Daniel Young interviewed Michelle Cahill for Issue Sixteen of the journal. Michelle’s short story collection Letter to Pessoa was recently published by Giramondo and includes ‘A Miko Coda’, an earlier version of which appeared in Issue Seven of Tincture.
DY: Thanks for being a part of our interview series and congratulations on the recent publication of your short story collection, Letter to Pessoa. Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you came to writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to pursue, or something you came upon at a later point in your life?
MC: Thank you Daniel!
I remember when I was in primary school escaping into other worlds, aware of a ‘narrating’ voice that was not quite myself, though it was an intimate aspect of my experience. Growing up through cultural transitions, class and race anxieties, over the years, through books, across countries and interruptions, I guess that voice became writing. I wrote stories and poems in my adolescence but started writing seriously much later in life. At one point, I had wanted to become a musician; now I realise that writing is also an instrument.
DY: You’re a published poet. Have you always written short stories as well, or has this been an evolution from one creative form to another? Indeed, your prose is highly poetic, in terms of both rhythm and imagery. Does this come naturally as you write or is it layered into the prose through editing and re-drafting?
MC: I have been a prose writer for many years, experimenting in forms. Poetry and fiction are distinct processes. When I sit down to write I know whether I am about to write a poem or if it is going to be fiction, but I suppose my language is poetic; that is my natural style. The editing is not really layering but more about correcting the flow (as well as attending to plot and character and focalisation; the many technical aspects of fiction). The composition, the rhythm and auditory texture can allow variations, semantic liberties for the writer as well as malleability for the text. Of course, there is a place for stark, uncluttered sentences and there are passages like that in the book, for instance in its opening paragraph.