Our second interview features Sofia Samatar, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Long-Ear.” This is Sofia’s fourth appearance in the magazine; her first Stone Telling poem was “The Sand Diviner” in the Mythic Issue (ST5,) which also happened to be Sofia’s first publication. We are very proud to have been the first to publish her work! Sofia’s second ST poem is “Girl Hours” in the Catalyst issue (ST6), and her “Snowbound in Hamadan” appeared in ST8.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013). Her stories and poems have appeared in a number of places, including Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Eleven Eleven, and Goblin Fruit. She edits nonfiction and poetry for Interfictions Online. You can find her on Twitter, and blogging at sofiasamatar.blogspot.com
First she was a girl.
Then she was a wife.
Then she was a mother (of a daughter).
Then she was a mother (of another daughter).
Then she was a mother (of a third daughter).
Then she was a cannibal.
Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear”
ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?
SS: This poem is inspired by a well-known Somali story about Dhegdheer, a female ogre, whose name means “Long-Ear.” It came together after Rose and Shweta asked me if I’d contribute to Stone Telling’s “Body” issue. I just started thinking about that ear, really. That long ear. And the fact that in the version of the story I know, Dhegdheer has only daughters. So there were all these bits and pieces to do with the body: a woman giving birth to one daughter after another, the long ear, transformation, cannibalism. It started to seem like a way to talk about fertility in patriarchal systems–how fertility must contribute, produce male children, in order to be seen as legitimate. If it doesn’t contribute, it becomes its own opposite: cannibalism. In the end I think the poem is about how we interpret bodies.
ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?
SS: You know, I wouldn’t necessarily have said this before being asked this question, but I think quite a few of my works deal with the body! Contaminated, outcast and dying bodies in A Stranger in Olondria. The female body as a machine in my Stone Telling 6 poem, “Girl Hours.” Lost bodies, and their implications for history, in “Burnt Lyric,” which appeared in Goblin Fruit. And I have a story forthcoming in Lightspeed, “How to Get Back to the Forest,” which is all about the body and state control.
ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?
SS: I’d like to tell them that microchimerism is real! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microchimerism
ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?
SS: Well, there is that story forthcoming in Lightspeed, which I’m excited about. I’m working on a book of prose poems with images by my brother, Del Samatar, called Monster Portraits–it’s about hyphenated identities and race and citizenship. And bodies! And then, of course, there’s the sequel to A Stranger in Olondria. That’s in the works. I think it’s almost finished. I keep telling myself: “Any day now!”
ST: Thank you very much, Sofia!
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