Kristin Garth: What poetry projects are you currently working on right now?
Effy Winter: I have just completed Bloodmilk, a poetry chapbook that explores the emotionally heavy aspects of human sexuality and the catharsis that is bred from raw intimacy and sacred relationships. Reoccurring themes within this body of work include sacrifice, religion, sex, witchcraft and menstruation.
I am also currently finishing up my debut full length collection, Flowers of the Flesh. It’s due to be released next spring with Rhythm & Bones Press.
KG: Are you submitting to a lot of places? Do you write every day or most days? What is your writing process like?
EW: I submit my work to publications fairly often, though recently I am not doing this as much as I’d like to because I am very busy completing my novel as well as working as a contributing writer/editor for various literary journals—but I do try to make time to get a few submissions in throughout every month.
I strive to write as often as possible, but it is unrealistic for me to produce new work every day, as doing so would be too emotionally and spiritually overwhelming. For me personally, the art of crafting poetry is a ritual in itself and every time I write a piece I must confront another hidden part of my heart. Before I birth poetry, I perform witchcraft by candlelight, and it is only in the darkness that I am able to truly create. My words tend to pour out of my heart as if they are an entity dying to exist uncaged.
KG: There’s a lot of masochism in publishing. We put our broken hearts, our ugliest moments, our traumas in e-mails and send them to the world. I know as someone who writes about my painful experiences, it can feel like a bloodletting followed by an even worse torture to submit and be rejected. It’s every writer’s demon they do battle with no matter how successful they are. How do you deal with rejection?
EW: Often times my work is deemed to be too sexually charged to be considered for publication. My style is not for everyone and this is something that I have come to understand throughout my writing career. This doesn’t make my work any less valuable.
KG: When I first started submitting provocative material in formal verse, I met a lot of resistance. I love your boldness with your sexuality. You have such a brave, dark and passionate voice. People always tell me I’m brave, and I honestly feel very insecure about what I put out into the world, but I feel it’s essential for my healing and my truth. Is being brave in this way natural or easy to you or would you say you struggle at times, too, as I do, to expose your truth in this way?
EW: As you have said, writing boldly is essential for our survival. Fearlessness comes naturally for me and it is the only way I know how to live and craft poetry. A catharsis is bred within my veins when I expose what sets my heart on fire. It is in my nature to be dark and provocative because it is only when I am worshiping in the bedroom or losing myself within sacred sin that I feel truly alive. Therefore, sex and ritual are common themes found within my work.
I will say that existing as a creature filled with immense emotion is a gift more than it is a burden. I experience love in such a way that most do not. At times, it can be very gratifying to be an intense soul. I am attracted to all things powerful and passionate and this makes for a stimulating living experience.
KG: What are some of your dream literary journals you love to read?
EW: Coffin Bell, Occulum and Wyrd & Wyse.
KG: What editors in the poetry world have influenced you either directly or in an aspirational way through guidance, critique or starting an awesome journal?
EW: Afieya Kipp, Samantha Rose, and Vanessa Maki have greatly inspired me throughout my writing career with their strong ambitious nature and the creation of their beautiful literary publications. They have graciously provided me a platform within their journals to express myself and have supported my work from the beginning.
KG: What poets inspire you?
EW: I have a deep love for the writings of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, but no one has instilled more inspiration in my soul than Sharon Olds. Her first poetry collection, Satan Says, resonated with me in such a way that I could not sleep for days. I am very drawn to her work because of her fearless nature when it comes to writing. She unapologetically uses heavy language within her poetry and provides a cathartic experience for her readers, which is something I have always strived to do when I write.
KG: What are your writing goals?
EW: I am hoping to publish many anthologies throughout my writing career. Recently, I have been intermixing my writing with my practice of witchcraft and this has proven to be very liberating. Within the next few years, I would like to release a grimoire containing my original spells and rituals as well as poetry that can be used as incantations. I have dreams of starting my own magazine, but I would like to focus on my own writing career at the moment before I take on a large project that would require my utmost attention.
KG: You write about deflowering. I love and hate that romantic term for first sexual communion. It seems very loaded and full of loss—as if we are diminished by the act of being penetrated by a man. Obviously, not all sex acts are positive. In ‘A Fountain of Blood Pours from My Crown of Roses,’ is this a story of a positive/negative first sexual experience—or is it more complicated than either one of those terms?
EW: This is a poem about worship and exorcism. The loss of my virginity felt much like a ritual, as I was willingly offering my body, heart and spirit to the man that I loved. In this piece, I speak of desperately needing to crawl inside of him, as an entity begging for a vessel to breathe within. The act of my deflowering was crucial.
KG: I love the conflation of religious imagery/sex in your poem ‘Ave Maria’—the idea of sex as a religion with its rituals, ceremonies—penitence, even. It really comes across that sex is as much sacrifice as sacrament. Is this your intention?
EW: Yes. For me personally, sex is much more than physical pleasure. It is a spiritual experience that feels much like a ritual during which I am offering myself to my lover. I believe that throughout sexual intercourse there is an exchange of sacred energy. The catharsis and connection that I feel during sex has bred my interest in BDSM and I have found that sexual submission is a way in which I can worship my partner emotionally, physically and spiritually. Doing this provides me with a release that is crucial to my survival.
KG: I’m not a religious person myself, but I believe sex and the ceremonial, ritualistic feel of BDSM (which is referenced in the content of my poems at times) and submission, that is a kind of religion in my life in a sense. Do you feel this way?
EW: Thank you for asking this question because there’s a lot I would like to explain in regard to this topic.
I am a practicing theistic and hereditary blood witch and I believe in certain beings that are mentioned throughout the Catholic tradition, though throughout history, my witch mothers were murdered for their practices and I instinctively understand that as a descendant that has chosen to carry on their magickal work, I am not welcome upon church grounds. With all that being said, religious imagery calls to me in an innate way and I appreciate the art of ritual and ceremony which is used throughout the Catholic religion. In a way, their ritualistic practices are similar to my own.
As I have mentioned previously in this interview, I believe that sex is a sacred act and I do feel similar to you in that sex could be considered to be my religion. Sex magick was commonly used by my ancestors for various reasons but it was mostly practiced to strengthen bonds. They used intercourse as a way to offer themselves to their lover and their god. What’s unique about my poetry is that I am expressing this part of my heritage through my words. I often use my writings as incantations to speak during my practice of the craft.
About the Poet
Effy Winter is a poet and witch from Philadelphia, PA. She is the author of Flowers of the Flesh (Rhythm & Bones Press, 2019) and Bloodmilk (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). Her romantic poetry appears in Angelical Ravings, Rose Quartz Journal and Rust & Moth, among other literary publications. Effy currently works as a writer for Witch Way Magazine where you will find her articles about traditional and hereditary witchcraft. Find out more about her at https://effywinter.com.
Order an annotated and signed copy of Effy Winter’s Flowers of the Flesh, here.