Featured Nonfiction/Hybrid Writer: Olivia Kingery
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Winter greetings to the flock. We're so excited to talk with Olivia Kingery about her exploration of everyone's favorite subject—roadkill. Also bodies, editing, and more. Read the piece here!
Ashely Adams: First off, thank you so much for sharing your writing for us! What made you want to write about the subject of roadkill? Olivia Kingery: Thank you for having me! It is a joy to be able to talk writing (and roadkill) with you.
I’ve been preoccupied with roadkill my whole life, preoccupied with nature in its entirety really. The sight of bodies alongside roads has always startled me, and how normalized these bodies are has always startled me too. I have been especially preoccupied with the subject of roads and roadkill while pursuing my MFA. My thesis and WIP is a conversation about roadkill in a hybrid collection of poems, essays, and water color images. Working on this project has showed me just how big of an issue roads have caused, but also how little attention the issue gets.
AA: When we started this journal, we were really excited to see how writers used the lens of the “grotesque” to challenge norms? Could you talk a bit more about how you use the “grotesque” in your writing?
OK: Grotesque is such a great word choice – not just meaning the disgusting but also the weird and mysterious and unpleasant.
Writing about roadkill forces me to think about what grotesque is, the limits of what it can be, and to think about the limit of grotesqueness for readers. I am completely fine jumping out of my car to move the body of a deer or rabbit off of the road, but others find this grotesque. And find it even more grotesque for me to sit down and write about the roadkill, to ruminate on that death. I constantly ask myself where is the balance between being honest to what is happening out there and making it approachable for my audience. The writing has to be as visceral and real as possible, pushing the reader to experience the uncomfortableness, but not pushing them to turn away from the work.
And, I would be remiss to not mention how grotesque can also mean comical, and as I explore in my essay, roadkill can so often be viewed as comical too.
AA: As I’m reading through this piece, I see beautiful contemplation about the violence against bodies and taking responsibility for this violence. It feels especially timely in these times. Would you talk a bit more about that?
OK: This question of violence and responsibility and roadkill perplexes me endlessly. I think it all boils down to how regularized violence has become, constantly being bombarded with violent actions and language, and how separated humans in society have found themselves from nature. If someone can look at an animal and not feel connected, not see a brother or sister of the Earth, then the violence done to that body is easier to dismiss. And, of course, is easier to not claim responsibility for. Each death is seen as collateral damage, and if the death is collateral then who will take responsibility? But also, if the death is collateral, when does it stop?
AA: We noticed you work at Passages North (a journal we love and are all alumni of). How does your editorial eye effect your writing?
OK: Passages North and the PN team (including all alumni!) are the absolute best. From the moment I joined the team three years ago my writing has been greatly impacted. Being around and in conversation with such brilliant writers and readers has helped me hone in on what I really enjoy reading, which lead me to discover what I really enjoy writing. I have learned so much about what writing can do and be – both from my peers but also our submitters. Leading the short-shorts team has been the greatest part about the final year of my MFA. The submissions we receive keep me inspired and on my toes. My peers and interns on the shorts team are a hoot, and have kept me afloat during this weird year.
AA: Final required question—what is your favorite bone?
OK: The skull – even though it contains other bones – because of the volume and the void. So much information you can learn from a skull!