Wanda Deglane is a night-blooming desert flower from Arizona. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and attends Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and family & human development. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Glass Poetry, L'Éphémère Review, and Former Cactus, among other lovely places. Wanda self-published her first book, Rainlily, in 2018.
Lady Saturn by contemporary poet Wanda Deglane is in itself a navigation through depression and anxiety to find love—the utmost important self-love. These personal poems traverse the backdrop of what it means to be born into chaos, to feel unwanted and unloved, to be constantly seeking and attempting self-discovery, to struggle to sleep with a racing mind or to defeat depression and anxiety with the help of a pill that makes her brain like her “mother’s old microwave, / constantly short-circuiting and casting the whole room / in darkness.” Take this quest through beautiful, lyrical stanzas and vivid imagery depicting pain, trauma, depression, anxiety, and a deep yearning to land softly at a place on the verge of inner acceptance and love, just the way you are, seeking that happy-go-lucky soul you once inhabited.
Physical and digital copies of Lady Saturn can be found here.
A Conversation between Wanda Deglane and Lily Bechtold
1. Hi, Wanda! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. To start off, could you give us a brief synopsis of Lady Saturn’s creation—what inspired you to write the book?
Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity! When I started putting together Lady Saturn, I was trying to string together pieces that dealt with self-love, and the rather grueling, up-and-down journey I’ve had to try and attain it. The more I wrote the more I found other themes seemingly pushing their way to the forefront—most noticeably my mental illness. Lady Saturn honestly felt like a little beast that took shape on its own.
2. You describe Lady Saturn as depicting “a deep yearning to land softly at a place on the verge of inner acceptance and love.” The idea of true self-acceptance and self-love is so nebulous and shifting—how do you define it? How is this definition present throughout the book?
Self-love, for me, has always been about just being okay with who I am. It’s about being able to have compassion for myself as I would with others and to allow myself to be human. This is present throughout the book because I realized that my mental illness was often what has been stopping me from finding self-love. I found that I began to see myself as someone damaged and broken. I had such a hard time being happy and fun and connected with others, and more and more I wished I could be literally anyone else. Finding self-love meant accepting that I am not my mental illness, while simultaneously accepting that my mental illness is a part of me that isn’t inherently damaged, and is still worth loving.
3. The perspectives of your poems shift throughout the chapbook—some are in first person, some in second. How do you feel this affects the lens through which readers see your works as they read?
I think the changing perspectives accurately portray my shifting state of mind during these times. Sometimes, I’m speaking and telling what’s happening to the readers. Other times, it’s me telling the story to myself. It’s me pushing myself to keep going, be a little stronger, find a little peace.
4. One of my favorite poems in the chapbook is “Leaking,” specifically the line “I have to walk home in the dark now, clutching my pepper spray like a child holds their mother’s hand. I need a lifeline.” For me, this poem is so powerful in today’s societal context. How does the time in which Lady Saturn was written affect its themes?
I’m so glad you like that poem! It’s honestly one of my favorites within this chapbook. When I wrote this poem, many scary and conflicting things were happening in my life, all at the same time, and I think this poem reflects that state of muddled confusion. Most notably, I had just recently reported my sexual assault and former abusive relationship to the police and to my university, and my anxiety during those days was spiked to possibly the highest it’s ever been. All this was happening when the #MeToo movement first began to blow up, and this definitely impacted my decision to report what happened to me, as well as to write about it now.
5. Something else I found poignant was the repetition of the “Boy From My Dreams” poems throughout the book. Is there an origin story for his character, or why you decided to include works centered around him and what he represents throughout the chapbook?
My dreams have always been incredibly strange, vivid, and frankly, a little scary, so I write about them very often to try and make sense of them. The three “Boy From My Dreams” poems are about real dreams I had. He was a real person, a boy in my class I think I talked to about once or twice, but in my dreams he was almost like Peter Pan for a Lost Girl. I think, for me, he represented everything I wish I was—someone carefree and fun and lighthearted. He was also a mystery, because with each new dream I had of him, he felt more and more familiar. He gave me a sense of freedom and a means of escape, and ultimately, I realized he was a manifestation of myself just hiding in my brain.
6. The theme of healing is strung throughout Lady Saturn, documenting the ups and downs of recovery—a line I felt expressed this particularly well is “i ask you why this healing / only makes me feel sicker.” How does this reflect your personal experience? How do other images, like the continued invocation of fruit, build upon it?
Healing, for me, was unfortunately never linear, particularly because of my struggle with taking antidepressants, which is something else I discuss in this chapbook. There were many times I felt I wasn’t getting better at all, but the side effects from my medication only made me feel worse. It is an incredibly frustrating feeling. The fruit, in all honesty, felt like a metaphor I had for myself. I kept thinking to myself things like, “If everyone else was a fruit, they’d be something sweet and mellow and ripe. If I was a fruit, I’d be sour and bitter and rotten. I’d be completely inedible.”
7. Healing, along with themes like self-love and trauma, can be so unique to individual circumstances. How do you tackle representation of varied universal themes while also incorporating such a meaningful and personal slant?
My whole thing is I try to be as honest as possible in my writing, to really break myself open in the process. I try to say everything from my heart as it’s trying to be said, and really hope that my words speak to others in the process.
8. The poems included in this chapbook are varied in terms of content, structure, and perspective, yet they fit together with such a powerful effect—what aspect would you say serves as the glue binding each individual piece into a beautiful, cohesive body of work?
I try to place poems together based on theme—here, themes of introspection and healing and finding self-acceptance. But, more than anything I try to make sure that this body of work has a story to tell. There is a rise and fall, a shifting of thoughts and emotions.
9. If you could travel back in time and give advice to the version of yourself just about to begin Lady Saturn, what would you say?
I would definitely tell myself not to give up on it. Lady Saturn was rejected quite a few times before Tianna at Rhythm & Bones picked it up, and I often thought of it as ugly and something no one would want to read. I’m so glad I eventually picked it up once again and recognized its potential.
10. You self-published your first collection, Rainlily, last year. How does Lady Saturn differ from Rainlily? Are there any thematic or conceptual ties between the two books, or between your experiences writing them?
Both Lady Saturn and Rainlily discuss my struggle with mental illness quite openly, but, in a sense, I always viewed Rainlily almost like the prettier older sister. Rainlily contains mostly huge, pivotal moments in my life, and overall it’s brimming with hope. Lady Saturn, on the other hand, is much more human. It speaks essentially of my day-to-day experiences, as well as my thoughts and feelings throughout. I think it represents better than Rainlily that healing is not linear.
11. What advice do you have for young creators who are thinking about tackling a major project but don’t know where to start or how to get their work out there?
I think it’s extremely helpful to find a community with similar creators. This, for me, was the literary community on Twitter, which was a huge support and helped me meet new people as well as find new opportunities to submit. Creators should also take chances, keep submitting, and absolutely never give up on their work, especially if they believe in it.
12. After Lady Saturn is released, what’s next for you? How can our readers stay up to date with you and any future works you release?
This year, I’ve been so blessed to be able to have two more chapbooks coming out besides Lady Saturn. They are Venus in Bloom from Porkbelly Press and Bittersweet from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. I am so thrilled about both of these new bodies of work, and I think everyone will really enjoy them! The easiest way to stay up to date on my work is to follow my Twitter: @wandalizabeth. Thank you so much for giving me this space to share with you, Lily!