soft surface

digital journal, residency, and bookshop


soft surface publishes poetry and contemporary art projects by women, LGBTQIA, gnc folks, BIPOC, and/or otherwise marginalized voices. accepted contributors are paid. submissions are always open.

to submit work or request information on a digital residency, email me here.

soft surface: Your decision to share i don't even know why im here was fueled by a desire to "open up space to ruminate on real-time communicative and emotive non-concordance between individuals, generated by promised expediency and efficiency integral to the general dating app format." Do you feel the work(s) were successful? Why or why not? Are you particularly happy with any piece in particular?

Anita Spaeth: I feel the work was successful in that I’ve noticed in my self a palpable subsequent sense of social and romantic clarity since initially creating each piece. Art making is very personal for me because it’s a method of bringing clarity to personal or social subjects that confound me or cause turmoil due to my own unknowing. I’m not terribly interested in reaffirming mine or others’ ideas or beliefs, rather, I enjoy art, especially research as a creative practice, as a way to ask more questions. Romance is such a mystifying subject for me precisely because so often I find reductive answers related to chemical reactions (oxytocin) or social norms, and yet, people continue to write poetry, songs, screen plays, novels, and even self-help books hoping to bring clarity or peace of mind to a subject which is supposedly solved. Ideas around romance and love are constantly shifting depending on our life experiences. That being said, if I spend time with a subject, such as this one, I tend to find clarity that results in interactions with others where my ego or certainty related to the subject dissolves enough to create a more open minded and reciprocal conversation or dynamic between myself and others, romantic or otherwise.
I feel comfortable with the balance I struck between creating my own original works related to dating apps, and appropriating terminology from them. In particular, I enjoyed the pieces which utilize screen shots from dating apps, such as the final installment “There’s no one new around you” because I was struck by the impact that the words had on me; after an evening of swiping, swiping, swiping, I finally ran out of available options and was left alone on my couch with this blank screen and its ominous message. On the flip side though, I knew in my heart that what it said, and my reception of those 6 words, reflected an internal awareness that I had invested a lot of hope into this app; for whatever reason, I was unable to or unwilling (due to fatigue, business, or anxiety) to locate suitable individuals for romantic pursuit, and so I went “shopping.”

These apps, and any media of socialization, will receive our projections of what we need from them, and I believe it to be very beneficial to bring as much mindfulness to what we expect of them, and our resulting feelings, otherwise it is very possible to become downtrodden when the words and images begin to proliferate our screens.

It should be mentioned that the title of my residency, i dont even know why im here, comes from a line I have seen multiple times on some folks’ dating profiles. I’d invite the reader to consider the following question: “How do I feel when I read this on someone’s page?”.

SS: How do you navigate ethical decisions in your writing? Do you see your work as political?

AS: My intentions are, with this subject especially, again, to address my own perspective as it has been shaped by social norms and personal interactions I’ve had, and I am not interested in speaking on behalf of anyone else’s experience with dating apps. So when it comes to the ethics of addressing romantic love or methods of socializing, it’s only ethical, in my opinion, to speak from one’s own perspective, precisely because ideas and values around romantic love differ from person to person, and culture to culture.
I think the work is very political because I am choosing to intercept the tired cliche that one “falls” in love; on the contrary, I wish to tip-toe, stride, or leap into love. I am interested in the personal work of bringing awareness to how social norms have shaped my intentions and projections surrounding romance or desire. And I feel it’s important, to the degree in which we can, to take ownership over our intentions with dating app usage, and to do the work to bring mindfulness of how its usage affects us and others. Consideration of ours and others’ feelings is very political because its not built into our paychecks or work schedules. So to allot time to this, to insist that one deserves the time to ruminate on these ideas, demonstrates a pertinent need that is just as valuable a labor as that related to monetary gain. So much of my understanding of self identity and worth results directly from my romantic life, and so I am interested in making that a priority to spend time with, and theres no guaranteed income from that work, and I think that’s punk as fuck.

SS: What poets do you continually go back to?

AS: Some poets I return to are Keats, Whitman, Sappho, James Baldwin, Robin Coste Lewis, and Anne Carson. I really cannot recommend enough Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet. In seeking to understand the various manifestations and articulations of love, this text discusses the concept of “eros” in Greek literature and poetry. This text has helped me to see the barriers of language, and the intricacies of word choice, in being able to communicate ideas of romantic love and desire.  I love when others share poetry with me too, though, and I greatly enjoy literary work by folks such as Audre Lorde, Roland Barthes, and bell hooks.

SS: What are you reading right now? What's next for you?

AS: Right now I’m preparing to attend the University of Washington in Islandwood’s graduate certification program, Education for Environment and Community. It’s a bit of a departure from romantic poetry via social media theory, but I am also very passionate about environmental concerns surrounding climate change and land-use politics, and fostering stewardship opportunities for future generations. I’m a bit of a dirt nerd, and for a few years now I’ve been teaching STEAM (STEM+Art) focused curriculum through summer camps and as an aftercare teacher. As such, I am currently reading the following: Uncommon Grounds: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature by William Cronon, The Hidden Forest: The Biography of an Ecosystem by Jon R. Luoma, and Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
Curiosity and compassion drive my interests, and proceeding grad school I hope to create an artists publication using earth sciences as metaphor for romantic love, and vice versa. I’ve created a few poems relating shifting tectonic plates and geological formations to shifting ideas of romance, and I am interested in taking that further with hand-bound books featuring text and images.