…with Peter Florek

Ariana:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Peter:

Well I’m a late bloomer. So while everyone was experiencing their awkward teenage years, I was a couple of years behind them socially and emotionally. That, of course, affected my personal growth in long-term ways. Ways i think I am still apprehending. But it has also made me more thoughtful, maybe for fear or shame based reasons, but I think it’s given me a heightened self-awareness. Something I consider to be a gift most of the time.

Ariana:

What do you do when not writing?

Peter:

I’m a pretty active person. I like to run, rock climb, hike. I play ultimate frisbee which is a more organized and more intense version of what most people picture when you say you play frisbee. I’ve done crossfit, hot yoga, acroyoga. On the other side of things, I also like to watch movies, stay home, attempt to cook. I’m a terrible cook, but the process of learning is always enjoyable. I also need to be alone and do nothing sometimes. Not in a hermetic or apathetic way, but what I would consider a way in which I can recharge and reflect on events, moments, feelings.

Ariana:

List 5 adjectives to describe yourself.

Peter:

I’m going to make my list of adjectives, and then I’m going to try to clarify my answers. I hope that isn’t cheating.

Sensitive
Open minded
Passionate
Vain
Stubborn

The first three are things I am always striving to express in myself, and the last two are things I am trying to suppress. But always for me there is a balancing act. I can learn from my faults as well as my attributes. It’s just not as easy to have a conversation with your ugly side.

Ariana:

Finish the sentence Someday, I want to ________.

Peter:

This is just a place for me to admit that there is so much I want to do. I want to publish more. I want to contribute to humanity in a meaningful way. I want to own a house full of animals, and not eat them.

Ariana:

How did you arrive at the title Splattervision?

Peter:

For me Splattervision has more meaning than the average reader might glean, but that’s  the nature of art, right? For better or worse, that word was a resource I chose to use, however obscure. It’s a word my father taught me while we were walking in the woods. I was a teenager. We bonded very little throughout my life, so I was always eager for these moments. He was always trying to impart “life skills” to me. Here’s how you stalk through brush without being noisy. Here’s how you can tell if a path had been disturbed by an animal or a human. I remember almost nothing now. I probably just wanted so badly to please him with my eagerness to learn anything from him. So technically “splattervision” is a term for focusing on a distant object to heighten your awareness of movement in your peripheral vision. For example, if you were in the woods trying to detect the movement of an animal or human, you’d stare at a far off tree. It is obviously a literal focal point in the poem of the same title, but I also thought that it worked in an elegiac sense. The distant object being something or someone you have lost. When you focus on them, you are suddenly aware of these “peripheral” events and feelings. So I thought that it worked in ways that maybe the reader won’t necessarily detect, but at least made sense to me.

A lot of these poems deal with loss in a range of ways. So there is that even more direct interpretation of “splattervision” as being a sort of spectrum or fragmentation of a singular idea or feeling.

Ariana:

Are you working on any new projects? If so, what?

Peter:

So I am not a very prolific writer. I am not sure if it’s because I haven’t established a professional work ethic just yet, or if it’s because I do so much mental gestation before I put pen to paper. My plan is to create a manuscript of poems using stories that people have told me. Specifically, my coworkers at an independent pharmacy have told me everything from their life stories to small events that might get them excommunicated from their religious communities. Naturally, I found it all compelling. The woman from a traditional Italian family who suffered from lupus, and then married the man her mother told her to marry because she was sickly. The Orthodox Jewish pharmacist who goes to secret support groups for “nonbelievers”. Their stories struck me as important moments. I want to make sure I can do them justice, and that my approach to telling them is something that is equally sensitive and unapologetic.

Ariana:

Pepsi or Coke?

Peter:

Neither! It used to be Coke Classic and Wild Cherry Pepsi, but I gave up caffeine. I never drank coffee, and wasn’t a big tea drinker, so those were easier to give up. Now i stick mostly to water, but still drink the non-caffeinated sodas and an occasional herbal tea.

Ariana:

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers looking to get published?

Peter:

My advice is a bit hypocritical, but it would be not to fear rejection. One of the reasons I withheld from even attempting to publish poems individually was fear of rejection. It is a completely valid fear, but one that you shouldn’t let drive your car.  Maybe a second bit of advice would be to network. Find someone who has published or is experienced in other ways and is willing to take you under their wing and give you some direction. This publication will be my first, and I am very grateful to have been directed to ELJ by a long-time friend and mentor who has really created more opportunities for me than I have for myself. But moving forward I’ve tried to learn to make networking/creating opportunities part of my writing life. There’s only so much you can learn on your own. Someone’s got to show you how to be a professional. But eventually you leave the nest.

Ariana:

If you could travel anywhere, where and why?

Peter:

What an overwhelming question. I haven’t traveled enough to have a small enough checklist, but I’m a big fan of natural wonders, ancient wonders. I saw Angkor Wat a couple of years ago. Ancients ruins are so full of energy and history. The same with natural wonders, but the energy is more electric, alive. Ancient ruins are more subdued or dormant, a distant heartbeat. I just went to Niagara. I know it’s small potatoes in the worldwide waterfall circuit, but it was still an awesome force to behold. I also am someone who isn’t turned off by inclement destinations. There are special outdoor groups that will take you on excursions across Antarctica, if you’ve got $20,000 to burn. So that might be my travel destination given an unlimited budget.

Climate/survival training in the Alps, then straight to Antarctica.

Ariana:

What were your goals in writing Splattervision. What did you want to achieve by writing it?

Peter:

So for me Splattervision started as a random collection of my best poems. This manuscript spans quite a few years of writing. As an “emerging writer” I was trying to decide in a very serious way, what poems were really achieving something and which poems were dead in the water. Naturally, there were some that i deemed unsalvageable. On the other hand, three of the poems in Splattervision were written within weeks of each other just prior to submission. In my mind, they helped stitch the manuscript into a more singular, cohesive unit.

I am from that school of thought where I am trying not to be didactic in my poems. But I am trying to guide the reader to a place where I feel some kind of importance in the moment. Another aspect of the manuscript I had to grapple with was where the reader might not want to go. All of my more domestic poems are more approachable than say a day in the life of a cave cricket or slug porn. I know I’m trivializing them, but I’m also being sarcastic. What I mean to say is I had to decide if they seemed trivial and/or if their peculiarity might be the only thing that was intriguing about them. Ultimately, the darker, stranger poems represent parts of mind that may seem ugly or uninviting but that I uphold, or attempted to uphold, as equally important, and valid, and beautiful. So to kind of try to encapsulate what I wanted to achieve, I wanted the reader to accompany me on a series of experiences where, yes I am doing voice over, but also hopefully erecting a scene around them that can become seamless, somewhere where they can arrive and then reside, feeling at home but also experiencing a newness. The poem “Surface” is in many ways a mantra that might explain my writerly intentions a little more artfully.

 

 

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