Shanti Weiland is a cat person, a poet, and a teacher. Defying perceived wisdom, she has not gone west.
Who the hell are you? I am a poet from California, living in the deep south, and a brazen advocate for happiness.
I have nothing to declare but my genius and … my soon to be released poetry book, Sister Nun, which just won Negative Capability Press’ book contest. Sister Nun follows a woman who joins a Buddhist convent in response to a broken heart. The manuscript begins with the speaker, who names herself “Sister Nun,” escaping over the wall of the convent even though she has, in no way, been held captive. During the rest of the narrative (and the rest of her life, which spans over 215 years, not including her casual second-coming) she explores her identity, sexuality, and the path to enlightenment by wrestling alligators, vacationing in hell, and traveling through time and space.
Why the hell should we care? Because who doesn’t sprout talons sometimes and wonder what the hell is wrong with heaven? Also, it’s about a nun, which you’ll like if you have a weird fascination with them, as I do.
What the hell do you care about? Enlightenment—but not in a stilted salvation-reincarnate-till-you’re-good-enough kind of way. I am interested in each moment of life and what intuition does with it.
You are about to be castaway with the fictional character of your choice. You’re going to be alone with this person for a full year. Who would you choose? And why? Oooh, that’s a hard one. Most of the characters I like the best are kind of messed up—not castaway-friendly! I suppose I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Kakuro Ozu from The Elegance of a Hedgehog, although I suppose Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins would be a more practical choice.
I have seen the future of poetry and its names are Michael Bassett and Jordan Sanderson. Michael Bassett’s book Hatchery of Tongues is a wonderful mixture of intellect and rock ’n roll, and Jordan Sanderson’s poetry feels like a strange and vivid dream that you suddenly recall in the late afternoon.
What is next for you? I’ve been working on my next book of poems, which might need to be split in two. Half of the poems, so far, seem to be more mystically driven, and the other half are about familial ties. Who knows? There is something haunting about familial ties.
Tell us a secret. Mentally, my life is a musical. Often times, I wish I could stop a conversation and bounce around ideas for chorus reprises, based on someone’s one-liner or recurring narrative. Also, when my eyes glaze over from listening to someone’s nonsense, it’s usually because I’m mentally belting out a solo.
Shanti Weiland’s book Sister Nun is the 2015 winner of the Negative Capability Press Book Competition. Weiland received her BA in English from the University of California, Davis and later moved to the desert, pursuing a Creative Writing MA at Northern Arizona University. She then traveled to the humid and friendly south, where she earned a Ph.D in Poetry from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s recently been published in Two Cities Review, MadHat Lit, Toad the Journal, and Bop Dead City. She currently teaches writing and literature at The University of Alabama and lives in Birmingham with her partner and a menagerie of pets.
- Website: shantiweiland.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShantiWeiland
- Sister Nun: http://www.negativecapabilitypress.org/blog/weilandwinsbookcompetition
- Interview with Negative Capability Press: http://www.negativecapabilitypress.org/blog/2015/7/8/an-interview-with-semi-finalist-shanti-weiland