up with the speed of my thoughts. That’s also why my handwriting looks like chicken scratch. Plus being dyslexic makes writing on paper difficult since there’s no autocorrect feature."
5. How do you know when your poem is done?
"Usually when I get tired of looking at it. Sometimes I have to force myself to step away from a piece or else I’ll get stuck in a stretch of endless editing. There is always something that could be changed, however at what point does editing remove the rawness of a piece? I’ve had poems that were better off without unnecessary revisions. I don’t think a poem is ever truly done, but with that being said I do think there is a time when we must move on to another piece."
6. How important is writing in your life?
"Writing is crucial to my mental health. When I am not working out an idea, editing, or writing a poem I feel out of place. As cliche as it is, I feel complete when my focus is on creating. The lowest points in my life have been when my art was placed on the backburner. I’ve been writing for 15 years (since I was six) and it would be impossible to separate my art from my identity. Writing is situated right below friends and family in terms of importance, but there are times where it’s taken the number one spot. I’ve left parties or family events to work on a poem because I got an idea or because I had an open mic to attend."
7. What writing project(s) do you hope to take on someday?
"I want to do everything. And since I get bored way too easily my work needs to be constantly changing or evolving. I’d love to write a few novels, but beyond books, a dream of mine is to compose a soundtrack for a broadway musical. I can’t play any instruments or sing, but writing lyrics for songs would be amazing. I used to write songs back in highschool and teenage me wants this dream translated into reality."
8. What do you hope people will take away from your writing?
"I want people to take away that I’m a regular person who made it through tough situations, albeit with a lot of scars. I want people to see me as someone who is not afraid to be themselves and say what they need to say. However, I’m not striving for my story to be spun into an inspiration story, nor paint my rugged journey as a glamorous self-discovery. I want to explore and make sense of my life, the pain, sadness, and joy, through poetry. And if someone is inspired by my story that’s amazing. It’s just not my intention with my work."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"That you have to write everyday. It is a harmful way of thinking. We already put a lot of pressure on ourselves as artists and this sets unrealistic expectations. My best work came after a much needed break. If we spend all day at our desks just writing we are not living life, nor creating new experience. Those days where you don’t write and instead hang out with friends or go on a long late-night drive are crucial to the creative process. Allow yourself to live and you’ll if you do, your work will improve. But at the end of the day, I think all writing advice, whether intentional or not, can set us up for failure. We all have to find what works for us and what doesn’t."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t get to talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I am a pretty boring person and don’t do much in my spare time besides writing or reading. With that being said I love researching supernatural encounters. The unexplained has always fascinated me, whether that be ghosts or cryptids like Bigfoot or The Mothman. Even though a lot of these cases are a product of hoaxes or misinterpretations, there is something fascinating about them. I do believe some cryptids could exist such as Bigfoot and the Chupacabra (not the reptile version though. That’s tin foil hat level of cryptozoology). The case I am fascinated with the most is the Phoenix Lights since there are actual photos and hundreds of eye witness accounts. It’s probably the most compelling encounter with aliens, although it’s probably a military aircraft (or multiple of them). I easily go down rabbit holes and will spend all day just researching a single case. Not the best use of time, but it’s super fun!"
Hear Carson read his poem "The Gray."
Carson Sandell is a twenty-one-year-old gay & demisexual poet born in Modesto, CA, but raised in San Jose. He graduated from Mission College, Santa Clara, with an AA-T in English and is currently pursuing a BA in Creative Writing at University of California Riverside. Carson also plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing in the future. Find him on Twitter @SandellCarson and on his website.