Nikki Velletri is a high school junior from Massachusetts. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is published or forthcoming from Words Dance and Eunoia Review.
FIND HER ON: FEARLASTYEAR.TUMBLR.COM
WHAT INSPIRED ONE OF YOUR POEMS?
I wrote Ours Atlantic after I attended a party where, for no reason at all, everything seemed so false. In such a large crowd of people, it seemed like everyone was trying to be someone different, even myself. I tried to reflect that in the title—”atlantic” being the tendency to turn a tiny motel pool into an ocean and “ours” being a reminder to claim an experience that felt almost out-of-body, an experience that I wanted to forget. The poem became sort of an apology and a jab at myself and the people there, for who we could have been and who we actually became.
TELL US AN OBSCURE THING YOU FIND INTERESTING ABOUT THE WORLD?
There are so many phases that exist in other languages with no real English translation. Language makes the world so accessible, but I can’t help but think of all the conversations occurring at this very moment that I could never hope to understand.
WHAT ODD, FUNNY OR INTERESTING FACT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT YOUR WRITING HABITS OR PROCESS?
Most of my poems remain unfinished for a while on my computer or phone, since there always seems to be one part I can’t figure out how to say. I always end up waking up in the middle of the night, thinking through perfect phrasing, and having to find a pen at two in the morning so that I don’t forget it.
How important is language and/or word choice to your writing?
Very, but I think it could be more so and I hope to push myself there. I like to play around with a poem and see how much I can say without saying much at all. The story of a poem tends to come more naturally to me; on the other hand, a poem doesn’t feel finished to me until the rhythm of the language feels right.
Are there any themes or reoccurring threads that you try to explore in your writing?
As a young person with a chronic illness, I find myself (both intentionally and not) returning to the body, because everything really does start and end there—for better or for worse. When I wrote “Ours Atlantic” and described the character’s body to be “a hallway in which every doors swings open,” that was me articulating a desire of my own: to be in a body that can push me forward rather than hold me back. I am still working towards that, and poetry helps me process the grey area that exists for me now, stuck in a body that seems to run itself into the ground every chance it gets.
Is there something you find particularly difficult about the writing process?
I have a tendency to read a poem and automatically assume the narrator of the poem and the author are the same, especially when the author has brought the reader so close to the poem and the emotions it discusses. In my own poetry, trying to step back from writing as myself has always been difficult for me, but it is something I want to keep doing because it is so rewarding to play around with lives I have never lived, a method that usually lends itself to prose rather than poetry.
How much research do you do when writing?
I like to think that I am always researching. There is not a single poem of mine that I can say came solely from my own knowledge. Especially when reading or watching film, I always think what makes that character relatable? Why are her actions justifiable? And, the questions that are most important to me are what makes this story tragic? Why does it elicit emotion? Character is very interesting to me, and understanding it also happens for me by watching real people and their actions.
Do you have any hidden gems in your books that only a few people will recognize?
This is probably only a hidden gem for me since I completely forgot that it existed, but I found “The Mysterious Benedict Society” in the children’s section of B&N recently with my little cousin. It was my favorite book as a child so of course I had to buy a copy again. The magic is not ruined for me! It is still as great now as it was then.
LASTLY, WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK 'KINGDOMS IN THE WILD'?
Freedom to reign and reigning free. How in hostile environments, flowers still grow. The terror of standing outside in the dark, and the wonder of realizing you do not want to go back inside.
ABOUT IN CONVERSATION
What makes a writer write? What resides behind the impulse to create a work of art? We have always been interested in these questions here at KITW. Incredibly, we’ve received such varied responses to the same questions from each of our published writers, that we thought we’d share.
We hope you enjoyed your visit to Kingdoms in the Wild, if you did, please tell a friend. Thank you for your support.
CREDITS: in this issue
Author: Nikki Velletri
Editor: Shompole N.L & Lydia S.
Graphic Design: Shompole, N.L.