Anne Gvozdjak is a high school sophomore in Seattle, Washington. Besides writing poetry and working on her novel, she likes spending her time listening to music, doing calligraphy, and reading a lot.
six a.m. in the morning
and sorrow already seeps its way through
my blankets so i / reach warm
fingers out into the icy bedroom and strip
bare of that nightmare / shouldn’t my dreams of
pirates and monsters and robbers under the
mattress have stopped long ago / but
here i am / sweating and stained and terrified of
nothing / left to devour the silence / desperate to replace
the roaring deep within / flee downstairs and / barely
remember to skip the creaking step / don’t invite
any other humans into my morning / first floor
flick on one glowing light and
flinch as the switch snaps / how is the neighbor’s
tv already on / when did i leave my desk
such a mess / where do i belong
in this mess / turn away / too cowardly to
face the nightmares of today / instead pause and listen
to the birdsong to the rain patter to the
motor in the refrigerator suddenly
stop / freeze / listen to my
breathing to the ticking of the two
analog clocks / they have fallen
out of sync again and / again i have
forgotten that time is wasting away / only
two hours left until / the other humans
will arrive and i / am still in
A Conversation on “six a.m. in the morning”
1. The narrator of “six a.m. in the morning” emanates a feeling of disconnect with the self; a stranger in their home, not knowing where they belong in the mess of their room. This division is made especially present in the lines “i / am still in / pieces,” which separates the speaker and their actions. When the narrator in a poem is disconnected in this manner, how does their presence affect the work?
Throughout this poem, I really wanted to convey the feelings of disassociation, of not fitting in, and of a withdrawal into oneself only to discover that oneself is as fractured as the outside world. Rather than really connect the reader to the actions of the “i” in the poem, I meant to solely voice the thoughts behind the whirlwind nature of a mental illness, caught up in the fear of being damaged and of not being able to make oneself be whole before the others may find out and pass their judgment. While progressing through the work, therefore, I wanted the reader to experience a faltering unsteadiness created by the rapid ebb and flow of the phrases, similar to the lurching dissonance between the narrator and their own thoughts. It was my hope that because the narrator was largely absent, the work would just focus on being a fragmented stream of consciousness, held together by threads until the final lines of “and i / am still in / pieces,” at which point the reader may finally back away, and take a full breath.
2. The poem’s title places the events within a specific context, especially in connection with the other references to time in the work. How does this theme inform the overall idea of the poem?
When I chose the title “six a.m. in the morning,” it was intended to immediately set the tone of the lonely isolation of still-dark mornings, when you are afraid to make the slightest disruption to the silence of everyone else being asleep. From the very beginning, time sets the narrator apart from the rest of the world, creating an idea of the “other humans” and of an experience of what they call “my morning.” But even as time gives the narrator the privilege of being physically alone, it pervades into their mentality, already in disarray, and overall creates the pressing feeling of something intangible within you rapidly being lost.
3. In connection with that idea, I was really interested in the symbolism of two analog clocks ticking out of time. It’s a powerful symbol artistically—artists like Dali and González-Torres have used it, both with very different connotations. What do these particular clocks symbolize to you?
To me, the sounds of both clocks are first and foremost an auditory reflection of the rapid passing of time, and the slipping away of “my morning” to become a day owned by the “other humans.” At a deeper level, though, the sound of their out-of-sync ticking is also meant to reveal glitches in the fluidity of time—a sort of hobbling, dysfunctional, two-toned heartbeat. While one clock continues on relentlessly, with the impatience of the rest of the world, the other falls farther and farther behind, symbolizing how the broken parts of us can make us spiral farther and farther out of touch. I’d like to think that someday, this narrator will wake up and come downstairs to find that the ticking of her own life and of the world around her has realigned.
car rides home
with my eyes closed sitting shotgun and your coffee is
bleeding into my lungs / haven’t i already
told you i hate that smell / roll the window down
as you start droning again / haven’t i already told you
i don’t care / about everything you say
i do wrong / my sins already stain me
black and blue / would it be rude if i just
interrupted / but i am made of hypotheticals
never brave enough to say
anything / at least not to you / so just
press myself closer into corners / mesh
and webbing and plastic biting
at my lips / wasn’t the seatbelt built for
safety / i want to unbuckle / lean out and
spill over the edge / let the exhaust
of the beaten pickup in front tangle
and turn stale in my own
exhaustion / but instead i just sink
deeper into the old seat cushions / venture
into the war zone with one
hesitant hand / do i dare to turn
the volume up / immortalize myself in
the beating bassline and / the lyrics of my
gods / let the pounding music pummel
away the sound of your fury and / the echoes
of my weariness / we’ve had this fight before
i think / and by now i am just wishing
that i could make myself invisible
A Conversation on “car rides home”
1. “car rides home” presents a snapshot of a single moment while also extending the feeling of that moment into what Courtney called the moment’s “seemingly never-ending infinity.” How do you think confining this poem to the space inside the car and the expanse of a moment affects it as a whole?
Over the course of the day, so many fleeting moments pass by that are so vividly full of emotion. However, when people ask us how we are, we answer vaguely with how we feel over the course of an entire day, with many of the little details forgotten or buried aside. In this poem, I didn’t want to reflect on a series of emotions; instead, I wanted to express how, even when trapped in the frame of several seconds, someone can feel such an intensity of longing and desperation. It was my hope that the reader would really relate to the paradoxical perpetuation of a bottled-up feeling across the eternity of a moment.
2. The characters in this poem are never described explicitly, nor is the context of their relationship, but the images and thoughts associated with this captured moment characterize all of that so clearly. How do you think the images presented in the poem work to build these characters and the relationship between them?
I wrote this poem based very heavily off of what I have been through, in a hope that the small details, perhaps insignificant in other contexts, would evoke moments of personal connection to the reader’s own experiences; hence were the metaphors surrounding details such as the coffee “bleeding into my lungs” and the exhaust “tangl[ing] / and turn[ing] stale in my own / exhaustion.” Additionally, I wanted to draw parallels between the feelings of emotional suppression (“but i am made of hypotheticals”) and those of physical captivity (“venture / into the war zone with one / hesitant hand”), both of which are perceived as to be perpetrated by an unnamed “you” of greater power. Rather than putting the blame on either character, though, I wanted this poem to focus on expressing the feeling of being trapped in a position of inferiority, stuck in the confinement of a moment and searching for the bravery to speak up.
3. The lines “do i dare to turn the volume up / immortalize myself in the beating bassline and / the lyrics of my gods” are deeply relatable; what do you think there is to be said about music as a form of outward connection and escape? Is there a specific song or artist that acts as an “escape” for you?
Music has been and probably will always be one of my most powerful forms of escape, in the sense that I can just turn the volume up and close my eyes to make everything around me disappear for a while. Over the years, I’ve found sharp similarities between music and its lyrics to poetry, in the way that music creates alternate realities in my imagination and finds words for the emotions I can’t name; however, music not only conveys the words but also gives a voice to them. Depending on how I am feeling in the moment, the artists I listen to are often a jumbled collection of different styles, although my personal favorites, to which I relate deeply, include “Mine” by Phoebe Ryan, “Exhale” by Sabrina Carpenter, and much of Halsey’s music.
A Conversation Between Anne Gvozdjak and Lily Bechtold
1. Hi, Anne! Thank you so much for talking with us today. How did you begin writing? Do you have an origin story?
Hi, Lily! Thank you so much for having me! I started creative writing when I was in the fourth grade. There isn’t really an origin story, but my teacher then was someone who loved to read and write, so he incorporated many opportunities for diary entries, letters, and short stories into whatever we learned in class. Probably my first official narrative work was an assignment for a series of diary entries written from the perspective of a girl on the Oregon Trail. The young age of eleven years old was therefore the beginning of my love for words; about a year later, I started writing on my own, plunging directly into a full-length novel without realizing how far those few first chapters would take me.
2. Rather than sticking with traditional line breaks, both of these pieces incorporate forward slashes; what effect do you think this has on the poems, and the way that readers interact with them?
When I first wrote these poems with pen and paper, the forward slashes were actually all line breaks. I was motivated to try out using forward slashes because of the extensive number of extremely short lines—I didn’t like the way the poem’s visual first impression came across. Later, as I began to add them into my work, I discovered that I wanted to use them to express continuity in the story being told while punctuating the broken individuality of each moment. It was my hope that for readers, the slashes would act like signals to pause reading for a moment, almost as if to hear the silence in between thoughts, and then continue on; although I think that by choosing to use the slashes, as opposed to other punctuation, it also gives the reader some level of freedom to read through the poem in the way they choose.
3. In your bio, you mention a novel that you’re working on—how does writing something like a novel differ from writing poetry? Do you have any advice for a poet who wants to try their hand at fiction, or vice versa?
For me, both writing a novel and writing poetry are about telling a story of an individual (or individuals), whether named or unnamed. Without a character, it’s very hard for me to do either. Writing a novel, though, requires a lot more planning than writing poetry! Personally, as a fiction writer who later tried poetry, I’ve noticed that compared to poetry, where I have to think through every word written, novels don’t require such attention to detail; instead, they’re more concerned with the flow and pace of the storyline and characters. For people interested in trying their hand at writing other genres, I think the experience and uncertainty of how to sew words together in different ways is very worthwhile, and trying another medium will enhance your ability to do what you’re already doing. If you’re just starting, read some examples and figure out why certain works speak to you more than others. Write about what you’re passionate about, not what you think will want to be read by others. Don’t be afraid to have to rewrite, and especially for novelists, remember that writing is a long, long process; in the end, it’s most important to be patient and persevere.
4. What are your literary plans for the future? If you could travel forward in time, what would you say to your future self?
I think for me, writing will probably always stay as something I do in parallel to whatever it is I decide to pursue as a career. For me, it has so far been and hopefully will always be my go-to way to express the things I can’t tell other people in my life. Getting something published as a product of expressing my sorrows and joys and musings would be phenomenal; but I don’t want to make myself feel the need to always be writing. I’d tell my future self to remember and relish where my first writing endeavors began, to keep taking it one day at a time, and to always celebrate that in every moment, who I am is more than enough.