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Exploring The Sharpness Of Poetry With Logan Roberts

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

“Is this how we talk to each other? / I don’t remember it like this,” Logan Roberts muses in the title poem of his chapbook It’s a Knife. The sentiment speaks to the frustrations people have felt over the course of the last year, the disconnect of living in a world where the way we relate to others has changed dramatically.

We don’t remember communication being about artificial images of friends and loved ones on a computer screen. We don’t remember political divisions being so deadly that we have to make arguments against racism, watch the breach of our nation’s capital on live television, and end relationships over disagreements.

How did it get like this? Why have both our global and personal relationships deteriorated to such a grave extent? It’s a Knife not only speaks to these questions, but astonishes readers with its use of potent metaphors and surprising imagery.

As part of Inkling Creative Strategies’ line editing service, I had the chance to review the final draft of It’s a Knife in October of last year. I read it twice, then a third time after the final product arrived in the mail. True to the book’s title, the poems are sharp, decisive, and edgy, evoking powerful emotional responses through carefully composed, compact lines where not a single word is wasted.

A native of Ohio, Roberts has always been drawn to “art and making things,” using visual and written media as a way to explore topics such as mental health, nature, and relationships—all themes that find their way into It’s a Knife. As a husband, a father, and a Christian, his passion for his faith, as well as his wife and two daughters, is also evident to anyone who talks to him.

However, his exploration of these topics did not take the form of poetry until 2018, when he began using the Goodreads app as motivation to set reading goals. In particular, he felt drawn to dig into poetry as a genre. The result of this reading experiment was the inspiration to begin writing poetry and honing his craft on a deeper level. The primary catalyst for his passion for poetry was the book Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Iranian-American author Kaveh Akbar. Shades of Akbar’s work are found in Roberts’s own poetry, from the echo of the book’s title in It’s a Knife to the natural imagery and shocking last lines that appear in numerous poems.

When Roberts had the opportunity to see Akbar give a reading at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, he left inspired to set new artistic goals. “I told myself and the friend with me that I was going to publish a chapbook within the year,” he said.

This ambitious goal took Roberts on an artistic journey that would include determining his own writing process, which he says varies from one poem to the next. “I once heard someone say that poets either write like cats or an ox,” he explained. “A cat does a little here, or a little there. Rests for a while, and a little here, a little there, while an ox plows through massive amounts of work before it rests. I think I mostly write like an ox, but sometimes I can be very cat-like. A lot of my poems start as lines that pop in my head that I keep in a note on my phone. Sometimes though, I’ll knock out like 5 or 6 poems and feel really good about them.”

Exploration of language was also a part of Roberts’s creative process, as the book addresses not only the theme of relationships, but the role of words within them. Roberts says that the book’s curious title deals more with the idea of communication than it does any perceived ideas of violence.

“Sometimes the knife is a knife, sometimes it’s a word or a body part,” Roberts said. “There’s some undertones of violence in there, but I don’t think it’s grotesque in any way.” While Roberts found himself gathering poem ideas and drafting poems throughout the beginning of 2020, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that motivated him to accomplish his goal of completing a chapbook. Sidelined by unemployment, Roberts dove into the process of writing and arranging the poems into a larger work until he finally felt that he achieved a sense of unity among them.

“I scrolled through the document and felt my heart skip a beat,” he says of the moment he realized the chapbook was complete. “I knew I had a book. It was done.” With his draft completed, Roberts now had to determine how to share his work with the public, and he knew early on that he would be using Amazon’s Kindle Direct service. Having previously submitted work to contests and small presses, long response times and expensive entry fees discouraged him, motivating him to reject a “broken system” for an independent platform. Roberts says that while publishing on Amazon is not an entirely ideal option, it provides an easy and constructive way for authors to share their work. “I know in the indie lit world, Amazon is the bad guy. I get it, but at the same time, it works. Also, I see a lot of indie presses bashing Amazon on Twitter, and then you search for their books and find them on Amazon, so come on. Who really cares at the end of the day?”

Amazon’s independent publishing model was also a perfect fit for It’s A Knife because of Roberts’ background as a graphic designer. Creating the layout and cover for the book was second nature to him, allowing him to design a final product that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but professional. Roberts recognizes, though, that not all poets are as lucky as he is. “You have to do the whole thing,” he said. “You wear all the hats: writer, designer, publisher, marketer, all that stuff. If you don’t want to do all the things, I’d take the long road of finding a publisher.”

At Inkling Creative Strategies, a big part of our mission is helping authors navigate the many ways COVID-19 and the events of 2020 will inevitably change the kinds of work we produce and the subjects we address. For Roberts, this means embracing the role of technology, not just in his publication process, but in his poems.

The weight of how technology has changed our relationships is felt throughout the book, particularly in “Midnight Cartoons,” where the “glow” of a TV set in the dark and its “low hum” underscore the division and coldness between two characters. Moreover, the book captures the feelings of loneliness and isolation that have characterized society in a world impacted by distance.

As a result, Roberts sees Inkling’s values of community and mentorship for artists as vital going forward. “I think that the key to any human success is community. As an extreme introvert, I say find friends, find mentors, find peers to get involved in your creativity with you. We grow when we get together.” What’s next for Logan Roberts? Perhaps the answer is found in his poem “Rumination from a Time I Forgot”: “I drink more poems / than I write / maybe someday you’ll get to / see them.” You can purchase It's A Knife and other books by Inkling authors from Amazon by way of our Bookstore. Interested in mentorship or editing with Inkling? Schedule a complimentary Virtual Meetup to talk about your goals and see if we’re a fit for your writing. Click here to learn more and get on our calendar.

All photos courtesy of Logan Roberts.

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