How did you get started as a poet?
I’ve been writing since I learned how to write! Like many poets, I started out writing colossally bad poetry in high school and college. But I kept reading, beyond what I had to read for my English degree. I started writing poetry seriously around the time I turned 30, and have continued since, with some notable interruptions when life had other plans. The limitations of the pandemic and the overwhelming desire to escape the turbulence and anxiety of recent years created a “perfect storm” of productivity.
“Poetry is life distilled.” —Gwendolyn Brooks
Most interesting writing habit:
I keep a notepad and pen next to my bed for ideas and lines that arise as I’m falling asleep or when I wake up in the middle of the night. I learned the hard way that even the most brilliant ideas can vanish by morning. (I’ve also been humbled by the discovery that I’m not always quite as brilliant as I thought I was at 3 a.m.) I’ve had to refine my technique for writing in pitch-dark so that I can actually decipher my notes the next day (learned that the hard way, too).
Book on bedside table:
I’m a librarian’s daughter, so I always have a tower of books. I’ve just started Bitch: On the Female of the Species, in which biologist Lucy Cooke upends the notion that females are the weaker or more passive members of various species. The writing is lively and funny and smart. A similarly entertaining science book I read recently is Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders. I actually laughed out loud while reading the chapter on vomiting. I read fiction too, but I never read poetry before I fall asleep. It activates my brain too much.
Advice to someone just starting to write poetry:
Read a lot of poetry and dive into the work of poets whose work resonates with and inspires you. Take classes as often as you can. Watch readings and craft conversations online. Make sure you’re in at least one workshopping group—I’m currently in two—because you need candid feedback from objective, attentive readers who are not longtime friends or family members. Poetry groups are definitely a source of support, but their main function should be to make each poem the absolute best it can be. Hold yourself to a high standard. Think a lot. Do the hard work of revision. Send poems out for publication, and get used to being rejected most of the time. Push through self-doubt and commit to honing your craft.
I’m thrilled that my first collection, The Map of Unseen Things, is forthcoming from Pine Row Press!