What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “It was a small moment that stuck?” Do seemingly insignificant experiences play through your mind, like a highlight reel that you would see on a sports channel at one in the morning? When you recall every little detail from this experience, do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I remember this so vividly,” only to be engulfed by a wave of emotion for the rest of your day?
How can such a short and simple phrase bring out such powerful moments? This is a shining example that displays the power of rhetoric (the art of speaking and writing effectively). If rhetoric was Mjolnir in this metaphor, then it would be appropriate for Kayci Lineberger to be Thor. Kayci’s most recent self-published book, It was a small moment that stuck, is a collection of written works from Kayci that are very intimate, personal, and vulnerable. This is also Kayci’s Mjolnir.
This chapbook is a chronicle of emotions and experiences Kayci has felt over a very crucial period of time in one’s development and self-growth. The following interview is a discussion about what motivated her to create this piece and what she was feeling at the time most of this work was written. Copies of this chapbook could potentially be available later in 2018. If you would like to read pieces from the chapbook, check out her featured readings over in our Standing Desk series, which features one local writer a month.
MK: Before I start talking about your chapbook, It was a small moment that stuck, Kayci, I want to clarify that it seems you’re really into writing and you’ve been writing this for some time. This goes as far back as when I first met you.
KL: Yeah! This book walks through 2014 to 2018, so now it’s almost four years ago that the first poem for this book was written, which feels really strange.
MK: So the piece is really a time capsule, then?
KL: It is. I spend a lot of time looking back at old writing to learn about myself and about what I was feeling, what I thought, and this. This is a weird reflection to hold and to try to understand.
MK: In collecting a chapbook, what was the point of wanting to hold all of this within a physical medium? We see content like this all of the time, everywhere, in forms like Instagram posts, blog posts, text messages, Facebook statuses and other various electronic mediums. But here, it’s really nice and refreshing to have a physical piece that comes out collecting all of these long notes, short notes, and descriptions about yourself. So when did the think tank of having a physical source like this begin? Was it shortly around March 8th, 2014, which is the date of the first article in the chapbook?
KL: Oh, no. I started putting it together in late, late 2016, just looking at what was happening and starting to think about putting together something that was mine. A good friend of mine, Michael Tahmasian, who is in the dedication, has put together probably 4 or 5 (if not a few more that I don’t know about) personal chapbooks throughout college and on his own. I have seen people make things of their own volition and not have to wait for someone else to help them create something. I finally realized that I have the ability to foster this creation that I think could be interesting and could teach me about myself. I could encapsulate some feelings I had for a long time. So it was almost two years ago that I started to think about trying to cultivate something. It was a slow process as I had to learn how to put things together and to figure out the themes. I started this not knowing how it would end and what it would encapsulate. I experienced a lot of emotional, intimate relationships that tied everything I have experienced in this town together and it made me feel like it was enough to create something meaningful out of.
MK: That process began 2 years ago but these writings go back further than that. For those who cannot see this chapbook, the way that this is structured is there are pieces that have dates and titles, that date all the way back to 2014 and all the way up to 2017. Obviously, there is a lot of work here that predated this original concept of the chapbook. Was it easy for you to bring those into the fold, and when you decided you wanted to write the chapbook, did you start writing these with the chapbook in mind?
KL: It started off with looking through my old journals and cultivating anything out of them that I could use, relating to the themes that I wanted to have – there are a lot of strange, tangential things – but it is about the place that I lived for five years and grew up in on my own. It started off with dog-earing pages from journals. The first half of the chapbook is from before I started putting it together. Right now there are probably 12, maybe 13 or 14 poems and I had maybe 25 different poems from before I started to think about putting it together.
MK: How did that process of curating what you wanted in the chapbook challenge you? Did you learn new things about yourself, about how you like things to be organized or how you conceptually put themes together? All of these pieces are very close, intimate and personal with you. So when having preferences or needing to choose one over the other, how did that make you feel? Did you learn anything about yourself in that process?
KL: I learned a lot. I have always known that I write as a cathartic experience, and I started off writing in early high school seriously with a group of people in creative writing classes. It was really emotional, as it was a closed group where the things that were said there stayed there and it was a tight group of 20 people and a teacher. I started writing very emotionally charged teenage bullshit that was really important to write at that time. I learned about the things I wrote about and started to see patterns, like that I wrote about people, about my relationships with people, about my family and living things (be them plants or animals), the way a city moves or a coffee shop moves in the afternoon. I kind of started to realize how focused I am on this one area. When I realized that I was in fiction classes, and I started to write more fiction and I found it way more challenging than I thought it would have been. I went into it all like ‘I have so many ideas, I can see so many things and cultivate this really cool image of an imaginary place.’ And it was really difficult.
MK: Why do you think that was? Do you know why?
KL: I think so. When I write poetry lots of it doesn’t make sense, sometimes it does, I know that for any author when you look at something you’ve created you see into it so much deeper than maybe other people do. But I learned about how I create and pull images and themes from in-depth memories. I started to realize that I had to think so much more than just write. You have to think about what your characters do, what they are and how their souls operate. It took a lot of time to make people seem real when I wrote, and even when I did I based them off of real experiences and real stories. I do not know that it is something I want to do seriously but I enjoyed the bits that I have written.
MK: Going into the structure of the book, the first thing that I noted was the table of contents. You have four sections and they are titled, in order, ‘The Chaos’, ‘The Fur’, ‘An End’, and ‘The Beginning’. For the names of each article, you have noted the date and the title. This is really interesting to me because the structure is not very traditional for a table of contents. ‘An End’ is the third portion, ‘The Beginning’ is at the end, there is a chaos at the beginning. So going into this blind, I was already like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ What were you thinking of, if you were even thinking about the labels for these sections, and what do each of them mean to you?
KL: I spent a lot of time creating different titles, trying to create something within one condensed work that would explain to people what each section of my life meant. So ‘The Chaos’ is a lot of poems written in relationships, about meeting people early on in college when I was 19 to 21 and just feeling at such a loss when I had physical or not very deeply emotional interactions with people. And when you read it you can see there is a lot of longing and heartbreak for something deeper. I have always been a gross romantic, I spent a large part of high school being sad that no one was romantically in love with me instead of just trying to do my own thing, which I think is normal for a lot of people. So ‘The Chaos’ is me starting to deep into understanding what an intimate relationship can be like.
MK: To note to some of the readers, if you do read some of these pieces on the website or eventually from Kayci’s chapbook, they are very intimate in terms of thought process. It is an internal monologue of a situation that you have fictionalized or situations you have thought of with yourself and your feelings. Sometimes I would have to take a break when reading, especially with ‘We Are All A Mistake’.
KL: That is a darker one. [‘We Are All A Mistake’] was probably one of the hardest pieces to decide to include. Some of the pieces are a bit more intimate but this one names so many of my own mistakes, and a lot of people do not know the stories behind them. But when I think about love and loss and understanding how to have intimate relationships, I think of the person I am currently with and love, and the people I have been with, the few I have felt like I loved. But I think a lot of the people, romantic or simply friendships, that I have left behind for whatever reason. That is life, as life peels things away from you. And to a point, I am okay with those people being gone or okay with the way relationships have ended. It is hard to own up to your emotional mistakes because they left a scar on somebody else. That is kind of what this ‘We Are All A Mistake’ was.
MK: The next thing I want to talk about are the sections. ‘The Fur’ I find, even when you look at some of the titles, that there is this theme obviously of fur or creatures. You even have a piece titled with creatures, cats, swans and a golden lamb, but it also prefaces with ‘Tom Petty loves cigs and weed’. When did the idea of this section come about? Did you know ahead of time that it seems like animals, creatures or various species have a really big importance in your life?
KL: I did, I worked at the humane society, my dad is an animal surgeon and we’ve always had like 6 pets at most times. I had not thought that this section was going to be like that. When I was looking back at old stuff to include, I saw a lot of things – I write about my pets, and family, and intimate relationships. In a non-fiction class at KU, I wrote a lot about my family. Because I am like many people my age; distant in the things I believe in, the things I support and think are very important for older members of my family. That created a lot of internal contention that vied with the emotional contention to find love. Looking at your roots and the people that created you who you come from is equally as important as moving forward. My cat also died on December 16th and there is a dead-cat poem in here. His name was Tigger and he was a little stray cat that my dad got me when I was in kindergarten. And so we put him down in his mid-teens and it was emotional. Tigger was the first pet that was intimately mine that I had to let go. I wrote that dead cat poem after he had died and then started to piece together this theme of family and how to connect to creatures in that small way.
MK: Following up with ‘The Fur’ in terms of structure, we then go to ‘An End’ and then ‘The Beginning’. They are flipped. In ‘An End’, a lot of these pieces range from 2015 to 2016 and are very intimate. We start ‘An End’ with the piece titled ‘Secret Loft/Brooklyn’. This is a really, really detailed expression of your experience in New York traveling around during your brief stay. And then something nice and sweet, with ‘S*9’. What does ‘An End’ mean to you?
KL: ‘And End’ symbolizes a time in life when I was ending a lot of different relationships, a relationship with myself and secondary education, a relationship with someone I had fallen in love with, a relationship with my childhood cat and a potential relationship ending with the town I had lived in for four years. So, it was ‘An End’. I had this really confusing conundrum that I puzzled over for months while I was putting this together, because ‘An End’ and ‘A Beginning’ are about two different relationships I had. You can probably garner from that I think, with the last poem of ‘An End’, ‘Viking Battle Reenactment/La Plata, Missouri’, and ‘It was a small moment that stuck’ which seems to be the beckoning of a new relationship. So I had fallen in love with this person, and they were moving to a city like 600 miles away at the end of the semester. I had also started falling in love with someone else, the person who is in ‘Secret Loft/Brooklyn’ and who I end up with in ‘The Beginning’. It was a really messy time in my life where I did not handle love well and I didn’t handle emotional intimacy and security with people well, even though I felt so close to these two people. ‘An End’ is kind of a summation of all the things I had learned during that time, both how to love and how to communicate about love, and what relationships are. And looking at myself in January/February 2018, this was an end to the immaturity in relationships and the beginning to adult relationships that were built on good foundations with good communication.
MK: You answered what I was going to ask next, that ‘An End’ seems to be processing relationships coming to an end, ‘The Beginning’ is the start of something new both internally for you and possibly with another person. Looking at how you structured this chronologically, how do you feel about your development overall from the beginning of teenage angst and the constant the search for romantic love? When I read the last two pieces of ‘The Beginning’ it seems like you have found your answer.
KL: I feel really good. It has been confusing but I feel like I have built on the things you could garner from my last section, ‘The Beginning’. At the end of the chapbook, it sort of ends with ‘everyone deserves to be loved’. The piece that starts the section of ‘The Beginning’, which includes the person who is my current partner, is a piece about when we had been together for maybe a month and it was the first time I felt I was in love and was struck by it. And since then I feel like I have learned so much about what it means to support another person, to accept everything about them and love it and commit to someone. It is the longest relationship I have been in and the most serious by far. Writing this chapbook was so cathartic. This taught me so much about the mistakes I have made and the cruelty I have put on other people just from not knowing how to handle love, or sex, or intimate friendships. It feels really good. When I put this together, almost a year ago today or this month, I did not know where things would go, as far as titling something ‘The Beginning’. But it does feel heavily symbolic with the beginning of this new chapter in life with intimate relationships that were stable and supportive. It feels really good.
Through poetry and non-fiction, Kayci Lineberger writes emotional and analytical works regarding the human-animal bond, the influences between the natural world and the existence of the human race, and topics regarding intimacy and empathy. She has contributed to art and literature magazines Out of Hand and Kiosk, and is releasing her first poetry collection, A small moment that stuck in 2018.