An interview with Amba Elieff

By Allison Stalberg Siebens

Amba Elieff spent most of her life a closet poet. Now, she’s put her work out there for all to see in her debut collection, Maiden, Mother, Crone.

Each section of her book represents a different stage of her life, from growing up and living in the same Ohio town decades to a rebirth at the age of fifty. Her work explores themes like mental health and chronic conditions.

We spoke with Elieff about sacred spaces, womanhood, and what it means to be in community with other through her work. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On Amazon, your biography says you were a closet poet for most of your life. What does that mean and what got you out in the open?

I have written all my life in one form or another, but primarily poetry. It was my way of coping with life. I didn’t share it. I just kept notebooks and journals. I had one teacher in high school and a professor in college that each encouraged me to write. Both were English teachers, so they actually saw some of what I created. I always thought it would be amazing to be a writer, but I couldn’t imagine having other people see my work and judge me and I knew it was extremely hard to get publishers to look at work.

I started seeing other poets sharing their work on social media or self-publish a couple years ago and I decided that I could do that too. I created my pseudonym and started posting on social media. I started getting feedback that made me realize that my work resonated with people. I published about a year later.

The title of your work is important, as the poetry is divided by the stages of being a Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Was this inspired by the triple goddesses of neopaganism or was it something else you connected with?

The title Maiden, Mother, Crone came from a Winter Solstice Retreat that I attended at Hope Springs in Adams County, Ohio. This was the beginning of my healing journey. Hope Springs had an art installation called “The Circle of Nine” in their Spirit House. It was eight representations of the stages of womanhood. When you entered the Spirit House you became number nine. They also had a clearing in the woods named the Celtic Circle with four of the stages of womanhood.

That retreat was the start of me getting to this place in my life and was the beginning of me looking forward and backward in my life. Those places are sacred to me and I carry them with me. With my title, I pay homage to that.

Speaking of the stages of womanhood, was there one that proved more challenging to write about than the others?

I don’t think any of the stages were harder or easier to write, just like none of them were easier to go through. Life never seems to get easier – just different. The greatest thing I learned was how publishing changed things. Once the book was out, it allowed me to see other pieces of life that were overshadowed by what I had written about.

You mention that your poetry explores themes of depression, aging, and chronic issues like fatigue, vertigo, and memory issues. Could you tell us why those elements are important in your collection?

They are important because they were part of my life. I have a daughter who was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos in high school. I have another daughter that had mental health issues from events that happened in life. My body has the echoes of both their challenges.

Most people, at some point, face physical, mental, or emotional challenges that introduce them to depression, trauma induced memory issues, aging memory issues, fatigue, and all types of other physical and mental manifestations of life. Writing about them helps take away their control in my life. Writing about them lets others know that they are not alone.

Are there poets and books that inspire you as a writer?

I have been a voracious reader from the time I started reading. I read almost everything – biographies, historical fiction, non-fiction, fiction, poetry. I go through cycles of different places, periods of time, or topics, and it is the people in the books that inspire and influence me just like the people I meet in real life. The people in books become a part of me. I will hear a story or read a turn of phrase or learn about a situation, they stick with me and work their way into my poetry.

I typically love whomever I am reading at the moment. Some of my favorites are Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Pauletta Hansel, Diane Setterfield, Cecilia Garcia, Sarah Addison Allen, Barbara Kingsolver, Fannie Flagg, Tracy Chevalier, Lalita Tademy, Lisa Genova, and the list goes on. And yes, I am much more drawn to female authors. And yes, there is a little bit of every genre in this list.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you and your work?

I hope readers enjoy my writing and, possibly, it can be a part of their healing journey. I hope my writing lets people know they aren’t alone. I hope my writing helps people start conversations.

Amba Elieff has been a closet poet most of her life. She has always used poetry as a way of capturing the challenges and celebrations of life. She writes about the little things and big things that make up life.

A woman with light brown hair and purple, heart-shaped sunglasses smiles at the camera.

Allison Stalberg Siebens is an indie author and foster cat mom. She is in the process of getting a Masters in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University.

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