THE BACK STORY: I have been writing Shakespearean sonnets for most of my life, since high school, and I’m a woman in my 40’s now. Shakespearean sonnets are my passion, obsession, addiction. I’ve published hundreds of them — more than Shakespeare did in his career. I love that the structure forces me to be bold and brief as the form only allows 14 lines of 10 syllables each. You have to get to your point but if you want to be a memorable poet you also have to do it with style.
Early in my career as a poet, with the publication of my first book, I began to offer annotated copies of my books to readers. By an annotated copy, I mean that I inscribe my thoughts onto the pages in, often, my signature pink ink — sometimes other colors for different books. By annotating, often there was a great expansion and explanation of the poem. Sometimes I included bonus poems I wrote after the publication. Sometimes I cried and talked about a hard day I was having. They are all different. People really respond to my annotations, and I have lots of regulars who order them for themselves and friends. It is a joy to me create those as much as the books themselves.
Because of doing these annotations, I started to think that I could perhaps marry my love of poetry writing with my desire to write prose or a novel. I had actually done a book called Puritan U about some tragic experiences I had in my life resulting in me going to a puritanical university where I was assaulted. To make the book a memoir accessible to anyone, I had actually included footnote annotations inside the book that expanded and explained the sonnets. When I decided to do Flutter, it really began as an epiphany that I could write a novel just like this except that instead of incorporating true events of my life, I would simply be writing fictional footnotes of a life and an imagination. I called Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream a novella, but I’m writing an even longer book in this style that is a full novel called Crow Carriage. It’s more of a horror story.
The content of Flutter was inspired by my locale as much as the form of the book was inspired by my stylized writer’s voice. I’m a womanchild of the south. I call myself a womanchild, as readers of my work have heard time and time again, because though I am biologically very much a woman, I’m always still that little southern pageant girl I was at five, too. I have lots of other books that go into that aspect of my psyche, in particular Candy Cigarette: Womanchild Noir. It goes into my years as a topless dancer in cheerleading uniforms and schoolgirl outfits. I did that all in Pensacola, Florida, an hour from Mobile, Alabama.
Doing that sort of a job in the puritanical Deep South, one can feel very ostracized and maligned. During those years that I did this job I became quite a loner. I worked mostly on the weekends and was home a lot during the week, and I wrote and kept to myself more and more. I eventually ended up living in the house where I live now which is extremely remote in the woods, surrounded by not very many people but countless longleaf pines. When I moved to this property, the trees overtook my imagination. I felt such magic around me buzzing in the woods. It occurred to me that this property seemed timeless in a way, undisturbed by man, and I started to ponder who might have lived on such land a hundred or more years ago.
This was the birth of Sylvia Dandridge in my mind. Sylvia and I share some qualities. She is very imaginative and lives in the midst of the longleaf pines as I do without many physical friends. She has an even more compelling reason to not be around others. That reason is her fragile health and her many fevers. Sylvia like many inhabitants of Pensacola in the 1880’s suffered from the yellow fever which was a terrible problem that killed many here. Sylvia lives through this fever though she is weakened and unfortunately contracts another dreaded fever of the time, scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever was the number one killer of children in Sylvia’s time — though not long after her death the numbers sharply decreased. She was born at the wrong time, and yet that is her life.
And, yes, I just told you that my protagonist dies. Midway through the book. But what lives is her imagination, and her imagination is a universe of fierce mermaids, suave boyish bee demons, beautiful progeny who will worship at her grave and have intrigues of their own. All of this, Sylvia and her creations, was inspired by the longleaf pines I live among. They are magnificent slender muses.
I wrote the first poem (you can read in the next question) a couple of years before the rest, and so there was a gestational period for this book in my head. Once I started writing, I think it was about six months I spent writing it. I truly can say that despite some tragic circumstances in my life that occurred during the writing of the book, it was the best writing experience of my life. I loved it so much the marriage of poetry and prose I chose to try to recapture that with Crow Carriage in a darker way. It was a purely delightful period of writing.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Flutter was originally inspired by a poem, this poem, I’ve included below, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Estate enchantment on a lake, a lass
extends a finger, her mistake, to moths.
A moonlit flutter does disguise their mass,
a swarm, not butterflies, as maidens caught.
Surprise that lands with chestnut wings on hands
it covers, mottled message sings. Its tale
of death, disease and woe. Its dark demands,
details she should not know become her veil.
Surrounded, followed fearsome flaps, human
contact reduced to shrieks and gasps. The beasts
she wears are tragedy. Their flitter fans
all misery — from dark wings, no release.
A solitude of secrets insects utter
since she first saw death in darkness flutter.
Sometimes when I write a sonnet, I know that is far more than one poem, it is a universe. Those usually turn into books. This one took a couple of years for me to ponder. I think I was living in the wrong house when I wrote it. It took me moving me into that house in the woods and meeting my beloved longleaf pines for this poem to make sense and take on its context. The second part of the title Southern Gothic Fever Dream I felt was important because this book is very southern gothic from the plights of its invalid narrator, the creatures she both spawns and is up against. And the last two words fever dream are exactly what most of this book is — it is the fever dream of a dying girl that, like the best stories, lives on long past the storyteller.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I wrote Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream before the pandemic but I feel its relevance during the pandemic has even grown. Sylvia Dandridge practiced social distancing long before I had ever heard that term or even imagined it as a thing I would ever experience. She lives on Longleaf Estate sequestered to this place I’ve shown you in an illustration below.
The illustrator of Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream is Mathew Yates, and his whimsical style matched the teenage heart of this book I felt very well. I included another of his illustration in the sample chapter below. They touch my heart and echo the passion and beauty of the southern woods and this sensitive adolescent soul they shape.
Here are three reviews I loved so much I put them on the cover:
AUTHOR PROFILE: Kristin Garth is a womanchild, sonnet stalker, kneesock enthusiast and author of 14 books of poetry and also a hybrid novella and novel, Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream and Crow Carriage. She has been writing sonnets since high school since an assignment and never stopped though she never published but one of those sonnets until she was in her 40’s. A dying friend, a fellow poet used up some of the last moments of his life marred by a brain tumor to inspire Kristin to realize that life is not guaranteed to be long and that if she was going to use this talent, now was the time.
Since Kristin Garth started publishing on her own in 2017, she has as of today published her 600th piece of writing. She has 16 books to her name, thus far, and poetry and stories in magazines like Glass Poetry, Five:2:One, Barren Magazine, X-RAY Lit, Cheap Pop, Yes Poetry SWWIM among many others. You can read more.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Like my own life and career as a writer, I think the message of Sylvia Dandridge’s story is that our work, if we put our soul into it, will outlive our mortal bodies. The imagination trumps the flesh. While I am a bigger walker in the woods, there are days that I don’t exercise my body but there are no days that I do not exercise my mind. I feel that Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream speaks to that part in us that may be social distanced or weak or confined and whispers that escape is only a daydream away. Let those daydreams grow into universes and tell them to your children. Give them a name. This is creation and writing and art. We pass these down and a piece of us lives on and goes to far away countries in bindings that other touch and feel touched by — it is the greatest honor and privilege to be a creator. And you can do it wherever you are, if you have no one else around you. The best thing is if you get lucky, these books even make you friends.
SAMPLE CHAPTER POEM:
Did he believe you were a bloom? Not rashed
abashed, adolescent doomed, entombed up-
stairs, crimson cheeked, viewed through cylinder glass
pistil pink — peeked pointillism amok
by candlelight, to pluck or pollinate,
demonic birthright. Did he see buried
thorns, subcutaneous, to liberate
like horns — erupting, furious, bleeds
the season mortality recedes? Did
he see himself in you, his powdered lip
a golden hue, amaretto, eyelids
half closed, pollen undertaste of tulip
tuberose? Swallowed demonology
a bedroom above adult gossiping —
a better medicine is blossoming.
This poem is one of my favorites in a book of 100 pages of poems and prose. I felt I really captured the upstairs, downstairs feelings of children and adults and the desire to have your own private life from your parents, romance, intrigue. Sylvia Dandridge wants that so much that even in her social distancing she finds a way to have it. That’s a lesson we have all been learning during this strange time in the world.
Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream is available in Pensacola my home town at Bodacious Bookstore.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: You can also buy Flutter at my website kristingarth.com — the link for it there is: https://kristingarth.com/kristin-garth/books/flutter-southern-gothic-fever-dream/
You can also buy Flutter at Amazon:
You can also purchase a copy from my publisher TwistiT Press:
Or Barnes & Noble:
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: