Kendra Nuttall on Writing About Loss in Her Poetry

christmas eve by kendra nuttall

Kendra Nuttall is a copywriter by day and poet by night. Her work has previously appeared in Spectrum, Capsule Stories, Chiron Review, and What Rough Beast, as well as various other journals and anthologies. Her debut poetry collection, A Statistical Study of Randomness, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in March 2021. Kendra lives in Utah with her husband and poodle. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, watching reality TV, or attempting to pet every animal she sees.

Kendra Nuttall’s poems “Christmas Eve” and “Burnout” are published in Capsule Stories Winter 2020 Edition. “Christmas Eve” is about some of the final moments Kendra spent with her father before he passed away of cancer two days after Christmas. “Burnout” is about searching for the past in the present and never finding it because we see the past through rose-colored glasses rather than for what it truly is.

Capsule Stories: Both “Christmas Eve” and “Burnout” talk about the passage of time—how quickly health can deteriorate in three months, how long it’s been since you’ve seen the stars. What draws you to this theme in your poetry?

Kendra Nuttall: I’ve found the passage of time to be a frequently recurring theme in my work ever since my father’s cancer diagnosis. I was nineteen when he was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, a disease I didn’t know could even affect men at the time. It was confusing to be sitting there, my entire life ahead of me, hearing my father talk about his own funeral. When you’re young, you feel like there’s always enough time and nothing can ever take it away. And then you realize that there’s never enough time. A day can pass so slowly, yet an entire year can disappear in the blink of an eye.

Capsule Stories: Several of the poems you’ve published with us talk about your dad’s death. What is it like to write through the loss and share such a personal story through your poetry?

Kendra Nuttall: It may be strange, but I find it far easier to share personal stories through poetry than to talk about them out loud. I write about my loss partly as a form of free therapy for myself and because I believe stories about the human experience deserve to be shared, no matter how depressing or ugly they may be. I know what it’s like to feel sad, lost, and lonely. I share my experiences so others will know they’re not alone in feeling these things. I know we’re not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm. The power of poetry helps us weather that storm together.

Capsule Stories: You have an eye for including vivid, specific details that make your poems come to life. For instance, in “The Widow,” published in Capsule Stories Summer 2020 Edition, you write “She was always a spider killer and / a mean pastelito maker, but / somewhere between the funeral potatoes / and the daily Diet Coke, / God spoke.” How do you choose which details to include in each poem? Do these images spark the poem and show up in the first draft, or are they layered in and edited with revisions?

Kendra Nuttall: I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing (it would probably make my university professors cringe) but there’s often very little revision in my poems. Most of the time, a poem comes together all at once through a burst of creativity—details, images, structure, format, everything. I thought of “The Widow” one summer day at my mom’s house. She had just bought a new floral yellow comforter for her bed and the sun was shining through the window making the room look so bright. I wrote “The Widow” minutes after I got home, with that image of the bedroom as my inspiration.

Capsule Stories: How has your writing changed since the pandemic began?

Kendra Nuttall: Amid all the awful chaos the pandemic has caused, I’m grateful that it has at least given me more time alone with my thoughts to write. I spent 2020 writing more poems than ever before. I recognize that I’m in an extremely privileged position; I get to work from home. There is little in my life I have to worry about right now, compared to so many other people. I can only hope that my writing has touched someone in some way this year.

Capsule Stories: Tell us about your forthcoming poetry collection, A Statistical Study of Randomness. How did you decide which poems to include in your debut collection?

Kendra Nuttall: A Statistical Study of Randomness is a collection with themes of grief, loss, and identity. Written over the course of three years, these deeply personal poems tell stories of quarter-life crises, nation-sized injustices, and worlds of feeling, all through the lens of “random” statistics. From the loss of my father and feeling detached from my Venezuelan culture, to slices of life in a pandemic, and addressing America’s laundry list of issues, A Statistical Study of Randomness doesn’t shy away from experiences that cry out to be shared.

You’ll find “The Widow” from Capsule Stories Summer 2020 Edition and “Aftershock” from Capsule Stories Isolation Edition included in this collection. I know Capsule Stories readers will resonate with these poems and many more throughout A Statistical Study of Randomness. You can preorder your copy today! Presales end on January 22.

Capsule Stories: What are you working on next?

Kendra Nuttall: My second poetry collection, Our Bones Ache Together, was recently accepted for publication with FlowerSong Press! Written almost entirely in isolation during 2020, these poems are about heartache, home, healing, and hope. “Burnout” and “Christmas Eve” are included in this collection. Please follow me on Instagram or check out my website to stay updated on Our Bones Ache Together and future projects.

You can find Kendra Nuttall online at kendranuttall.com and on Instagram at @kendra.nuttall.

Read Kendra Nuttall’s poems “Christmas Eve” and “Burnout” in Capsule Stories Winter 2020 Edition, available wherever books are sold online.

Kendra Nuttall

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