Twin Cities Slam Poetry: Anna Šverclová
Anna Šverclová is a poet currently studying Creative Writing at Macalester College. Their work generally focuses on intergenerational trauma and memory. They write for both the page and for slam. Anna's work has been featured in several literary magazines, including Passages North, The River Styx, Birdcoat Quarterly, and The Rising Phoenix Press. They were also a finalist for the 2022 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest and the 2022 Poetry Online Chapbook Prize.
This series by Loft Intern Kendall Kieras will profile queer women and gender nonconforming poets who have helped shape the Twin Cities slam poetry scene.
How did you utilize form in this piece?
When I was writing this poem I wrote it really stream of consciousness at first and then tried to fit it into a form later. When I came up with this form, I was thinking about the way memories and myths work, almost like smoke running across the page, or how smoke embeds itself into your walls but you have no evidence of who or where it came from. It’s sort of like how you can see this violence in my face but have no idea where it came from. I wanted this poem to feel dreamy drifting across the page, but also acknowledge me coming to terms with not knowing what happened.
How does the word mottle encapsulate this piece?
This poem started with a prompt at the weekly workshop I run, MacSlams. The prompt I had was using a dictionary definition to start your poem, by finding a random word. I remember having trouble because I’d never heard the word mottle before. If you google it, the way it’s used in a sentence is “the cow’s red coat mottled in white.” I took that as my starting point and then explored what things in my life were mottled like that. It was the word that drove the story. I asked, “What parts of me are like a mottled cow? What parts are speckled and undefined?”
How do you use alternative history in this piece?
I wanted to play with the idea of myth, because sometimes there are things you’ll just never know when it comes to your own family. Both histories of this scar, a dog biting me, which is what my mom insists, or running into a cabinet, which is what my father insists, both are alternative histories. It's “Schrodinger's history” in a way, because no one knows how the scar formed and both accounts contradict the other. For me, the truest thing about this scar is it’s a myth, containing the lies of both my parents, which is more significant than the event itself.
How does this piece relate to your other work?
I write a lot about my family, especially my mom and my dad. I see a lot of my work as an archive of things that haven’t been recorded. There aren’t a lot of pictures of myself as a kid, I was the youngest of 7 and pretty neglected. A lot of writing poetry has been the creation of a photo album of myself, like creating a retroactive record. It’s in conversation with my other poems because, in different ways, my poems are like filling in a hole from my childhood.
How did you get involved in the twin cities slam poetry scene?
I got involved starting when I was a senior in high school, I had been involved with speech and debate, but it always felt too rigid. I wanted to write something more emotional and true to my experience that I didn’t have to research a ton on. I always chose the parts of Speech and Debate where I felt I could express myself the most, like the creative expression category where you can write your own piece. Still, I wished it was less formal and more community based. I came across a duo poem Button Poetry had put up and I was like, wow. I got into people like Neil Hilborn, Porsha Olayiwola, and Ollie Schminkey. When I first came to Macalester my Orientation Leader was part of MacSlams and pointed me in their direction. I just kind of came in and revitalized it, a lot of people were seniors and burnt out. I came in with this super huge excitement about slam. I really wanted to compete and feel the super fun competitive energy of a slam, but also the tenderness that countered the rigidity I was used to in public speaking forums. I kind of just saw hole that needed to be filled that matched my interest.
What is your favorite part of the Twin Cities poetry community?
I love the electricity of an in-person slam, I love how many opportunities there are to perform outside of my college. The BlackBerry Peach Slam, Button Live, Poets and Pints, etc. I just love how much energy there is in the poetry scene in the Twin Cities. There's a big mix of interests, a ton of people who have been writing for decades, as well as first-timers, such a diverse group of ages and skill levels. I love that when we get together in community it breaks down barriers of professionalism. Hearing people’s individual experiences and stories is so much different than reading something on a page. Everyone is on the same power level, and it feels like a conversation more than print literature does.
How do you think we can better uplift queer women and gender-nonconforming artists in this community?
I feel like, honestly, giving money is the best way to uplift artists. That is where the power is held in our society, shitty as it is, under capitalism. My power working as MacSlams’ lead has really been allocating the resources I have, using that money and hiring artists I think should have that money. This semester I have tried to hire mostly performers of color from the Twin Cities, so we are keeping the money in the community. Especially because slam originated from the Black community, it’s important to recognize where your art form comes from and support that community. At MacSlams, we have tried to give money to the people who need and deserve it. I feel like, if you have the resources, you have a real responsibility to allocate them for justice if you can.