On the Books: Michelle Brittan Rosado

From: Fresno State’s MFA Blogmichelle-brittan-rosado


Our blog’s ongoing “On the Books” series introduces you to writers from our growing list of Fresno State MFA alumni who are getting their first books published. The third installment profiles Michelle Brittan Rosado. Her writing has appeared in Calyx, Los Angeles Review, Quarterly West and elsewhere. She currently lives in Long Beach.

In a May phone interview, MFA communication specialist Jefferson Beavers spoke with Michelle about finding a press that you love, finding “Fresno poetry,” and finding a dissertation topic in an unlikely place.

When were you in the Fresno State MFA program?

I started the program in Fall 2008 and finished in Spring 2011, in poetry.

What were your first thoughts when you learned that your chapbook, Theory on Falling into a Reef, would be published?

At first I was surprised. Then, a bit of disbelief, because I had just submitted in December and I think they got back to me in January. So, it seemed really quick! Then we had the chapbook ready for the AWP Conference at the end of March. So, it all happened really quickly, and that was wonderful.

Also, the realization that it was so different being published in literary journals or an anthology, you know. Your work there is going to be in conversation with other published work by other writers. Knowing that there would be a chapbook with just my work in it was a whole new experience, which was exciting but also made me nervous.

When I’ve had work appear in a literary magazine, there’s always the knowledge that someone’s going to read the work, but maybe they picked up the issue because somebody else was published in it, or they’re a subscriber and it shows up on their doorstep. And so, there’s never the sense that someone might pick it up just because my work is in that, you know. But with a chapbook, I knew that anyone who was reading it had intentionally picked it up to read my work, which was a little scary but also a great honor.

Did parts of your chapbook grow out of your Fresno State MFA thesis manuscript? If yes, what was the process like, taking parts from your thesis and making it into something in a chapbook?

I would say probably two-thirds of the chapbook came from my MFA thesis in Fresno. And another one-third, I wrote after the fact while living in Los Angeles. But the vast majority of it, I realized, had been written in the MFA program.

I didn’t do a lot of revision on the individual poems, I would say. But I did think a lot about a narrative that they might make together, poems that I wrote while in Fresno but also together with some of my newer work that came later. I did a lot of cutting away, to try and have something surface out of these poems that felt like they held together in a chapbook length.

So, I’m holding your thesis manuscript in hands right now, in the Fresno State MFA office, The Numerology of Us. It says that this thesis collection “explores the intersection of divorce and biracial identity. What these two subjects share is the ability to divide as well as reconcile the relationships people have with each other, their cultures, and themselves.”


How much of that is in the current book?

Wow, I haven’t revisited that statement since probably . . . since I wrote it, in like 2011.

[Both laugh]

It’s funny to hear that description again now. But at the same time, it does seem like I’m still orbiting around the same ideas and obsessions that I had then. And I have them now.

I would say with the chapbook, I couldn’t fit all of that in. This chapbook is about 25 pages. I think I focus more on a sense of place and relationships. Those seemed to be the subjects that I could focus in on, in the shorter length. In my full-length manuscript that I’m still working on, I think there’s a lot more investigation that I do into identity.

How did you decide on the chapbook’s title, Theory on Falling into a Reef?

It’s the title of a poem in the chapbook, the first poem. That poem came out of reading a newspaper article, maybe a year or two ago, that was about a new theory on Amelia Earhart, who, of course, was the famous female pilot who attempted to fly across the Pacific and was never seen again.

There was a theory that she had landed on an island in the South Pacific and had survived for some time and then perished on the island. I thought that was so interesting. I had always been interested in her as a historical figure. But I also realized, in hearing about that article, that it seemed to resonate for me, in thinking about what it means to be in between two places, what it means to maybe have a story that she didn’t get to tell. So, it’s a persona poem, written in the first person, and I try to take on her voice. That’s where the poem title came from, and it seemed to fit the chapbook as a whole.

How did you find about the Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize and Anhinga Press, and what about their work is a good fit for your chapbook?

I knew about Anhinga from working on the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry book contest while at Fresno State. I own and love a handful of books that Anhinga has published, both from the Levine Prize and otherwise. So, I knew that I like the work that they publish, and they also publish really beautiful books. When I saw that they had a call for submissions for their chapbook prize, it just seemed natural to want to send there because I was already familiar with the wonderful work that they do.

Which books from Anhinga do you like the most?

The year that I was in the class as staff for the Philip Levine Prize, the winner was Shane Seely, The Snowbound House. There’s also Lory Bedikian’s The Book of Lamenting. Another book that wasn’t a Levine Prize winner but that I really enjoyed was Rhett Iseman Trull’s The Real Warnings.

It feels like Anhinga is a press that you’ve been enjoying and learning from for a while, and now you’re a part of their family. What’s that like?

It feels great. It does feel like a community that has connections, to Fresno and also the kind of poetry that I think we value in the Central Valley of California. So, it’s a great home for the chapbook. Read Rest of Interview Here


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