ST Body Interviews: J.C. Runolfson, “Trance for Insomniacs”

Our third interview features J.C. Runolfson, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Trance for Insomniacs.” J.C. has contributed two other poems to Stone Telling: “Robert Cornelius Speaks a Dead Tongue” in our inaugural issue, and “The Exposure of William H. Mumler” in ST6. She also guest-edited our fourth issue with Shweta Narayan.

J. C. Runolfson’s work has appeared in Stone Telling previously, as well as Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and many others. She is also a freelance editor and critic. She is disabled due to chronic illness; one of her symptoms is severe insomnia.

We are an army unarmed
with anything but the nightmare
of unsleeping,
the way time
and us with it

J.C. Runolfson, “Trance for Insomniacs.”

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

JCR: I have severe insomnia which is less well-controlled than is optimal, due to my tolerance of only so much in the way of side effects. I have frequent periods of sleeplessness despite medication, and I had one just after reading the announcement of the “Body” theme for the next issue of Stone Telling. So I decided to use the experience to my advantage. I actually write a lot of poetry in that state, provided I’m functional enough to use a keyboard.

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?

JCR: I write a series of poems based on old, well-known photographs, several of which deal with the Body. The latest of these to be published is “Zora Neale Hurston Meets Felicia Felix-Mentor on the Road,” which appears in Mythic Delirium 0.3 and concerns a legendary photograph of a Haitian woman believed to have been turned into a zombie. A lot of my poetry deals with transformations and the impact of the Othered body on the mind. I had never really explicitly addressed one of my own symptoms and how it affects me until this poem, though. I actually have a hard time re-reading it, though I don’t regret writing it.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

JCR: If this is a poem to which any reader can relate, they have my condolences.

ST: Thank you very much, J.C.!

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