A.E. Stallings shares her writings and ideas for the Ethel L. Handley Annual Reading as part of the BYU English Reading Series.
PROVO, Utah (Nov. 14, 2016)— A. E. Stallings began her career as a poet by writing for Cat Fancy and Seventeen Magazine while still a teenager. Coming to visit Utah, Stallings said she was inspired by the mountains. “Poetry and mountains have long gone together since that is always where the muses make their home,” she said.
Introducing her poem Four Fibs, she said, “I write almost exclusively in received forms. Some years ago I read an article in the New York Times about a lawyer who had invented a new poetry form and it was called a fib because it was based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.” Along with Four Fibs being based on the Fibonacci sequence, Stallings also told fibs in her poems, including,
hope to die,
stick a needle in
your eye. That is the awful oath
of childhood, chapter and verse, genesis of the lie.”
Her poem, Accident Waiting to Happen, conjures images of several possible disasters, including a toy on the stairs, a hole in the street, and a full coffee cup on the edge of the table.
“When my kids were small and we were baby proofing the house, you suddenly realize that the world is just a giant death trap,” said Stallings. The last lines read,
“It’s almost time,
And my aim is steady.
You’re falling for me,
I feel it. I’m
Stallings has lived with her family in Greece for several years and has seen the effects of the tremendous influx of Syrian refugees into the country. Many, Stallings explained, never actually make it to shore, drowning in the Aegean. “I didn’t want to exploit their experiences, but I needed to write something about it,” Stallings explained. The result is her Aegeans Epigrams, a collection of very short and satirical poems that allow Stallings to express her thoughts, one line reading, “The stuff that trickles from your eye is only a little brine.”
Stallings closed her reading with a reminder to the audience that the most important thing a poet can do is to write what feels honest and interesting to them. She discussed her experiences of submitting free verse poems, which she does not like to write, to different publications because they specifically asked for poems that didn’t rhyme. When she embraced her love of received forms, however, she found success. “If you write what you like, other people will like it,” she concluded.
—Hannah Sandorf (B.A. Art History and Curatorial Studies ’17)
Hannah covers events for the English Department for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.
Image taken during Stalling’s BYU lecture