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EMC Question Words with Sue Scavo, author of "Buried [A Place]"



Buried [A Place] tracks a woman's journey, through the shadowy realm of story, relationship, and trauma, in a haunting and challenging re-imagining of Dante's Inferno. The poet's odyssey resurrects the self and the feminine from the crushing weight of cultural and personal history, while raising the question of self in relation and correlation to other.

Beginning with, "I was lost. You must understand, utterly," we are plunged into a world where stories and language clash dream-like. The narrator faces these clashes on her journey, but also encounters conflicts with the entities who appear to guide her. What to do when one is lost? Who do we follow or call upon for help when fighting internal monsters? External ones? When does a teacher, a mentor, a brother, a father, no matter how seemingly beloved, become something else? "Which are you?" the narrator asks over and over - even of herself.


In near-primal bracketed language, in external dialogues and internal asides, the poems of Buried [A Place] track an odyssey that curves, circles, and crashes in on itself, often leaving us breathless. This is one woman's revelation of the self, of the feminine, buried underneath the crushing weight of cultural and personal history. Along the way, Buried [A Place], reclaims not just voice, but the body, not just knowledge, but raw knowing.




WHO is Sue Scavo?


Sue Scavo, born in Cincinnati, Ohio [in the middle], has lived most of her life at one edge [California] or another [New England]. Her work has been published in numerous publications including Poet Lore, Blue Heron Review, Aster(ix), Burning House Press, Literary Mama, Panolopy and others; and in anthologies, including What Have You Lost? ed. Naomi Shihab Nye (Harper Collins). She received her MFA from New England College. She was awarded a writer's residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT [and then stayed as a staff artist for several years]. Sue is co-editor/co-founder of deLuge Literary and Arts Journal and is a Dreamwork Teacher/Practitioner who has taught/presented internationally at conferences/venues such as Esalen Institute, Kripalu Center, Breitenbush Retreat Center, The Rowe Center, Hollyhock and the International Association for the Study of Dreams.


WHAT do you write?


Poetry was and still is my first love when it comes to writing – my book Buried [A Place] is a book of poems. The way poetry distills/sorts/makes new through language, sound and silence constantly thrills me. I also feel deeply connected to the lineage of poetry which extends back as far as humans have been speaking. I think of oral traditions and the singing of poems before there was widespread literacy. I think of the width of the epic and the complex simplicity of the lyric. When I write poems, I feel all those threads. I feel all the threads, too, of the new forms constantly being woven in poetry now.


I also write creative non-fiction, often focusing on another love for me which is working with dreams. I am a dreamwork practitioner and teacher – which, of course, means that dreams always find their way into my writing. Not just when I am writing about dreams, but very deeply in my poems. Dreams and poetry have always been woven together. One of the first written stories/epic poems includes a dream. And poets have been including dreams in their work forever.


WHY did you write Buried [A Place]?


When I first fell in love with poetry, part of what I loved so much [still do] was the intimacy between me as the reader and the very breath/intention of the poet I was reading. Intimate, immediate. I also feel, in that intimacy, a deep conversation in all the ways I respond. One of the first poems that ever resonated for me in this way was Dante’s Commedia.


When I began Buried, it was a way to respond and be in conversation with Dante and this kind of journey, but from a feminine lens. What happened in the writing of the book, which echoes Dante’s Inferno, is that it became a re-imagining and an argument with Dante, with the entire masculine structure that holds descent narratives. An argument with the very idea that only men “journey” and women are “journeyed toward or through”.


So, Buried is a journey of one woman through a series of dream-like episodes that includes an interrogation of the idea of journey, of who do we follow when we are lost, who do we trust and what do we journey through and toward. It is also an interrogation of story – the power and dangers of story.


HOW did the idea for Buried [A Place] come about?


As a dreamwork teacher, I found myself referring to Dante’s Commedia often with students. Dreams do invite us on our own kind of epic journey, in a very individualized way.


I realized I was engaged internally in conversation with Dante with questions about journey, about what stories get to be told, about the relationship [and dangers] between mentor/mentee. I realized I was already re-imagining the journey and that I may as well write my own poetic sequence. It was a little intimidating at first – Dante has been studied and written about/after for centuries, so [of course] I hesitated. Who am I to be in this conversation, just a woman from the middle of the U.S., not even an official “Dante scholar”?


But then I had a dream where a man who felt like a mentor told me to write the book. That was the whole dream. I had been thinking about the project for many years but did not really let myself fully step into it until the dream came and not only gave me permission but told me to. I remember waking up from the dream and thinking, “Oh no, now I have to do it!”


WHEN did you write Buried [A Place]?


Well, like I said, I had been thinking of doing something for many years but began in earnest about 7 or 8 years ago. It took me many years to find what the book wanted to be [which is usually different than my original impulse!] and then some time to find its final form. It is not just 34 Cantos, like the 34 Cantos in Dante’s Inferno. Every Canto includes an episode and also has a section that I think of as “asides”. One aside is usually the voice of the woman who is on the journey in conversation with her self and another aside is from one [or many] of the people who “leads” her [as Virgil led Dante]. This final form, which was entirely surprising, really sprang up in the last few years.


WHERE can readers find your book?


You can find Buried in several places


  • Directly from Anhinga Press here: www.anhingapress.org

  • IndieBound here: [not available here yet]

  • Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Buried-Place-Sue-Scavo/dp/1934695742/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1648042998&refinements=p_27%3ASue+Scavo&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Sue+Scavo

  • Barnes and Noble here: [not available here yet]


You can also find my writings about dreams, dreaming, dreams and creativity at my online blog here: www.anetymologyofdreaming.com. My other website is www.suescavo.com.





Disclaimer: Every EMC interview series seeks to promote the artist and their featured writing and is in no way an endorsement of any of said artist's services, opinions or other work outside of this feature.