Interview: Tianna G. Hansen

Tianna G. Hansen has been writing her whole life. Her work has been published widely in many forms but her first love will always be poetry, and her debut poetry collection “undone, still whole” is coming in May 2019 from APEP Publications. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Rhythm & Bones Press, a lit mag and small press focusing on the beauty in darkness and turning trauma into art, healing through writing. Learn more and find her work at / Twitter @tiannag92 / IG @tgghansen24 / FB @tiannaghansen.

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry, but I write in many different mediums including creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and collage.

What do you love about that medium (i.e. why do you create that way)?

Poetry has always been my first love. I connect deeply with the form, the ability to express emotion and even reach a catharsis while writing poetry. I love the ability to create concrete images using similes and metaphors. Even my fiction and other mediums are very poetic. There’s something about poetry that speaks to me. I find poetry in the most mundane day-to-day and am constantly composing poems in my head, no matter what I’m doing.

How do you begin your creative process?

I normally begin with a strong emotion or image which will help as a jumping off point for a poem, CNF or fiction piece I am writing. I think finding a central emotion I want to evoke or focus on gives my work something to anchor on and makes it stronger. This will always lead me into a deeper revelation on what I want to write about and what I hope to create. I’ve found my environment doesn’t matter – I’ll compose poetry on anything: a napkin, a scrap of paper, my notes section on my phone, a receipt… as long as I have some way of capturing the words, I write. Otherwise, I compose in my head (I often write poetry while I’m driving) and repeat the lines until I think I can remember enough to write it down later.

Is there a singular emotion that you find to be more generative than others?

The stronger the emotion, the more generative it becomes. Since a lot of my writing is used as a form of cathartic release, many of the emotions I write into poetry deal with internal pain, depression and anxiety (my struggles with mental illness), and my PTSD symptoms. Not a day goes by where I don’t experience one or all of these emotions, and it feels amazing to put them into creating something. I strongly believe that something beautiful always remains, no matter what type of darkness we face.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

My favorite place to create is somewhere surrounded by nature. I’ll notice things that I wouldn’t notice indoors – the way the wind whispers through the trees or the birdsong echoes over the hill, or the sun warms my skin. This helps me evoke emotions and images and lines that I wouldn’t otherwise feel as strongly or grasp properly.

Is there any place in particular that you find more evocative than others and why?

Lately, I have found writing out on my porch, as the weather warms and Beltane approaches, I feel like my creative energy is restoring itself as well. Not only am I surrounded by nature there, but I also have a spot where I can go to clear my head and I have found myself writing a lot of poems out there, even under the light of the moon. The moon is a large focus in much of my work as well, so writing with the moon shining on me feels right. It is wholesome. I saw something the other day that talked about how the moon has many phases but is always whole no matter what phase it is in. I identified a lot with that, which is a theme in my debut collection Undone, Still Whole with APEP Publications.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

Sometimes I find it difficult to create to any type of music, but when I do, I enjoy instrumental music or something calming without a lot of lyrics, like Enya. I like my own words to shine through without being influenced by song lyrics, though I’m sure this would be a fun way to create a different type of poetry someday.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

The short story collection ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ by Carmen Maria Machado has stuck with me since reading for the way it experiments and pushes boundaries of societal expectation placed on women’s bodies, and the way it plays and tugs on the imagination of the reader. I won’t soon, if ever, forget the experience of reading this book and still think of it often.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

In particular, I’m excited right now and completely adore all the work by APEP Publications (and I’m not just saying that because one of the upcoming books is mine), they spend so much time and care with their work, and it is a true collaboration between artists. The poets and other work they publish, the quality of the books, and the artwork included which is all done by Jeremy Gaulke is very impressive and very inspirational. It has made me want to be more innovative with my own personal work and the work of my press, too. I also always get excited by magazines that are truly unique. Magazines like Twist in Time, Bonnie’s CrewMoonchild Mag, Mojave He[art] Review, OkaydonkeySuburban Springtime, Ginger Collect, Pussy Magic, Pink Plastic House really have a beautiful take (but there are so, so many others!). Small presses I’m most excited about lately: APEP (again), Fly on the Wall Poetry Press, Selcouth Station Press, Empty Set PressLanternfish Press, Porkbelly PressHedgehog Poetry Press. There are so many that excite me, I hesitate to name any because I know I’ll neglect someone in there. I am just deeply enamored with all the hard work the literary community does.  

I’m a huge lover of physical magazines too, for numerous reasons – yes, I love reading them (in particular, ‘Poets & Writers’ and ‘The New Yorker’), but I also love to repurpose them once I’m done reading into bits for collages. If I find a striking image or words in the magazine, I instantly get excited and envision what I could do with a collage, although my collages are usually just a way for me to creatively express emotion and I have only ever submitted them once (I had one published in Riggwelter this past January).

How does collage inform your writing? Do you find that the visual work interacts with your written work at all?

Some of my collages are just a collection of words, which reminds me of a poem. Others are images joined together to create something else (I have one collage that is a collection of different colored hair, eyes, noses, teeth all looking like they are part of one face, with a set of hands holding up a bouquet of chins). I go by feeling, using a theme or something else that strikes me – maybe it’s an image, or a word (much like the way I begin my creative process for writing poetry) – and build off that until I have an entire collage surrounding that theme. Often the theme emerges as I go, and is usually unexpected. It’s a good exercise for finding links between different images, words or ideas and making them join together to create another meaning altogether. I’m glad you asked that question, Jane, thank you. It made me realize how similar in nature my process of collaging is to my writing, though it’s not something I thought of before. I have always used collaging as a form of stress relief, a distraction and something to put my mind to which has always been a fun, creative way to breathe easier. It calms me down and I love creating anything by hand, so I always create my collages using cut paper and a gluestick. I also love writing my poems by hand. I try not to ever type them first. I love the feeling of holding a pen to paper and handwriting. Then I will transfer to a computer later, and often form a second draft as I go.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

Travel anywhere & everywhere you possibly can! I am a strong believer that travel enhances the soul and seeing new places, especially as a writer, gives you plenty of seedlings that can sprout into something creative. I particularly love going to a new country and surrounding myself in their cultural intricacies. A favorite of mine is Edinburgh, Scotland, for its large literary history and the atmosphere in general being an inspirational place for writers (it’s also where I had my MFA residency and met my now-husband).

Is there any particular nook in Edinburgh that we should go to write?

Since I’m all about nature, I would suggest climbing Arthur’s Seat which is a beautiful place to go and you can look out across the city. Or going to watch the sunset on Calton Hill. These are two of my favorite spots. But if you’re looking for a cozy nook to write in, any pub will do. There are many of them, and there’s something about the nature of being inside a real Scottish pub that invigorates my imagination. It helps to envision other famous authors and poets who have done the same, wandering the cobbled streets and sitting with a pint or two while they compose words. It’s a truly inspirational city all around. 

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

Don’t force it. If you aren’t feeling in the mood to create, don’t. I used to put so much pressure on myself if I wasn’t writing every day, or even every week, and sometimes you need to give your creative energy a break. I spent nearly a year after my MFA program not writing, hating myself every moment of the day for ‘giving up’ and not doing what I felt I should. But now, I no longer hold myself to those expectations and I’ve rediscovered my love for the process of creating. Allow it to come naturally. Don’t overwork and over-stress yourself when you feel things aren’t coming to you. Let the poetry and the writing and the words come to you. It will, when you’re ready, and you will discover things that you wouldn’t had you forced it into being.

What are you currently working on?

My debut poetry collection “Undone, Still Whole” will be coming in May from APEP Publications. This is by far my most astonishing accomplishment to date. Before I reached out to APEP, I was ready to put my collection to rest and allow it to gather dust, but working with Jeremy, editing and discussing illustrations and spending time with my work again made me fall in love with what I had created all over again. I feel so rejuvenated having worked on this, and it is going to be a true work of art. The time and attention and care that Jeremy puts into his projects is something that is rare and wonderful. I have three poems from the collection coming out in a feature with Thirty West Publishing in April, and some other poems that are going to be featured in other lit mags/journals, namely Moonchild Mag has accepted three poems from another upcoming collection, which is a collaboration between me, Kristin Garth, and Justin Karcher – a poetic opera where we all wrote from a different character’s point of view and created a dark fantasy world. I’m excited to release that, from my small press Rhythm & Bones, this June. There’s always something going on with my press – we have one book coming out each month until September, so I’ll be busy at work editing, laying out, and publishing books myself. I cannot wait, though, to have books with my own work in them coming out. It feels amazing to finally be able to share my very personal work with others and I hope everyone will like my debut collection. I write from a very personal place with a strong belief that writing acts as a form of healing trauma, and I hope I’m able to inspire others through this.

4 thoughts on “Interview: Tianna G. Hansen

  1. Hey there, how you doing!? I just went through your blog and its totally fab, keep up this effort love and have a nice day! ❤
    Looking forward to reading from your blog more 🙂
    You have a new follower 😉

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