Victoria College is home to many skilled, creative artists. With its reputation for having ambitious and driven students, it is no surprise that Victoria College has produced some of the most influential writers, literary critics, and scholars in Canada.
The Strand sat down with third-year, Mihaela Vacariuc, also known as Michelle, and discussed her journey as a poet; her producing two poetry books and exploring the framework of perception.
The Strand: Tell me a little about Jam and Mint Leaves. What motivated you to produce these poetry books?
Mihaela Vacarciuc: I’ve been writing since I was ten. I think I was finally ready to share my poetry with people because I never shared my poetry or my writing in general. One day, I thought that maybe they have some value beyond what I think, and I might as well put it in book format, and share it.
TS: How long have you been writing poetry for? What is your main source for inspiration?
MV: Mint Leaves took four days to put together, without sleep. Once you immerse yourself into something you like, it’s a moment of flow.
The idea came from a debate of reader interpretation; the death of author and birth of the reader. I’ve always been of the opinion that knowing the writer’s biography gives you more insight into the writing. My roommate is of the opposite opinion. She doesn’t think [the reader] needs to know anything about the author—just take the work at face value. So, I tried to create more context without divulging the poem; I tried to add the information to the poem rather than explain it. [Mint Leaves] is the middle ground of the two points of the debate.
TS: Which poet would you say your work most resembles in style and technique?
MV: Bukowski—because I like his realistic style. He’s blunt, perverted. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s style because they have cool ways of talking about their internal worlds which is what I do often.
TS: What is the main source for your inspiration?
MV: Psychology. I like to explore frameworks of perception. Poetry connects frameworks and observations about the real world, and you make connections with internal perceptions. Poetry is formulating connections between things that don’t necessarily seem to be connected but connecting them to express a point or observation or how even your observation is tainted by your framework of perception.
Existentialism; it’s the fear of disintegrating one day. And my grandfather, I write about him a lot in my poetry. And, my childhood.
TS: Do you think there is a difference in the experience of writer’s block between poetry and prose?
MV: Yes. When you’re writing something that is coming out of you, it’s a different experience. There’s a distinction between a story that’s already formulated and it comes to your mind easily, versus a story you’re trying to formulate while writing it; then, you can experience writer’s block.
In poetry, when I’m writing I’ll think: “This is bad. I don’t like this metaphor.” But, then, I’ll continue. I don’t have much writer’s block with poetry, it’s more with prose.
TS: Do you have any methods of dealing with writer’s block?
MV: If you have something that you’re writing, always gear back to why you’re writing it or what message is the essential message, and see where you’re at in terms of communicating that message and go from there. Rereading your work really helps because [it makes you ask], “Where have I been before that I can continue that story, or should I go back to where I was?”
TS: “Breaking” from Jams was a favourite of mine. What is the story behind that?
MV: For awhile, I assumed that you can grow into love, and I explored the idea of falling in love right away or over time—compassionate versus passionate love. I dated a few people where I was waiting to fall in love with them and they would give [me] everything: their time, their passion. These guys would extend themselves and I could never replicate it. The more they extended themselves, the more I retracted. Then, I broke up with them and it didn’t affect me at all. I asked myself, “Why is this happening? I shouldn’t be subjecting anyone to this experience. Why can’t I appreciate people who are kind to me in a dating environment? Why do I have to have an instant attraction?”
Then, I realized I was staying away from certain people that maybe I do have slight interest in but I’m staying away from because I don’t want to put them through that experience. I made [the poem] for selfish reasons because I didn’t want to think of myself as cruel.
TS: While poetry is how the reader interprets it, what would you caution readers from doing when reading into your works?
MV: My caution would be [that] I’m still trying to figure out the right of way expressing things accurately while also creating the necessary connections to make it engaging. It’s a process, a discovery for myself. It’s not necessarily a finished work but it’s something I’m still unsure about that.
TS: Your Instagram handle, @m.v.writing, is quite successful with over 1000 followers. “Writers” in Jam discusses the vulnerability that writers must present in their works, and often times are critiqued for their content. As a poet, what do you fear most when people read your work?
MV: The vulnerability. Sometimes, [with] a poem I want to write, I can’t put the words together because I can’t even admit these feelings. I stick to generic replicas of things where I can connect [them] with other themes that aren’t as personal.
TS: Why is poetry your medium for expressing your life experiences?
MV: I used to love writing rhyme poetry as a child—as a teenager. I loved how easy it came, and it was something I felt I was good at. I had so many thoughts about the world that I had to write them down, and I wasn’t ready for prose yet. Poetry isn’t easier by any means but I’m finding that more of my expressions are coming out as prose than poetry.
TS: How do you know if a piece is good enough to share?
MV: I think about my ex-boyfriends reading it—I’m kidding. Partially, I think of people’s reactions but also, if it sends an important message, I’ll deem it good. Sometimes you’ll write random thoughts and you put it in a format—those ones I won’t really share.
TS: Are you working on any projects?
MV: Yes. I wrote a crappy romance novel last year and I read it back and my eyes were bleeding. It was so bad, like Twilight meets an attempt to be more academic in my writing. It was horrible. Now, I’m working on a novel involving memory and how the past can be connected to a location and how that can provokes memories. It’s a novel but it’s autobiographical. It’s called Chicken Coop because a lot of my childhood was spent in Eastern Europe, collecting eggs from chickens every summer. In the story, a chicken dies and it connects to the traumatic experience of watching my grandfather—he got brain cancer—disintegrate in a time span of three months, during the same time period in which I would spend with him doing things outside.