Interview with poet Millicent Borges Accardi

Poet Millicent Borges Accardi
joins me today and we’re talking about her new chapbook, Only More So (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2016).
Millicent Borges Accardi, a
Portuguese-American writer, is the author of four poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Poetry). Her awards
include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for poetry, Fulbright,
CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming
Foundation, “Money for Women.” Her poetry collection Only More So was a finalist for the 2018 Phillip McMath Post
Publication Book Award (University of Central Arkansas) and Injuring Eternity rec’d Honorable
Mention in the Latino Book Awards. She’s led writing workshops at Keystone
College, Nimrod Writers Conference, The Muse in Norfolk, Virginia, and at the University
of Texas, Austin. Her non-fiction can be found in The Writers Chronicle, Poets Quarterly, and the Portuguese American Journal. Featured readings have been at Brown
University, Rutgers, UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island College and the Carr Series
at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. Books include Woman on a Shaky Bridge (chapbook), Injuring Eternity, Only More So and Practical Love Poems (forthcoming).
Welcome, Millicent. What do you enjoy
most about writing poems?
Poems can
encapsulate one moment or a lifetime. I like getting ideas for a poem and
letting them germinate and percolate and then capture the words together on a
page or a screen. It’s a way of moving through space and a way to change the
Can you give us a little insight into a
few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
“Buying Sleep”
was loosely based upon a story my husband told me about a vacation to the
desert when he was a kid and not getting along with his older brother.
My brother leans over
in the
cabin bedroom
that we
shared once
a year
and says to me
mind you
this is
the brother I have
all my life–
he leans
over the bunk bed.
Yes, he
got the top.
He leans
into the
he’s an old car
all 12
of him,
and he
says to
a boy half his age,
a boy
tossing and fearing
and the
awful windy
the calm of the desert
and the
of the fear of Father
still being awake
when the
of the
sane world is not.
Now this
brother leans over
and asks
in the sweetest voice possible:
buy some sleep?” In the darkness
I nod
and, then, realizing years later
“Yes,” aloud and so he begins.
gathers up a cocoon of sleep
in his
hands and tucks in my feet,
ankles, my legs, my torso
and then
zips it up tightly under my chin
as if he loved me.
What form are you inspired to write in
the most? Why?
While I
experiment with forms, I like free form poetry the best—generally, my writing
comes out as it happens in my brain, so I avoid trying to mash it into an
artificial form, but it’s a good exercise and a fine challenge to try formal
poetry. It’s like learning a new language.

What type of project are you working on
I’m working
on a collection of poetry, based on fairytales or fada as they are called in
Portuguese—using fairy tales from Azoreans who immigrated to California. None of
these stories, that I know of, have been shared in outside of The Azores or
Portugal in book form since they stem from an oral tradition of storytelling.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer / poet?
Never? Um. I
guess I always have written since I first started reading books, carting home
Little Women and Nancy Drew from the Alamitos Branch Library down the street.
How do you research markets for your
work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
I guess a
unique way is to read and USE books as your reference, rather than Googling key
And what that means is reading as a form
of research?
Gather around
you, your favorite books, by contemporary writers, then separate writers whose
work YOU think is similar to yours and look at their Acknowledgements. See
where their poems were originally published and subscribe to those journals.
See where your favorite writers have completed residencies and what awards they
won, what degrees they earned and see how these credits might fit into your own
writing practice and how this information could be helpful in submitting your
own work to journals, publishers, grants, fellowships.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
After years
of “day job” work where I tested software and designed training courses for
pharmaceuticals (like Pfizer and Amgen), I got hooked on using these purple lab
books as writing journals. They are small and light-weight and yet they have
numbered pages and thick purple leather-looking covers. So most of my poetry
gets written into these books first and then, translated onto my laptop.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
Montgomery. Actually I wanted to be a witch, like she played on the TV show Bewitched.
After that, then I wanted to be Emma Peel (from the British show The Avengers).
I used to run home from school to watch reruns, pretty much the only time I got
to watch television.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

I curate two reading series:
  • Kale Soup for the Soul (Portuguese-American writers
    reading work about family, food and Luso culture)
  • Loose Lips (dedicated to bringing a diverse array of
    the best contemporary poets to Topanga and to provide audiences and
    authors with a poetic forum and community. Our commitment is to
    deliver literary events which are edgy, spiritual, inspiring and at
    times irreverent)
Thank you for being here today!

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