“If we had a map when we can’t move on in life”

At first, it was easier to write about alcoholism if it wasn’t my own father’s story, our family’s story, and not in my own name, but rather embedded into the story of a nameless woman. – Poet Anna Terék answers Kristen Herbert’s questions.

Kristen Herbert: First I’d like to ask about the title, or rather the title poem. The title poem features several motifs that appear throughout the book, such as ice or the color black, as well as larger themes: what stands behind us, how people become frozen in an experience or trauma, also the narrator’s relationship with her father. To me it seems like this poem might be a map onto the collection, and ties together the themes within it. I would think that might be the reason it became the title of the collection? Or how did you know for sure that this would be the title poem?

Anna Terék: At first I wanted to name the collection On to Sunlight. That’s also a title of one of its poems. I thought the title should be more optimistic, or rather something that shows there is a path that leads back to the light. In the end my editor, Roland Orcsik, said that he liked the title Back on the Sun a lot morebecause it’s a much better description of the process the book is about. And finally we agreed. For me, the title also represents the photo-like memories that reappear throughout the poems. If a person takes photographs, he or she usually stands with their back to the sun. The mourning process is the same, almost as if the person’s face is in shadow. It also shows how my father’s alcoholism was often difficult to bear, as shown in several poems. I could use this metaphor to give shape to the period of time when he blocked the sun from me, in fact my whole life.

I really like that you call these little reappearing motifs a map. I would hope that, if the reader pays close attention to the dialogue in the poems, it would become clear that the man (sir, Szabolcs) and the woman are constantly waiting or going off somewhere, always in on the move. So, they do need a map, just as it would be great if we had a map when someone we loved very much passes away, and we aren’t able to move on in life. 

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